HOMETOWN: DES MOINES, IOWA
MISSION: THE WORLD TRIATHLON
THIS YEAR, Wittmack ditched his job as a trial lawyer and sold his home and two cars to attempt to become the first person to swim, bike, run, and climb the roughly 10,000 miles between England and the top of Mount Everest. We admire his commitment. "I've been obsessed with this idea for 20 years. It's a perfect line, a perfect expedition," says Wittmack, who swam 230 miles down the River Thames before crossing the 21-mile English Channel on August 8. Three days later, he forced his waterlogged feet into bike shoes and began the 8,544-mile ride between France and India. As of press time, Wittmack had pedaled 4,500 miles and was in the midst of crossing southern Kazakhstan with an armed escort. If all goes as planned, he'll complete the ride in Calcutta on December 1 and begin the 1,086-mile run from Calcutta to Everest Base Camp, summiting sometime before June 1. Inspired by a Nepalese midwife's stories about the lack of care for Nepalese women, Wittmack is using his triathlon's novelty to partner with the White Ribbon Alliance for Safe Motherhood and Des Moines University to create a $500,000 maternal-health program to teach Nepalese midwives and doctors up-to-date obstetric practices. "There's too much riding on this," he says. "I have to continue on."