Starting at Bear Mountain, the tallest peak in the state, 52 miles of Appalachian trail and about 14 miles of elevation gain lie ahead. This is how science teachers Noah Lynd and Josh Garrison spent their Sunday on May 3. The goal: to run all 52 miles of the Connecticut section of the trail in one day.
“It was cool because we pretty much followed the Housatonic River,” Mr. Garrison said with a grin on his face. “The trail goes up and down all of these valleys, so even though Connecticut doesn’t have the tallest mountains in the east coast, you end up walking or running a lot. It adds up and so we only made it 48 miles.” For most people, the idea of running 48 miles is unimaginable, but this was not the case when Mr. Garrison suggested it to Mr. Lynd and science and math teacher Natalie Lynd. The pair hardly bat an eyelid. “I was feeling like I needed something to build up to or work up to,” Mr. Lynd said.
For Mr. Lynd, the ambitious run was the perfect quarantine get-away. “The realities of life had been shifting a lot,” he said. “I was just trying to define an objective to stay motivated within the confines of what we were allowed to do, and so that idea seemed perfect to me.”
While she wasn’t on the trails for the entire 48 miles, Mrs. Lynd participated in the middle 25; Mr. Lynd quickly clarified this was due to her recovery from a shin and hip injury. “It was fun to be part of it for a little bit anyways,” Mrs. Lynd said. While her adventure ended early at the Kent School, 25 miles is no small feat, especially coming off of injuries.
Mr. Garrison can attest to the determination of both Mr. and Mrs. Lynd when it came to the run. When reflecting on the experience, he said he probably would’ve dropped out of the challenge earlier on since he wasn’t feeling his best. “But these guys kind of pushed me,” he said. “Mr. and Mrs. Lynd really push my limits and I didn’t really know I was capable of pushing myself that hard.” This was especially important with Sunday’s temperatures reaching into the 80s. “That was the hottest day of the year,” Mr. Lynd said, “so I think that kind of contributed to some of the struggles we had.”
Not only are these extreme runs a nice way to get together during this time of social distancing, but it’s also motivational. “It can be helpful too to have other people around to pick you up during low moments,” Mr. Lynd said. “It also just kind of motivates you too, ya know, like I wanna stop but I can’t because we gotta keep moving.” Companionship and keeping each other focused is one of their main motivators for planning these runs together. “Mr. Lynd has been known to quiz people on the periodic table and basic naming of molecules,” Mrs. Lynd said chuckling. Mr. Garrison laughed. “That’s when I try to go faster,” he added.
Mr. Garrison agreed that while there were times when focus overtook conversation, having other people to keep you going is always a plus. “There are moments where I was quiet for like an hour or two and they would try to engage and I just was in my own head,” he said. “But there are other times where Mrs. Lynd really helped me out by just talking and telling stories and stuff, so yeah, the conversation and camaraderie is a huge part for me.”
For this trio, the camaraderie began in 2016, when they took on a trail in New Hampshire. “It was actually Mr. Garrison who invited both of us, and we met up with Mr. Baker, and we did a nice loop in New Hampshire in the White Mountains,” Mr. Lynd said.
For Mr. Lynd, this was the start of many similar exploits. Prior to the New Hampshire loop, Mr. Lynd had stuck mostly to road marathons. Since then, he and Mrs. Lynd have run the Pemi Loop every year. “Mrs. Lynd and I have done it each year,” he said. “2017, 18, 19, and I’m 100% sure we’ll do it in 2020 as well, so that is definitely a favorite.”
The question of a favorite trail took a good amount of thought from everyone, but ultimately the Pemi Loop was agreed on as ideal. Its views are a favorite of Mr. Garrison’s. “The coolest part is you’re just on top of this ridgeline for pretty much the whole day,” he said, “and that’s just awesome being able to have these great views rather than go up and down and up and down.” Mrs. Lynd chimed in enthusiastically. “I’m with you, Josh. You can’t beat that loop,” she said.
Mr. Garrison first got into trail running through his love of rock climbing. “I would go on these big hikes to get to the rock climbs or to get to the climbing objectives,” he said, “and I realized, oh this is kind of fun. I could just walk or hike or run and I wouldn’t need to climb anything.” This discovery led to runs in Patagonia and even in the Himalayas.
As for future endeavors, COVID-19 may change the ways that they prepare, but it certainly won’t stop them from pursuing new trails. All three are enthusiastic about finishing what they started and potentially scouting out new challenges in the future. “If you asked me a week ago, I’d say never again,” Mr. Garrison said, “because you know personally, I was in a lot of pain, but I’m ready to get back on the horse, so I definitely want to go back and finish the CT portion.”
Mr. Lynd also wants to go back to the White Mountains to finish a trail that links multiple huts together; he and Mrs. Lynd had previously attempted. “We didn’t quite finish it, so that’s high on our list for something that we wanna see through to the end,” he said.
With the coronavirus closing all the huts, logistically the run might be more challenging, but the Lynds are optimistic about finding a way to work around it. “We use [the huts] to refill our water containers, but I’m sure we’ll figure something out logistically to make it happen,” Mr. Lynd said. Mr. Garrison agreed that more adventures are certainly on the table. “Hopefully, it’s a reoccurring thing that we’ll be able to get out and do together,” he said. Both Lynds shared similar hopes. “Fingers crossed,” Mr. Lynd said.