“Once you get into it, it helps steel you,” he said. “The more you get into it, the more committed you have to be.”
The trek requires mental, as well as physical, resolve. “Eighty percent of it is mental grit,” Mr. Eberhart said. “And that is why so many people fail.”
In 2016, Mr. Eberhart was living mostly out of a pickup truck, using a relative’s home in Missouri as a mailing address.
“Put me in the great outdoors, preferably the mountains, and you’ve got a happy camper,” he told The Times in an article profiling adventurous retirees.
The trail was closed during the coronavirus pandemic in 2020, but the numbers of hikers have come back to prepandemic levels this year, Mr. Bowman, of the conservancy, said. Mr. Bowman said that the registrations for attempts to hike the entire trail in one 12-month period were 3,107 in 2019, but that the system for registration, which is voluntary, was halted for much of 2020 when Covid-19 was surging. There were 3,763 registrations this year. “There were a lot of people who had postponed their hikes,” he said.
He said he had known about Mr. Eberhart’s hikes for months, but he had not spoken with him after he made the record.
“I hope he is doing well and soaking his feet,” he said.
Mr. Eberhart said he overcame pain every day, including foot pain that brought him to tears. But he often thought of Lance Armstrong, the cyclist, who once said that pain was temporary but that quitting lasted forever.