You have to be a physical warrior to thru-hike the Appalachian Trail. Grayson Haver Currin certainly emerged one after covering its 2,200 miles in 2019. "I was now a rippling sheet of endlessly lean muscle," he writes of his body immediately after his five-month trek in a piece for Outside. "David might have looked this ripped, I mused to myself euphorically, had Michelangelo wielded a better chisel." Both he and his wife had broken toes at the tail-end of the trail, so Currin assumed they would rest as the bones healed and then reach new fitness peaks, "ready for marathon medals and astounding PRs." That turned out to be a laughable assumption. There have been zero races in the 17 months that followed, but doctor's visits, chronic pain, depression, and a gnawing question: Did thru-hiking ruin his body for good?
His answer, at this point, is a tentative no, though reading his piece could convince you otherwise. A "shocking percentage" of AT hikers he spoke with said they, too, found themselves battling lingering pain. In Currin's case, he was given the greenlight to start running, only to experience jarring pain in his tibial plateau. He rested, stretched, and restarted, only to feel like his right ankle was about to shatter. More rest, then another return to running—this time he got in a groove, managing a sub-seven-minute pace. The honeymoon was short-lived. An aching lower back and inexplicably tight hip flexors next triggered what seemed to Currin like a months-long episode of House, filled with blood draws, ultrasounds, antidepressants, new running shoes, and more. The eventual diagnosis: dead butt syndrome. (Read the full piece for the progress he has made since.)