When the going gets tough- the tough remember their “why”.

Your thru-hike will require both mental and physical preparation

Eight years ago, I limped into the aid station at Mile 80 of the Cactus Rose 100 race in Texas and plopped into a folding chair next to the propane heater. Shivering so much that I could not hold the hot cup of chicken broth they handed me, I burst into tears, and screamed, “What am I doing here? Why am I doing this?” Remembering that this race was the only thing I felt that I had any control over in my life while going through a divorce (and with a little help from my pacer Fred); I put on an extra jacket, drank some coffee, choked down half a PB and J sandwich, and kept moving forward. Acknowledging my “why” helped me to finish that race.  

A bit like childbirth, how easily we forget that when we do hard things, it is inevitable that we will experience mental and physical pain. Zach Davis’ book Appalachian Trials–A psychological and emotional guide to successfully hiking the Appalachian Trail reminds us that “eventually aggravation replaces exhilaration … and you will ask yourself ‘Why am I doing this again?’”

The Big WhyMy inspiration

Why is a big question, one that must be answered way before that WTF moment punches you in the gut, knocks you to the ground, and sing-songs that you are a wimp. When I was doing long-distance races, my coach Mike always made me write down my “why.” He had me memorize it, and during each training run it became my mantra, my breath, my BEING. Reading Zach’s book reminded me that once again I would be entering the pain cave; the requirement of ANY worthy endeavor. Zach suggests making three lists stating your “why,” really spending time with them, and then carrying them with you on the trail to read on those days when the weather, exhaustion, chafing, mosquitoes (insert your fear here) are tempting you to quit. 

Here are my statements, my TRUTHS, so that you, my friends, can hold me accountable.

I am thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail because:

  • I want to inspire others to get outside and play!
  • I want to step away from mirrors, scales; to embrace imperfection
  • I want to write and to have the adventure to write about 
  • I want to make my own decisions and learn who I am
  • “You are in danger of living a life so comfortable and soft that you will die without ever realizing your true potential.” — David Goggins

When I successfully hike the Appalachian Trail I will:

  • Have formed new friendships with like-minded people 
  • Feel like I can accomplish anything I put my mind to 
  • Have created new experiences and opportunities because all it takes is one step in a different direction. 
  • Have a clear mind and a new perspective on life
  • Make bold, brave decisions.

If I give up on the Appalachian Trail I will:

  • Feel like I have let myself down, and those who believed in me 
  • Not attract the energy I want for my life 
  • Have not created the experiences that I want to write about in my book. 
  • Feel defeated

I know that I can go to these lists as a reminder that I am doing big things. That I am doing HARD THINGS!  That all of this matters. But when will I know if it is time to quit? 


I give myself permission to quit:

  1.  If I hurt myself in a way that could cause permanent damage, and cannot recover while on the trail.  
  2. If my family needs me to come home for any reason.  
  3. If the Brood X Cicadas swarm around me, scoop me up, and carry me away.   (I am kind of freaking out about the impending arrival of these noisy creepers).

A good friend sent me a meme recently that reads, “You’ve been given this mountain to show others that it can be moved.”   I only have two more weeks … time to print out this list and go move some mountains.

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Comments 2

  • Aaron PWR : Mar 27th

    Jennifer, you are going to rock these mountains!

    • Jennifer Kimble : Mar 27th

      Thanks Aaron! Will miss you guys….


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