That's just insane!
May 18, 2008 11:26 AM   Subscribe

Some of the most insane journeys in recent time include Harry Lee 'The Hawk' McGinnis' walk around the world, Helen Thayer's 4,000-mile trek across the Sahara, Andrew Thompson's speedwalk across the Appalachian Trail (2000 miles), and others.

These along with some of the other world records (epic journeys) should give you an idea of the limits of physical human endeavor.
posted by msaleem (24 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
Not a world record but an interesting journey and story: The Long Walk by Sławomir Rawicz details Rawicz's imprisonment in a Soviet POW camp in Siberia and his escape and journey on foot through Mongolia, China and India.
posted by chillmost at 11:43 AM on May 18, 2008 [1 favorite]

"Andrew Thompson's speedwalk across the Appalachian Trail (2000 miles)"

I heard that was a bitter, hard-working, and very white journey.
posted by orthogonality at 11:57 AM on May 18, 2008

Werner Herzog's walk from Munich to Paris is chronicled in Of Walking In Ice (finally back in print!).
posted by scody at 11:59 AM on May 18, 2008

Mr Hawk's page says:

For protection, Hawk wields a six-foot walking staff, tipped with steel at both ends which he made prior to his walk around the fifty-states. Plus two balanced throwing knifes, a custom made Bowie Knife (Blackie Collins) and a twelve foot bullwhip.

Of course, if he weren't carrying a 100 pound pack, he might be able to outrun the bad guys, instead of needing the bullwhip...
posted by Forktine at 12:12 PM on May 18, 2008

Don't forget Brian Robinson, who hiked the Appalachian, Pacific Crest and Continental Divide trails in less than a year.
posted by cog_nate at 12:15 PM on May 18, 2008

chillmost--Rawicz's story may have been untrue
posted by ornate insect at 12:32 PM on May 18, 2008

chillmost--Rawicz's story may have been untrue

Wow. Looks like "is almost certainly untrue," from reading your link.

I really loved that book, too.
posted by drjimmy11 at 12:48 PM on May 18, 2008

Don't forget Robyn Davidson.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 12:54 PM on May 18, 2008

in 1925 Aimé Tschiffely travelled 10,000 miles alone, with two horses from Buenos Aires to Washington DC.
posted by adamvasco at 12:55 PM on May 18, 2008

I did the AT the year that David Horton set his record. I only met him briefly (which, as you can imagine, is true for everybody meeting those settings speed records), and he was a friendly guy. But to set these records, these guys are terrible mooches. As the article mentions, Thompson carried "only a fanny pack that contained the necessary water and sandwich or two." No first aid kit. No TP. No tent, raincoat, water pump, compass, etc., etc. To Thompson's great credit, he had a support guy the entire way. But Horton, having no such person (of whom I'm aware), would show up at a shelter each night with no sleeping bag, dinner (other than PowerBars), tent, nothing. So a full shelter would have boot somebody out to set up a tent. He'd eat his PowerBars, but inevitably need more food from somebody else. And so on. Luckily for Horton, he traveled north faster than word about him followed. :)

For the record, Thompson's 50-mile-day average is pretty stunning. My best day was 32 miles, on the (relatively) flat area north of Troutville, near the James River. I averaged closer to 15. The idea of a 50-mile-day is difficult to conceive. Finishing the Shenandoah National Park in two days? Amazing.
posted by waldo at 1:03 PM on May 18, 2008 [1 favorite]

Verlen Kruger, 28,000+ miles in a canoe.... in three years.
posted by HuronBob at 1:39 PM on May 18, 2008

A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson (the appalachian trail)
posted by blue_beetle at 2:11 PM on May 18, 2008

The AT is not a racetrack; WTF? Doesn't trying to set a speed record for hiking kinda miss the point?
posted by ZenMasterThis at 2:48 PM on May 18, 2008 [1 favorite]

This is just absolutely crazy
posted by democrat69 at 2:50 PM on May 18, 2008

adamvasco: "in 1925 Aimé Tschiffely travelled 10,000 miles alone, with two horses from Buenos Aires to Washington DC."

This one is remarkable for a couple reasons, traveling north-south (or south-north) through the America's is vastly more difficult than east-west. Second, 10,000 miles for a horse is crazy. These were special horses (wild ancestors of the Spanish Conquistador horses), a more typical horse would wear out after a few thousand miles of daily rugged travel (if not much sooner). Great book.
posted by stbalbach at 3:27 PM on May 18, 2008

I still think Shackleton's got them all beat.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 3:34 PM on May 18, 2008

Not recent times, but I love reading stories by Thomas Stevens.

He bicycled around the world on one of those old-timey penny-farthing bicycles - in the 1880's!

I once saw some nice illustrated excerpts from his books, but I can't find them anymore. His writings are available on Project Gutenberg.
posted by redteam at 4:13 PM on May 18, 2008

not to forget Jason Lewis
posted by ornate insect at 4:29 PM on May 18, 2008

Also Paula (ConstantTrek) - "In 2004, Paula Constant began walking from Trafalgar Square in London. Since then, she has walked over 12000km through 8 countries: England, France, Spain, Portugal, Morocco, Mauritania, Mali and Niger."
posted by Liosliath at 8:06 PM on May 18, 2008

Goran Kropp: In his book, Ultimate High, Kropp details how he set out from Sweden with a bicycle, a trailer, and over 200 pounds of equipment, intending to climb Mt. Everest. Over the next four months, he cycled some 7,000 miles across Eastern Europe, Turkey, Iran, Pakistan, India, and Nepal. Once in Nepal, he set out for the Everest Base Camp.

After carrying his own equipment up to Everest Base Camp and securing a climbing permit, he then climbed Everest without supplemental oxygen (on his third attempt in less than a month). This was in May of 1996, the same climbing season chronicled in Into Thin Air. After coming down from the mountain, he spent a few weeks recuperating in Kathmandu, then hopped on his bike for and rode home.
posted by mosk at 1:24 AM on May 19, 2008 for and...
posted by mosk at 1:27 AM on May 19, 2008

Some of these stories are quite impressive and inspiring. I was particularly astounded by the speed through-hike of the Appalachian Trail in 47 days. I've always dreamed of hiking the AT and doing it in 47 days might relieve some of the boredom that people like Bill Bryson experienced when he tried and failed to hike the whole trail.

However, I got snagged on the supposed swim by Bernard Lecomte of the Atlantic Ocean in 72 days. At over 3,700 miles in length, that would mean he swam more than 51 miles per day. The article said that he only swam 6-8 hours per day, which would be a speed of more than 7 miles per hour if you assume he swam a full 8 hours per day. 7 miles per hour (8 minutes per mile) would be a good jogging pace but is completely impossible as a swimming pace with the world record for the 1500 meter swim (close to a mile) at about 14:30, meaning that breaking 4 miles per hour would set a world record pace. The article did say that he used swim fins at some points but fins don't come close to doubling your speed. (It's more like a 25% improvement.)

So let's just say he swam in the Atlantic for 6 to 8 hours a day for more than two months. That was a lot of swimming and is impressive in itself. I just don't see how you can call it "swimming the Atlantic Ocean" unless you are truly insane.
posted by notmtwain at 6:18 AM on May 19, 2008

Lecomte: I'm not entirely clear on ocean currents, but it looks like his route used favorable currents to boost his speed. Going the other direction would probably be impossible.

I'm also not sure how strict they were about boat position; when he got out of the water to eat etc., how far did the boat travel?

Nevertheless, that's a lot of swimming.
posted by aramaic at 9:03 AM on May 19, 2008

I thought my 9.5 mile bicycle ride home in nearly 100 degree temperatures was something...

...guess not.
posted by Doohickie at 7:42 PM on May 19, 2008

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