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Healing journey along 100 non-stop miles in the White Mountains 

  • Kristina Folcik poses for a photo at the finish of her 100-mile, non-stop trek on the Appalachian Trail through the White Mountains. Folcik, 42, became the first person to complete a non-stop trek along this stretch of the AT and raised more than $1,000 for Starting Point, a non-profit that provides services to victims of domestic abuse, along the way. RICH FARGO— Courtesy

  • Kristina Folcik jogs along the Appalachian Trail through the White Mountains on Aug. 22 as part of her 100-mile, non-stop trek. Folcik, 42, became the first person to complete a non-stop trek along this stretch of the AT and raised more than $1,000 for Starting Point, a non-profit that provides services to victims of domestic abuse, along the way. Courtesy of Tyler Kuntz

  • Kristina Folcik is all smiles during her 100-mile, non-stop trek on the Appalachian Trail through the White Mountains. Folcik, 42, became the first person to complete a non-stop trek along this stretch of the AT and raised more than $1,000 for Starting Point, a non-profit that provides services to victims of domestic abuse, along the way. Courtesy

Monitor staff
Published: 9/10/2020 4:38:27 PM
Modified: 9/10/2020 4:38:16 PM

Taking a hike to soothe the soul is standard medicine in New Hampshire’s White Mountains. If you’re an elite endurance athlete like Kristina Folcik, that healing hike can turn into a 100-mile, non-stop trek across the state’s steepest climbs.

The 42-year-old Folcik, a former Northwood resident who now lives in Tamworth, started the trek in Gorham where the Appalachian Trail meets Route 2 on Aug. 22 at 5 a.m. She then ran, walked and climbed across 14 peaks, each higher than 4,000-feet, with a rotating cast of companions to complete the first recorded non-stop (no sleeping) trek on that 100-mile stretch of the AT. Along the way, she found some comfort and raised more than $1,000 for Starting Point, a non-profit organization that provides services for victims of domestic abuse and violence.

“I wanted to say thank you to Starting Point for all they do, because I didn’t pay for any of their services when I used them, so I started a little fundraiser thinking I’d raise maybe a few hundred dollars,” Folcik said. “And then one of my friends was like, ‘You raised over $1,000,’ and that just felt pretty awesome. I was able to raise some money and awareness, go on this wicked cool adventure with loving and dedicated friends, saw two beautiful sunrises, two beautiful sunsets. It was spectacular.”

This year has been tough for most, but Folcik had troubles on top of troubles. She got divorced, she put her cat down, her dog almost died and she nearly severed a toe after accidentally stepping on an ax.

“It’s funny now, but one of my friends said, ‘I think you’ve actually hit rock bottom’ and then, nope, all these random things kept happening,” Folcik said. “I felt like I just needed a reset, and the woods and the mountains have always been soothing to me.”

The 100-mile stretch of trail she chose to travel has combined 34,000 feet of climbing – more than the elevation of Mount Everest – would not soothe many people.

“It’s probably the hardest 100 miles you can do in the country,” Folcik said.

But Folcik has been competing in long-distance (mostly 50-100k) trail races across the country for years, and setting plenty of course records along the way. She’s also a health and wellness coach and organizes trail races through her company, Rockhopper Races LLC. So, when she read about another trail runner, Madison’s Andrew Drummond, who tried a non-stop trek on that 100-mile stretch earlier this summer but couldn’t finish, Folcik knew she had found her “soothing” adventure.

“I saw this post from him and he wrote, ‘I hope someone else tries this, this summer,’ and that just grabbed my attention,” Folcik said. “I felt drawn to it and I wanted to see if I could finish it.”

At first she planned on going alone, which felt right for a healing journey. But as Folcik took inventory of the pains she hoped to relieve, a voice in her head kept telling her to share her story of domestic violence. After talking it over with a therapist, Folcik listened to that voice and shared her experience as a victim of domestic abuse through a Facebook post just days before embarking on her trek. In that post she dedicated the journey to, “all the ladies who are in, out or didn’t survive an abusive relationship.”

The response was immense and immediate.

“All of a sudden all these women are reaching out to me. Women that live near me, women from around the country, and I just started crying because it broke my heart that so many women are suffering,” Folcik said. “And another part of me felt almost comforted because, I’m not the only one. You feel like you’re alone and you’re so ashamed and it’s scary and terrifying and you’re thinking, what am I going to do and how am I going to escape?

“It’s hard, and it takes work and time to heal, but you can do that, and that was the big message that I wanted to share with these ladies. So, the adventure started out about myself, and then it turned out to be for other people.”

That’s also when Folcik decided to turn to other people during her trek.

“At first I reached out to just a handful of friends who said they’d help me, and then it snowballed and all of a sudden I had a ton of friends helping me,” Folcik said. “It was amazing.”

Folcik's dog Bennett and her friend Rich Fargo joined her for the first 20 miles. Jason Beaupre and Leah Lawry, accomplished endurance athletes themselves, trekked with Folcik through the night, which was conveniently warm. Tyler Kuntz ran through a section of the Presidential Mountains with her. Stas Trufinov met her with a full spread of food at Franconia Notch and ran with her to Mount Moosilauke.

Other friends met Folcik with pizza, sandwiches, chocolates and all the water and Gatorade she could drink. She got blisters after about 80 miles and had to walk the final stretch, but the return of Bennett and Fargo helped her push through the pain. The 100-mile journey ended just south of Moosilauke on Rte. 25, near the home of a long-time friend, who fed Folcik that night and relaxed with her in a river the next day.

“It took an army of people,” Folcik said. “I have never felt so loved in all my life.”




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