British Olympian to Race 3,600 Miles Across America Solo

Jul 15, 2010
Outside Magazine

JamesCracknell OnThursday, British rower and two-time Olympic gold medalist, James Cracknell, willbegin an attempt to swim, bike, row and run 3,600 miles across America—in 18days.

"I'm lucky to have the chance to do this," 38-year old Cracknell said. "Ihave a family, so if I'm going to be away for a few weeks, I must make the mostof it!"

He'll start at the Santa Monica Pier at 10 am PST on Thursday.("Because it is the finish point of historic Route 66.") From there,he'll ride 263 miles to Death Valley, where he will run 80-miles in 130-degreetemperatures ("I wanted to come in July when Death Valley was reallyhot.") Then he'll continue cycling along Route 66 through California,Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma and Missouri, then straight on through Indiana with the goal ofcovering 250 miles per day. ("There are still some pieces to put togetheras I'm going across. I don't know how long it's going to take.") Thenhe'll row 300 miles across Lake Erie, bike500 miles through New York, and finish it all off with a 15 mile swim to the Statue ofLiberty.

"A lot of it is going to be mental," said Cracknell. When it getshard, he'll tell himself to "stop moping about it. I get to see thescenery--there are a huge number of towns we know the name of but don't knowanything about." He's excited to see them on a more personal level thanfrom behind a windshield.

Half of his 10-person crew will be behind a camera; the Discovery Channel UK will document thejourney for a British television special.

The non-journalistic half includes a nutritionist, doctor, physiologist,trainer and driver. Cracknell plans on eating a mostly liquid diet of 300calories per hour when he's moving, and a large meal of comfort food when he'snot moving.

Training for the event "was not like when I was training for theOlympics," he said. Training as a full-time job is no longer an option; hehas other work now, including writing a newspaper column for The DailyTelegraph. His greatest training weekincluded organizing a 1,000 mile, 9-day bicycling ride across Britain with 700 other riders.

Cracknell isn't new to crazy endurance events; in early 2008, the Britrowed, cycled and swam from England to Africa--a 1,500 mile journey that tookhim 10 days to complete. He raised about $518,000 for British charity, SportRelief along the way.

This time, Cracknell hopes to raise about $15 per mile completed for theRoyal British Legion, a charity that provides financial support to Britons whohave served their country.

And if he can get three-time Ironman World Champion triathlete and fellowBrit, Chrissie Wellington, "the recognition she deserves," he said,he'd be happy about that, too. Wellington will be joining Cracknell on part ofhis cycling journey after competing in an iron-distance triathlon in Roth,Germany, on July 18. 

When it's all over, Cracknell will be happy to have set a time on his newlycreated course across America. Then he'll "see if anyone wants to take acrack at it!"

You can follow Cracknell's journey on his Twitter account: @JamesCracknell

--Erin Beresini


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