• HeartHike.org

    Sudden cardiac arrest survivor, John "Ironheart" Kolker, from New Jersey is section hiking the 2,190 mile Appalachian Trail to raise awareness and funds for the Ironheart Foundation...


    as of 6/25/2020

  • Updates

    Update: 6/25/2020

    After my high school buddy Dan Allen joined me twice in Pennsylvania I connected with another long-distance hiker on the trail who is flip-flopping and goes by the trail name of Cowboy... We have finished the state of Pennsylvania and the state of New Jersey and are currently working through New York on our way to Maine.  The first couple of days in New York were surprisingly rugged. I went over 1400 Trail miles a little while ago lifetime and I'm near 250 miles so far on this "finish what I started" outing this year.  Everyday we're seeing more and more northbounders as they pass us. The really fast strong hikers who never got off Trail passed us a few weeks ago, now we're being passed by the ones that got off got back on and our North bounding and are very strong occasionally we get passed by a flip-flopper or two who started in Harpers ferry...my daily average now is about 12 some days I can do 14 or more miles...

    6/3/2020 - I'm pushing northward in central Pennsylvania... now seeing more and more hikers and more and more businesses are embracing long-distance hikers shuttles are running hotels are open I don't know what New England will bring but northbound I go...

    5/10/2020 - The COVID-19 pandemic has changed life in many ways all over the world. The impact on the trail is evident. Many a hiker has gone off-trail and many have been waiting for state officials to "open" or "allow" foot traffic on the AT in their respective states. The national parks are opening up this month, overnight camping at state parks up and down the east coast are scheduled to be viable this month as well. I have just under 1,000 mile left on the AT. My family and I have been sheltered in place for weeks, there are no members of my family or immediate circle with symptoms. With the utmost of prudence, with a focus on best social distance and wilderness hygiene and leave-no-trace practices, I am starting my hike in the last week of May. Starting in Central Pennsylvania and North-bounding, I will attempt to hike to the middle of the 100-mile wilderness in Maine. I expect there to be no hitch-hiking, shelters to be a bad idea (tenting every night) and social distancing to be the norm. No more hiker fist bumps. Resupply will be more challenging and hostels may or may not be viable (many hostels allow you tent outside and use their facilities but the days of 12 to a bunkhouse will probably no longer be a reality). This year has been tough for the AT community. Polarized and conflicted, some are demanding that everyone "stay home" while others are screaming that their "rights are being violated"... I will be working to find the safe, prudent, distanced hiking method one step at a time in my fight against heart disease in the age of COVID. Happy trails. Follow me on social media. See you further down the trail.


  • "Ironheart" is fighting heart disease one step at time...

    John's Story

    On Dec. 17, 2011, John Kolker dropped dead of a sudden cardiac arrest, caused by a myocardial infarction at the age of 49.

    Resuscitated at the scene by courageous volunteers trained in CPR with an AED (automated external defibrillator), he spent three iffy days refusing to come out of a therapeutic hypothermia induced coma. Graciously, John came out of the coma and underwent successful cardiac catheterization and stent placement to two blocked coronary arteries.

    John is an Army Veteran, was a smoker for 31 years, overweight since his release from active duty in the 90's and severely inactive. He never went to the doctor for checkups. His lifestyle had killed him. With his second chance at life, John quit smoking and began frequent medical screenings and researching his rehabilitation options.

    Researching on the web, John continued to find stories and videos of other survivors who have become Ironheart Foundation athletes. John recalls that day when he announced to his family that he would not go on disability, but would return to work and pursue his vision of becoming a triathlete.


    For the first months, John could barely walk from the bed to the kitchen but gradually made it to the pool, onto the bike and the running track. He changed his diet and began training for endurance events. Not only has he lost over 56 pounds since his heaviest weight, but he has completed 12 sprint triathlons, several bike rides of over 50 miles to include one across the entire state of NJ. John joined the Ironheart Foundation and met and was inspired by Ironheart Foundation founder, David Watkins when Dave made time to visit John in New Jersey in 2013.

    John is a zealous advocate for heart-healthy choices and second chances and his involvement with Ironheart continues as he prepares for more sprint triathlons and long-distanced hikes in 2016 and 2017 to raise heart-health awareness and funds for Ironheart.


    Read John's story on the Ironheart Foundation web site...


  • Give

  • Donate to Ironheart Foundation via crowdrise

    Funds raised by Heart Hike go directly to the charitable beneficiary, the Ironheart Foundation...


  • Connect

  • Hike

    The mission of HeartHike.org is to raise awareness, advocacy and funds in the fight against heart disease…

    By hiking the full length of the Appalachian Trail the goal is to:


    Raise awareness about:

    • Heart disease

    • Risk factors

    • Screening

    • Heart-healthy choices

    • Recovery

    • Endurance sport for cardiac survivors

    • Promote advocacy

    • Endurance sport for cardiac survivors

    • Motivate survivors of cardiac events to“...find your own hike and hike it” whether that “Hike” is walking around the block, a 5k, a triathlon or a long distance hike

    • Increase collaboration and advocacy at the individual and organizational level

    • Inspire “First Chancers” to make better choices

    • Raise funds
      Funds raised by Heart Hike go directly to our charitable beneficiary, the Ironheart Foundation - www.ironheartfoundation.org.

  • Trail

    Appalachian Trail facts

    • Over 2,190 miles long over rugged mountainous terrain traversing 14 states

    • Southern end is at Springer Mountain, Georgia

    • Northern end is at Mount Katahdin, Maine

    • Ironheart's daily distance averages from 7 to 16 miles

    • There are more than 250 three-sided shelters and various trail towns along the trail

  • Press

    A sudden cardiac death survivor attempts a 2,190 mile Appalachian Trail hike - FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: 5/10/2020...

    Jackson, NJ: On May 22, 2020, John Kolker, a 57-year-old, cardiac death survivor will continue his attempt to hike the full Appalachian Trail.


    The Appalachian Trail spans 14 states from Springer Mountain, Georgia to Mount Katahdin, Maine. John will average 12 miles per day enduring varying weather and terrain conditions along with possible wildlife encounters of snakes, bears, and coyotes while carrying a minimum of four days worth of food and all his gear on his back in a 30-pound pack.


    While there are many potential dangers and hardships, this is John’s dream and an integral part of his recovery process. John will hike each mile to raise awareness about:

    • Heart disease and the risk factors associated with it
    • The importance of heart screening and making heart-healthy choices
    • The option of endurance sport for cardiac survivors recovery
    • AED availability and CPR training

    He calls this campaign “Heart Hike” and hopes to inspire other survivors of cardiac events to “find their own hike and hike it” whether that “hike” is walking around the block, or training for a 5k, a triathlon or another form of sport.


    After being a self-proclaimed anxiety-ridden couch potato and smoker, John dropped dead in 2011 of a sudden cardiac arrest at the age of 49. Since then he drastically altered his lifestyle and adopted heart-healthy habits and has since completed 1,200 miles of the 2,190 mile AT. (From Amacolola Falls, Georgia to Duncannon, Pennsylvania)

    John will resume his hike north to Maine from central Pennsylvania under the trail name of “Ironheart” inspired by the Ironheart Foundation who has served as an inspiration for him throughout his recovery. John was motivated by Ironheart Foundation’s documentary, HEART: Flatline to Finish Line, which follows six cardiac event patients who attempt to cross the finish line of an Ironman competition.


    John, who recently went from survivor to foundation member to Cheif Development Officer of the Ironheart Foundation, is putting back on the trail to continue the Ironheart mission and give back to the supportive Ironheart community.

    About the Ironheart Foundation

    Ironheart Foundation uses physical movement and sport to transform, empower, and positively impact lives that have been affected by heart disease. The Ironheart Foundation has members in 49 states and 22 countries. The community is comprised of those living with heart disease, survivors, loved ones, supporters, and members of the medical community. https://www.ironheartfoundation.org/ 

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