Sudden cardiac arrest survivor, John "Ironheart" Kolker, from New Jersey is section hiking the 2,193 mile Appalachian Trail to raise awareness and funds for the Ironheart Foundation...
Lifetime AT miles = 2,030
Miles in 2020 = 838
Remaining miles of trail = 165
As of 1/18/2021
Well my 2020 journey has ended. This summer, I hiked 838 miles from the middle of PA, through NJ, NY, CT, MA, NH and into Maine. I started the year quite unexpectedly (and very unready) after a layoff and the Covid-19 pandemic hit. In late May, I decided to spend the pandemic-summer hiking north on the Appalachian trail. It was a tough year on trail since the northern half is much harder than the southern half, in my humble estimation. Hiking in the time of Covid was very interesting and at times very solitary.
New friends were discovered and each mile reminded me of how the trail changes a person's heart. I was able to raise more funds for the Ironheart Foundation and be an embassador for positivity and the overcoming spirit for which Ironheart members are known.
I hiked slowly and safely like I always do. I was proud of a few 15 and 17 mile days but mostly my comfty zone was 11 or 12 miles. I did single-digit-mile days and zero-mile-days when I needed them and took good care of my feet and legs the whole way.
I just did the math. There are 165 miles of the AT left for me to discover. Most of them in Maine and a little bit in New Hampshire. I will be back in 2021, God willing. This little bit of trail left contains some of the hardest miles to include the Wildcats in NH. These looming and rugged section hikes for next season will inspire me to stay in hiking shape and keep the passion alive.
I appreciate your support this year. Please donate to the Foundation as David Watkins and the rest of the Foundation are doing amazing stuff to support those directly impacted by heart disease.
See you up the trail.
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.
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:
Endurance sport for cardiac survivors
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
Funds raised by Heart Hike go directly to our charitable beneficiary, the Ironheart Foundation - www.ironheartfoundation.org.
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
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:
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/