Most people are content to spend their lives achieving modest but realistic goals. They aim to rise towards the top of their business or to do well at the gym in the sport of their choice. And then there are the people who aim for more. These are the people who don’t just run marathons but are ultramarathoners, the people who don’t just walk regular buy actually walk around the world. What drives these people to do what they do? Maybe it’s an internal urge to be the best at something. Or maybe they’re just plain crazy.
Walking Around World, Harry Lee ‘The Hawk’ McGinnis
82-Year-Old Man Walks Around World: Everyone out there has a dream. Some people dream about winning the lottery. Other people dream about having a big family. For Harry Lee ‘The Hawk’ McGinnis, the dream was to walk around the entire world. He started walking back in 1983, covering 80,000 miles across 66 countries.
He’s planning to finish walking around the world, across all seven continents, by the time he reaches his 82nd birthday in 2010. After that, he’s going to settle down and write a book. Hm, I wonder if he’ll be doing a book tour?
Peace Pilgrim’s 30 Year Walk, Mildred Norman
Peace Pilgrim: This is another individual who did a whole lot of walking. She didn’t cover nearly as much ground as Hawk McGinnis, just a measly 25,000 miles. And she was only in her seventies when she passed away so she doesn’t get the ‘oldest world walker’ prize. But she walked for nearly thirty years and she did it all in the name of peace. Considering the number of wars that happened around the world during her trek, some might say she walked in vain.
Swimming The English Channel, Alison Streeter
Queen of the English Channel: Swimming the 21 mile English Channel is no big deal anymore. It was an amazing feat when Captain Matthew Webb first swam the Channel back in the 19th Century but now it’s been done by hundreds of people so if you really want to stand out, you need to do something drastic.
Alison Streeter started swimming the Channel when she was just eighteen years old. She drew some attention when she swam it back-to-back and then she really got attention when she became the only woman to swim it back-to-back-to-back covering over 60 miles before retreating to land. She has completed the swim a total of 43 times. Notably, Kevin Murphy, the King of the English Channel, has only swum it 34 times.
Swimming The Atlantic Ocean, Benoit Lecomte
Crossing the Atlantic Without a Boat (More or Less): The Queen of the English Channel might be impressive but it takes more than what she’s got to swim across an entire ocean. Benoit Lecomte did precisely that back in 1998, the first man to do so without the aid of a kickboard. Of course, he did have the benefit of a boat that warned away sharks and gave him a place to rest every night. But since he did swim for at least six hours each day for more than seventy days straight, he should get at least a little of your respect. The 3,700 mile swim apparently didn’t wear him out because he’s got plans to swim the Pacific Ocean next.
Speed Walking The Appalachian Trail, Andrew Thompson
Speed Walking The Appalachian Trail: Thousands of people have hiked the 2000+ mile long Appalachian Trail so just walking along it certainly doesn’t rank as a crazy trek, although that’s debatable; it’s a little nutty to walk from Georgia to Maine even if others are doing it. However, it’s more than a little crazy to try and do it quickly. The journey typically takes 4-5 months but Andrew Thompson did it in just 47 days. Maybe he got the extra push he needed when he had to run from an angry bear.
Around The World In A Hot Air Balloon, Steve Fossett
Around The World In A Hot Air Balloon: Most people don’t ever get into a hot air balloon. Those who do generally go up for a quick tour and then come back down. Not Steve Fossett. In 2002, he set off in a ten-story hot air balloon by himself to travel around the world. Getting up to speeds over 180 mph, he managed to make an around-the-world flight in under fourteen days. He engaged in a bunch of other aviation and sailing adventures before he tragically disappeared last year. He’s been legally declared dead but no one really knows what happened to this legendary adventurer.
Trekking 4,000 Miles Across The Sahara,
Trekking 4,000 Miles Across The Sahara: There are actually a surprising number of people who have walked across the grueling Sahara Desert, usually in the interest of a non-profit cause. However, most don’t do it alone and they don’t follow an ancient camel trade route that is 4,000 miles long. That’s exactly what Helen Thayer did in 1996 when she became the first woman to walk the Sahara. She’s accomplished a number of other things in life including walking across the Mongolian Gobi Desert and being the first woman to walk/ski solo to the magnetic North Pole.
4,500 Kayak Around British Isles, Sean Morley
4,500 Kayak Around British Isles: There is nothing easy about kayaking. It looks nice and relaxing but kayaking will sap strength from your arms while and require constant attention to keep yourself afloat in the midst of swell. That didn’t stop Sean Morley from becoming the first person to kayak around the UK and Ireland. It took him five months to paddle the 4,500 miles and he did it all by himself. He needs a pat on the back since his arms are probably too tired to do it himself!
Running Around the World, Robert Garside
Running Around the World: Some might say that it’s crazy to try to run around the world, especially if you’re the first person to do it like Robert Garside was. With almost no money to his name, he started running. His adventures during the trek included being shot at in South Africa, almost shot in Panama, imprisoned in China and nearly mugged in Mexico. On the plus side, he met his wife in Venezuela. The run took him five years but he did manage to do it and got a Guinness World Record title for his efforts.
19th Century Circumnavigation By Bicycle, Annie Londonderry
19th Century Circumnavigation By Bicycle: Most women in the 19th Century hid their feistiness underneath corsets and coiffed hair-dos while Annie Londonderry acted hers out by accepting a challenge to prove that women can make it in a man’s world. She was the first woman to successfully bicycle around the entire world, which was an feat made even more amazing considering she’d never ridden a bicycle before starting the journey.
Annie Londonderry also succeeded in meeting the second rule of the challenge which was that she earned $5,000 during her ride, primarily by working as a journalist reporting on her own adventure. Her husband and children probably weren’t thrilled when she abandoned them to undertake the fifteen month trek but the rest of womankind was cheering, or at least they should’ve been!
Ultramarathoner, Dean Karnazes
Ultramarathoner: Dean Karnazes is just plain crazy about running. He is the ultimate ultramarathoner, a sport that involves running anywhere from 50 miles to 3,000 miles at a time. Although others hold world records that beat him out in length and speed, Karnazes has the most diverse range of different ultramarathon achievements under his belt. They include running 50 marathons in 50 states in 50 consecutive days, running 135 miles in 120 degree heat in Death Valley and running a South Pole marathon in weather that was forty degrees below zero. In case that’s not enough in the diversity category, he’s also a swimmer who has crossed the San Francisco Bay.
Running In Circles For 3,100 Miles, Wolfgang Schwerk
Running In Circles For 3,100 Miles: It’s a little bit nutty to want to run 3,100 miles. It’s just plain crazy to run it in a half-mile loop over and over. But that’s exactly what people do when they compete in the Self-Transcendence 3,100 Mile Race which takes place around-and-around one city block in Queens, New York. The speed record for the race is held by Wolfgang Schwerk who completed it in just over 40 days. It makes your head spin just thinking about it.
Running 150 Miles On A Treadmill, Bergland & Karnazes
Running 150 Miles On A Treadmill: At least if you’re running around the block, the scenery changes. But what’s up with people who have broken records running over one hundred miles on a treadmill?! The world record of over 150 miles was held by Edit Berces for a long time until some ultramarathoners came along and ran her out of the race. Berces holds other records that were probably a lot more fun to break such as the speed record for a 100 mile track run and back-to-back distance records for twenty four hour runs.
Speed Climbing Mount Everest, Christian Stangl
Speed Climbing Mount Everest: There’s a good chance people will call you crazy for trying to climb Mount Everest, the tallest mountain in the world. It’s a challenge that many have chosen to face over the years. But it’s a risky endeavor and one that most people take their time trying to accomplish. Not Christian Stangl; he has the world record for the fastest climb from Camp III to the summit which he did in 16 hours and 42 minutes!
Climb Mount Everest But Never See It: At least Stangl was rewarded with a terrific view when he got to the top of Mount Everest. When Erik Weihenmayer climbed the mountain, he didn’t get to see anything at all because he’s the only blind man to have made the climb.
Gliding Continuously For 56 Hours, Charles Atger
Gliding Continuously For 56 Hours: In 1952, Charles Atger achieved a world record by remaining in the sky in a glider for over fifty six hours. The gliding association that gave him the award then discontinued the idea of rewarding people for the foolish behaviour of spending far too much time in a glider without sleep.
Kitesurfing From Lanzarote To Morocco, Kirsty Jones
Kitesurfing From Lanzarote To Morocco, Kitesurfing is a fun sport that combines a power kite with a surf board to pull you through the water at speed. However, most people don’t care to go long distances on these boards. On the other hand, some people do. For example, Kirsty Jones decided to go nearly one hundred and fifty miles from Lanzarote to Morocco. When she was done she said she was sore, happy and wanted some chocolate!
Extreme Long Distance Dog Sled Racing, Lance Mackey
Extreme Long Distance Dog Sled Racing: Sled dog racing is a sport that has some intense competitions it. The two toughest long-distance races are the Iditarod (1,161 miles) and the Yukon Quest (1,060 miles). It’s not only the distance that makes these races difficult but the fact that the race takes place in freezing cold blizzards with temperatures that can drop as low as one hundred degrees below zero.
For most people, just one of these races is too crazy to attempt. But Lance Mackey was insane enough to go ahead and do both races in one year (and win them both). He apparently felt that wasn’t sufficient because he went ahead and did it the following year as well.