Adam Kimble’s Insane Plan to Run Across America
Can an unknown long distance runner beat the 35-year-old record for the fastest cross-country traverse?
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If you haven’t heard of the runner Adam Kimble before now, don’t worry—you’re not alone. Though the 29-year-old Chicago native finished first last year in China’s 250-kilometer Gobi March, and came in third two years ago and the Yellowstone-Teton 100, his feats of distance running haven’t gotten much notice outside of small ultrarunning circles. But that may change next month when he sets out to break the record for the fastest ever run across America.
On February 15, Kimble plans to depart from Huntington Beach, California, and run 3,000 miles to Times Square, New York. If he gets there in less than 46 days, 8 hours, and 36 minutes, he’ll break a record that has held for 35 years. To put this into context, when Scott Jurek set his Appalachian Trail thru-hike FKT last summer, he ran 1,000 fewer miles in the same time.
You can call his upcoming attempt foolish, brave, or anything in between. But when I spoke to Kimble—a bearded former event planner with a Midwestern affability—from his home outside Chicago, I was struck by his contagious confidence. With a small crew of his wife and friends, a handful of Asics, the support of a few sponsors, and a willingness to suffer, Kimble has no doubt he’ll be in Times Square by April 1. Here he talks about the inception of this idea and how he plans to pull it off.
OUTSIDE: You’re a month out from the start of the run. Are you still training, or have you started tapering?
KIMBLE: Right now, I’m mostly cross training—weights, yoga, cycling, and some swimming
How long have you been running and training with this specific goal in mind?
Several months, really. Sometime around the middle of last year is when I knew for sure that I was doing this. I put in a lot of miles the second half of 2015. These last couple of weeks, I’ve been taking it easy in terms of actual running and just focusing on the cross training, building up all the support muscles in my body. Pretty soon, I’ll start running again and probably do some speed work in the 2-to-3 weeks prior to the start.
Tell me how you go into running.
The first time I really started running was in 2011, when I finished a half marathon. It wasn’t even my idea; it was my wife’s. Things spiraled from there. In 2012, I ran my first marathon. My first ultra—the Farm to Farm 50k in Indiana—in 2014. In a span of 4-to-5 months after that, I ran a 50k, Ironman 70.3, 50-miler, and a 100-miler. That was the launching point for me—I knew ultrarunning was what I wanted to do with my life, and something I could do with my life. That sparked the ‘what can I do next?’ mentality.
So you do well at some ultras, and your body holds up. But it still raises the question: after five years of running, and only two at the ultra distance, how did you decide that you were ready to attempt a 3,000 mile endurance record that has stood for 35 years?
That’s a great question. The fact that I am newer to the sport, you could take it either way. You could say: I don’t have as much experience as someone who’s run a lot more ultras than I have. But you could also say that I haven’t put the mileage and the stress on my body that someone who’s been doing this for 20 years has.
I think a lot of runners in the past, especially in recent memory, who’ve attempted this or have done transcontinental crossings of the U.S. have been much older than I am. For example, there was a guy named Perry Newburn who’s from New Zealand and in October 2014 he set the coast-to-coast masters record. And part of that is there’s not a lot of people my age who can take a month-and-a-half worth of time and just go run across the U.S.
“You could say: I don’t have as much experience as someone who’s run a lot more ultras than I have. But you could also say that I haven’t put the milage and the stress on my body that someone who’s been doing this for 20 years has.”
How have you felt after diving into ultrarunning as quickly as you did?
My body has held up surprisingly well. I think I learned this from playing sports my whole life, but I’ve always been really big on cross training. It seems like a lot of injuries come from overtraining or singular training. I feel like the more cross training that I’m doing, the better my body feels. It seems to eliminate, or at least decrease, my chance for injury. There is the obvious soreness and recovery after an ultra, but as I ran more races, I started to cut down the recovery time. And nutritionally, and I’ve gotten really good at knowing what I need.
Have you talked to anyone who’s done something like this to help prepare?
Two of the people that I’ve looked a lot at in terms of what they did and how they did it is Scott Jurek and James Lawrence, the Iron Cowboy, who just did 50 Ironmans in 50 states in 50 days. I haven’t touched base with Scott, but I’ve talked with James several times and just asked questions about his strategy and nutrition and the things he went through mentally.
James told me that there are a lot of things you have to fight through, and you have to train yourself in a manner where your body is adapting and reacting to what you’re doing on the fly. He had talked about how it was around his 20th Ironman when his body recognized what was happening and it started to adapt. Prior to that, for those first 20 days, he really didn't feel good. The important thing is understanding that it’s going to take a while to get into that routine, to let your body adjust to what’s happening.
Have you talked with Frank Giannino Jr, who set the coast-to-coast running record in 1980?
I have talked with Frank. Once I decided that I was going to do this and apply for the record, I got in touch with him. It was great, because he’s a really wonderful guy and was super helpful about the things that he did. More than anything, it was just great to know I have his support.
“I love the revolution happening with FKTs over the world right now; I love being a part of that. It combines my love for ultrarunning and my love for adventure and exploring new places.”
Talking with James and Frank and hearing what they went though—does that make you excited, scared, nervous?
Being scared and excited go hand in hand. The things that are scary are also exciting to me. And that’s the thing: something like this, there’s no doubt that my body has to hold up, but this is so much more mental than almost another athletic thing that I can think of. No matter what shape you are in, how many ultras you’ve done, it’s going to be all about overcoming those mental obstacles and barriers day after day.
I know the Iron Cowboy traveled with a full time massage therapist. Will you have something like that?
No, I won’t have a doctor, chiropractor, massage therapist, anything like that. I’m going to have a crew of of five people that consists of my wife and four other friends. They’re going to be with me the whole time. And one of the guys was a former triathlon coach, so he has a wealth of experience in that area. He knows some different massage therapy techniques that we’ll use. But no, no one is a chiropractor or a therapist themselves.
I also have a machine called the NormaTec Pulse, which both Scott and James used, that I’m going to use for recovery.
Logistically, how will you guys pull this off?
We will have two or three vehicles. Two of them will be campers, and then possibly a third SUV. We’re going to wake up, start the run, and go section by section. The plan is that they’ll drive ahead 5-to-10 miles, possibly more, and then I’ll meet them there. If there’s anything that I need, or if we’re taking a break to eat, then we’ll stop.
I see your plan is to go across the bottom of the country and then up towards New York. Will you mostly be running on roads?
We’ve mapped it out and we’re putting together the final details now. It’s definitely going to be a lot of backcountry farm roads. No expressways. We’re avoiding as much traffic as possible. There are going to be sections of the route where there are trails, which we might take. But we’re going to do our best to avoid traffic as much as possible.
Talk to me about your gear. Do you have any idea what a 46 day run will require?
I know all the gear that I’ll be bringing—I just need to figure out how much. We’re going to have to figure that out soon, especially with the number of shoes. I’ll be running in the Gel Nimbus series—I’ve always been a big Asics guy. I’ve heard people who have done something like this and have gone through 5, 6, 7 pairs of shoes, and then I’ve heard stories about people going through 40 pairs. I can’t imagine going through that many, but I also want to be prepared for any situation. We’ll probably bring something close to 10, and then if it’s looking like I’ll need more, then we’ll make adjustments on the route.
Besides the obvious ‘avoid injury,’ do you have any specific worries about running that far?
Well, yes, the biggest thing is always making sure the body holds up. Outside of that, getting in enough calories is something that, at times, can be difficult and tedious, but with our crew I know it will be doable. One of my crew members is exclusively focusing on the nutritional side of things. I know he’s going to be on me all the time; I’m going to be consuming calories at all hours of the day. It’s just making sure that I’m getting in everything that I can. My rough estimate right now is anywhere 6,000-to-8,000 calories a day.
Usually I’m a high carb guy—I like a good 3:1 carb-to-protein ratio. But during this run, I will be eating everything and anything I can—especially high-fat foods to help with maintaining weight.
How can you and your crew afford this much time off from work, from your lives, to run across the country?
Last year, in June 2015, my wife and I decided that we wanted to do some extended traveling. We quit our jobs and spent the majority of 2015 traveling internationally. We got back at the end of December, so instead of getting jobs right away, we thought why not do this first and then figure out the next career move.
I was an event director for a company called Red Frog Events in Chicago, and two of our crew members currently work there. Red Frog was gracious enough to allow them to work from the road and come with us, which I was really, really thrilled about.
If you pull this off, you’ll certainly make a name for yourself in the running community. Would you want to start a career in ultrarunning?
Regardless of things how play out, I love ultrarunning and I love the community, so I definitely want to work in that realm in some regard. Since I started ultrarunning in 2014, I’ve met so many great people. Even though there are a lot of ultrarunners, the community is so close knit. It’s such a cool thing to be a part of. I want to increase my role in that community.
How would you follow something like this?
There are a whole bunch of ultras on my radar that I want to get in—in the states and overseas—but if things go as planned and I set the new record, I’ll probably go back to the drawing board and see what other crazy adventure or FKTs we can come up with. That’s something that I love to do. Part of our whole mission here is to encourage people to reach for new heights and do something in their life that they’ve always wanted to do.