At 5:47 am on July 24, 2019, Jeff Garmire tapped the southern terminus of Vermont’s Long Trail, claiming a new fastest known time on the oldest continuously-maintained long trail in the United States. Averaging about 46 miles a day, Garmire faced sleep deprivation, hallucinations, a rolled ankle, rain, and temperatures in the mid 90s to claim his new unsupported record of 5 days, 23 hours and 48 minutes, beating the old record by precisely 10 hours.
Stretching 273 miles through Vermont, the Long Trail is infamous for its mud and rocky terrain. The southern 100 miles coincide with the Appalachian Trail until it splits near Killington. Appalachian Trail thru-hikers nickname the state “Vermud” referring to the consistent wet conditions. It’s not uncommon to face calf-deep slop in this section of trail.
“I started out over-trained and under-rested,” Garmire said of his record-setting hike. “I was a little nervous that it was going to be harder than I thought or that it wasn’t going to be successful.” Once he began his FKT attempt, the nervousness disappeared until his final 20 miles, when sleep deprivation finally set in. That day, he pushed himself through 58 miles of the trail, logging only two hours of slumber in as many days.
Even more incredible is the fact that the Long Trail wasn’t Garmire’s first record-setting hike this year: He currently holds the self-supported Pinhoti record and the overall fastest known time for the Arizona Trail. While chasing that FKT in April, he shredded his feet and hallucinated from sleep deprivation for the first time. That experience would prove vital for his mission on the Long Trail.
“The Arizona Trail tore [my feet] up because I made mistakes. The Long Trail tore my feet up more. And that was unavoidable,” Garmire said. “I rolled my ankle a few times. I thought I might’ve broken it. And I broke both of my trekking poles along the way.”
Garmire had never hiked the Long Trail in its entirety, which he thinks made the FKT more challenging. Additionally, he was able to break the Arizona Trail down into bite-sized goals, while the Long Trail didn’t lend itself to the same strategy.
“I couldn’t have done this after 5,000 miles [of hiking],” Garmire says of his dual records. “It’s a progression. You have to learn. I think you need to build a base in either running or hiking.”
With a big season behind him, Garmire hopes to slow down over the next month to finish his book. Follow him on Instagram @thefreeoutside or his website freeoutside.com for updates.