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An AT point-to-point run

By: Sarah McBridge

I set a summer goal for myself to run from Lyme (where I live) to Hanover along the Appalachian Trail. I'm not sure why I came up with this goal, but it stuck in my head and I couldn't move past it. Summer flew by with lots of trail races through the Western NH Trail Running Series and some family obligations that kept my weekends full. I did several trail runs of 6-8 miles, but nothing approaching the 16-17 miles I'd need in order to complete the course. I kept telling myself that if I could just get one 10-12 mile run in, then I'd be ready to go with my plan.

That never happened. However, in true stubborn-runner fashion, once I realized that Labor Day was fast approaching, I decided to go for it anyway, despite my lack of preparation. My husband seemed skeptical of my plan and my lack of preparation...which provided even more fuel for my stubborn-runner fire!

I set off on the Saturday morning of Labor Day weekend, hitting the trailhead near the Dartmouth Skiway at 6:15 am. I decided to power-hike up the steep hills to save my legs.

The climb up and over Holt's Ledge is very familiar to me, and this portion of the run seemed to fly by. The morning sun was gorgeous and I was enjoying my time in the woods. Next up was Moose Mountain, a longer climb. At one point about halfway up to the North Peak, I started to feel like this was a really dumb idea! But then my watch clicked over to another mile, I shook off the negative thoughts, and I set my sights further up the trail. The view from the South Peak was stunning and my spirits were renewed as I made my way downhill.

The portion of the AT between Three-Mile Road and Etna Road is one I haven't hiked or run before. This piece was very runnable with rolling hills and decent footing. When I got to Trescott Road, I felt my spirits starting to sag again. I wondered if I should just text my husband to come pick me up, but my stubborn side won out and I carried on.

The hardest part of the journey was the final push from Trescott up the back side of Velvet Rocks. I hadn't been on this portion of the trail in at least 15 years, and I had forgotten what steep rocks are involved in the climb. The trail here was also very root-filled and rocky, which made it hard to make any decent time (or maybe I was just too tired to navigate the obstacles at this point). By this part of the run my quads were screaming at me and I was very sweaty and out of snacks (the worst of the tough conditions!). I felt like it took me forever to get through the last two miles.

Finally, I saw buildings below me and heard the noise of the Dartmouth practice fields. The Co-op was in sight! I took one last photo at the trailhead sign and shuffled to the parking lot where my ride was so kindly waiting for me.

In all, the journey took me just under 5 hours. I traveled just over 17 miles and over 4,200 feet of elevation gain. This was a fun solo (undertrained) adventure that I still think about frequently. I’m already dreaming up what goal I should set for myself next. Any ideas? I’m offering my story as a reminder that goal-setting doesn’t have to involve specific pace times, race results, or massive accomplishments. Maybe there’s some weird thing you’ve always wanted to do, but never felt quite ready. I say, go for it! I’ll see you out there and can’t wait to hear your story. 

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