Earlier this fall, I had the chance to interview the first woman to set the Appalachian Trail speed record.
In 2011, Jennifer Pharr Davis averaged 47 miles a day to complete the 2,000-plus-mile trek in 46 days, 11 hours and 20 minutes, thus earning her a spot among National Geographic's 2012 Adventurers of the Year. Though her record has since been broken, she still holds the title for fastest female time.
But she won't claim that one, she said.
"That's not the record I went for," she told me. "The trail taught me to think outside the confines of what society told me I could do as a woman. The trail is limitless. It doesn't care who you are."
And yet, women have long had to fight for a place in outdoor communities. In 1961, for example, the American Amateur Athletic Union banned women from competing in all road races, and the Olympics would not introduce a women's marathon event until 1984. It was believed that women simply could not go the distance.
Don't tell that to Pharr Davis — or any of the millions of other women now setting the pace in the outdoors.
This month, we celebrate these women. In our "Leading Ladies" feature, we introduce you to the eight female executive directors leading local conservation. In Chattanooga, the number of women running environmental nonprofits exceeds the number of men. Not that it's a competition. In nature, there is space for all, thanks, largely, to those who fight for it.
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