Is Rob Young Really Running Across the Country?
The British ultramarathoner is currently on pace to break the trans-American record, but followers of his run are already crying foul
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British endurance runner Robert Young is currently crossing the United States in an attempt to break the notoriously difficult North American transcontinental record of forty-six days, eight hours and thirty-six minutes, which has stood since 1980. Young left Huntington Beach, California, twenty-seven days ago, and he plans to arrive in New York's Times Square fewer than twenty days from now. When all is said and done, he will have run more than three thousand miles through fourteen states and across a few mountain ranges.
But two days ago, on the message boards of LetsRun.com, user Asher Delmott published a long entry titled “Robert Young fakes run across America,” in which he claims the thirty-three year-old is actually taking occasional breaks in his support vehicle while it slowly rolls along his route.
Delmott writes that on the night of June 4, he checked Young’s online tracker and noticed that Young was approaching his small hometown of Lebo, Kansas, 90 miles southwest of Kansas City. Delmott says he hopped in his car in an attempt to find and briefly run with Young.
“I thought he would be lonely running at 1:00 am in the middle of nowhere Kansas,” Delmott writes, “and I thought it would be cool to be a part of something big like this.” After driving five miles west from Lebo, Delmott eventually found Young's American-flag emblazoned support vehicle.* However, Delmott claims there was no one outside of it, and the RV was crawling along at roughly the same speed of a runner.
“When I got close to the RV, I started filming, and still did not see a runner. They did not have hazard lights until I got somewhat close behind them. I decided to get out of my car at the next intersection…to get a better view,” he writes. “[I] parked a block down the road…ran back to old highway 50 and started going toward the RV. I didn't want them to stop before I got to them, so I ran up next to a house, and watched as the RV drove by with no runner in sight.” He says he then turned on his headlamp and attempted to catch up to the slow-moving RV, but it sped off when he got close.
As evidence, Delmott includes time-stamped screen-shots of both Young's web tracker and hard-to-decipher phone videos purporting to show Young's support vehicle at the same times. He also obtained security camera footage from a gas station along Young’s route showing what looks like his van slowly passing by without a runner. He concludes, “I am convinced that Robert is not completing all of the distance on foot, and I understand my screenshots and videos cannot definitively prove it, but I think it at least warrants a very close inspection of his attempt if he is to be awarded recognition for this.”
In a video Young recently published on Facebook, he responded to these accusations, saying, “I’m struggling—my legs hurt, they feel like lead. I’ve got sore knees, I’ve got an Achilles problem, I’ve got a calf problem. I’m extremely tired—the heat is draining me. I’m suffering. And for people to question one or two things about this run and everything else, it hurts me.” When we reached Young on the phone from Missouri, he doubted the conclusiveness of Delmott’s video, and said he wished Delmott would have made himself more visible—Young would have happily run with him. “The accusations are certainly affecting me,” he told us.
Days before Delmott’s post on LetsRun.com, other followers of Young’s run had expressed their suspicions via social media—pointing to things like his failure to regularly publish daily mileage and a lack of visible stress on Young’s body in shared photos. On June 7, members of Young’s team responded to these doubts. “We have been easily found by several people already by locating us on the tracker map on this website. We are out in the open doing something without guile or manipulation, and to accuse us or Rob of doing anything else is a very low thing to do and completely without basis,” they wrote on Rob’s blog. “Anyone who doubts the legitimacy of what Rob is doing is free to find us and follow us and to see for themselves what Rob is achieving.”
Young continues to receive an outpouring of support on his Facebook page, with users calling him “amazing” and “an inspiration.”
Young will have to continue to run some 67 miles a day to break the current North American transcontinental record, set by Frank Giannino Jr. in 1980. Based on his location, it seems Young has maintained a 67-mile per day average. He also has a long, widely reported running resume, including the longest continuous run without sleep (373.75 miles, in 88 hours and 17 minutes), which broke the record held by American Dean Karnazes, and a win at the 2015 Trans-American Footrace (482 hours, ten minutes and zero seconds). Young says he is running to benefit the U.K.-based Dreams Come True Foundation, the Tyler Robinson Foundation, and the California-based 100 Mile Club.
The most recent ultra-runner to attempt the record was fifty-five year-old Lisa Smith-Batchen, previous winner of both Badwater and Marathon des Sables, who started in late April but bowed out a week later with severe stomach pains that reportedly resulted in emergency gall bladder surgery. Lesser-known Illinois-based runner Adam Kimble also attempted to break the record early this year; he reached the Atlantic Ocean, but well behind record-setting schedule.