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  • Emily Hayes

Diary of a hiker of training: how I'm training

Something I get asked often is "how is training going for the PCT?" I think a lot of people imagine me out with a heavy bag every weekend getting in the miles. I don't go out with my back pack that often but I've found 2 key activities that really help me prepare; running and multiday wild camping trips.

Windsor marathan summer 2021

I've been a keen runner since my late teens but achieving 5km runs without stopping was about as far as I'd progressed pre-covid. Over the last few years, mainly due to lockdown I've pushed myself a bit further and become more comfortable with longer runs. As a result of not being able to thru-hike the PCT in 2021, I signed up to a marathon last September. It pushed me to stay active and accomplish something in lieu of the disappointment. I hadn’t considered that running long distances would help with walking long distances. I've written about hiking "fast and light" before on the South Downs Way where my lighter packing list helped me achieve near marathon (26 miles) days for 5 days. That trip was midway through my marathon training and I was astonished at how well my body could handle those miles on the trail. I've now adopted long distance running as my main fitness training technique for the PCT. Walking 20 miles on a Saturday does take up the entire day but running is just a few hours, allowing me to focus on the admin of this trip for the rest of the day.

The other part of my training requires more time for organisation and planning; arranging to go to Scotland, Wales or other wild parts of the UK where I can test my camping and hiking equipment. Not only is this really important for me to get to grips with my equipment but I am also spending time alone in the wild under different conditions and with different objectives. This helps me learn and develop skills to combat things such as fatigue, loneliness, injuries, hunger and hazard perception. I've opted to plan my trips when I'm likely to have challenging weather to have a more intense experience. Dealing with 5 days of rain and wet equipment does tend to test ones character!

Getting to know my paper map in Scotland

There are quite a few scenarios I haven't been able to train for; desert terrain, altitude above 1000 meters, America's wild animals, plants and snow. Hopefully my mountain snow skills course in a few weeks will help with the latter but the rest I will have to read about and pick up along the way.

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