Ultrarunner Harvey Lewis takes on greatest challenge yet - Appalachian Trail

Cincinnati teacher starts 2,189 miles on Tuesday

CINCINNATI -- Harvey Lewis has always answered the challenge. He ran 58 hours straight. He ran for six days in the Sahara Desert. He ran ultramarathons for more than 20 years.

Now the world-renowned Cincinnati ultrarunner is taking on his biggest challenge: the Appalachian Trail.

Lewis announced Sunday that he’s going to start Tuesday morning on the 2,189 miles from Georgia to Maine. He plans to beat the "FKT" -- Fastest Known Time -- of 45 days, 12 hours and 48 minutes, set by Joe "Stringbean" McConaughy a year ago.  

To do it, he'll have to average 48 miles per day over the rugged terrain. Across the entire trail, he'll climb and descend 1 million feet -- the equivalent of doing Mount Everest 16 times.

"When I first looked at this on a map in terms of elevation climb, it made my hands get a little sweaty," Lewis said. "I haven't felt that nervous since maybe the first time I did Badwater (an ultramarathon)."

Friends and family plan to join Lewis for some segments. And his father, who's 78 years old, will ride along in a Ford van provided by a friend. He'll be checking the maps and ensuring Lewis stays well-fed with an estimated 9,000 calories per day -- more than Bengals offensive linemen.

"Having my father there is going to be fantastic," Lewis said. "It's a time I'm really going to value and treasure. You just never know how much time you have with your parents."

Lewis said McConaughy went through 20 pairs of shoes; he hopes he can get by with just 10.

One piece of gear could be critical if Lewis runs into trouble: He'll be wearing his ROAD iD, a silicone band with an engraved, stainless steel plate. That plate can have important telephone numbers and medical information in case of emergency. Edward and Mike Trimpe launched their deliberately low-tech product in Northern Kentucky for outdoor adventurers like Lewis.

"He's able to get out in backcountry and worry less, and focus on the things that are important -- leaving the world behind and getting lost out in the forest," Mike Trimpe said.

To reach his goal, Lewis plans to rise as early as 4:30 a.m. daily and hit the trail until 9 p.m., sometimes even as late as midnight. He'll start Tuesday at Springer Mountain in Georgia at first light, about 5:55 a.m.

Lewis is counting on encouragement from back home to push him through.

"It's a team effort, period. You know I'm running. All these other people are making a significant impact in my ability to finish the fastest," he said.

You can follow Lewis' progress at ROADiD.com/WheresHarvey.  

See video preview and Harvey's Facebook post below.

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