Some people like to call Ironman the hardest day in sport and with that little race in Kona fast approaching I decided to go in search of sportng feats much crazier than some little old ironman.
First off in the incredible stakes is Julie Bradshaw MBE who swam butterfly across the English Channel in 2002. She covered the 35km in the very respectable time of 14 hours and 18 mins. Honestly, I struggle to swim 25m of butterfly and find it utterly exhausting. My Dad told me I look like I am drowning when I try to swim butterfly. Enough said. And it’s not only the stroke that causes me concern; theres also the temperature of the water, a balmy 15 degrees (no wetsuit of course), the tides (miss them and you will be swimming backwards or on the spot with land in sight) and the supertankers as you traverse one of the worlds busiest shipping channels.
Next comes RAAM or Race (or ride your bike) Across America. Now to me this sounds great in principle if you take your time and see some sights but to complete the 3000 plus miles (30% longer than the Tour de France with no rest days!!) in under 10 days averaging up to 500 miles per day with a few hours of sleep per 24 hours, well to me, thats just silly.
The third contender is not strictly a sport but they struck me as being completely insane … why would you do that?? A question I have been asked more than once by non triathlete friends when I explain what an IM is. And the craziness is those insane people who pioneered going over Niagra Falls in a barrell. Nuts. Claiming first bragging rights to this feat was a woman named Annie Taylor who in 1901 climbed into an airtight barrell (the air pressure was apparently compressed to 30psi using a bike pump) and over she went and lived to tell the tale. Then came Bobby Leach in 1911. His story is a sad one, he broke both knee caps and his jaw in the fall but went on to a full recovery. However years later apparently while touring in New Zealand he slipped on an orange peel and died from complications due to gangrene.
Walker Polly Letofsky is next up. Taking 5 years and covering over 14,000 miles crossing 4 continents and walking each day for 1825 days consecutively she literally walked around the world. That is a lot of walking.
Finally comes the Badwater Ultramarathon. Staged on a 135mile long stretch of highway where temperatures reach up to 135 degrees the route takes the runner from the depths of the desert like Death Valley (85m below sea level) to the top of Mount Whitney at 2,500m. Trainers have been known to melt during this 135 mile epic and a woman has been the outright winner of the race!!
Give me Ironman any day, apparently far from the toughest day in sport and definitely not the most insane!!