Jurek, who set the Appalachian Trail speed record in 2015, recalls an eye-opening childhood visit to Michigan's only national park.

Isle Royale
Credit: Getty Images

"Growing up in rural Minnesota, I didn’t travel much. My experience of national parks was only through books, magazines, and pictures. When I was eight, we went to Isle Royale National Park, crossing Lake Superior in a small fishing boat. What struck me was the sheer magnitude of the landscape. To this day, I love feeling so small and insignificant. It humbles me as a human being. It also gives me a chance to test my body and mind. Being in a wild place requires that I work with nature and not battle against it. I love that feeling that there is a natural force larger than me, especially in this day and age where humans have become comfortable and able to control our environment with a step on a gas pedal or a push of a computer key. Enduring in nature is human and I love to practice it. I'm always learning."

As told to Lila Battis.

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