Adam Kimble has a fire under his feet, and on February 15th, the 29-year-old ultramarathoner will set out to try and break the Guinness World Record for the Fastest Crossing of America by crossing the country in 45 days or less.
We’re beyond excited to help fuel Adam’s journey as he attempts beat the current recordholder, American Frank Giannino, Jr, who criss-crossed the country in 1980, coming in at 46 days, 8 hours and 36 minutes.
We asked Adam to tell us how he ended up in the crazy-making world of ultramarathons, what keeps him motivated on the road, and, naturally, what he plans to eat when he crosses the finish line in Times Square.
Where did you grow up?
I grew up in the Chicagoland area and spent most of my childhood in the southwest suburbs, mostly in Minooka. From the time I was a little kid, I loved the outdoors and loved sports. It was rare for me to be inside. I used to go on bike rides with my best friend, riding around the neighborhood exploring. Sometimes we’d play street hockey. I was down for anything.
Game on. What were your favorite things to do in the outdoors?
Both of my parents were big proponents of being active. My dad was the one who spearheaded a lot of our experiences. He would take two of my cousins and I on extended weekend trips when we were 6, 7, 8 years old, camping and hiking. He loved seeing us learn how to do it, how to camp, make fires, cook our own food.
You were also serious about sports and almost turned pro in baseball, right?
Baseball, for a long time, was what I hoped to do with my career. When I was in high school, there was interest from some major league baseball teams to draft me. I knew I’d be drafted in the middle to later rounds, and I had a scholarship to play at Bradley University so it seemed like the smart thing to do—get a degree while playing and go from there. I had a good career at Bradley but didn’t ultimately end up playing professional ball.
Did you feel like you had to start over?
People would ask if I missed the sport and my response was always the same. I didn’t miss baseball, but I missed game days, the feeling of playing against your rivals, the fans, the atmosphere. I always had a competitive mindset and needed an outlet after playing at a high level in college. That’s where running entered the picture.
How did you move to distance running?
The first distance race I entered was a half marathon—the Chicago Rock ‘n’ Roll—in 2011. My wife and I wanted to run the race to be fit and feel good heading into our wedding. (We got married after.)
I trained for it and had much more fun than I expected. Right away, I couldn’t stop wondering what the next race was going to be. The following year, I jumped up to a full marathon and then just kept doing it. With every finish (and after the immediate pain had subsided), I’d be left wondering what was next and what I was going to push myself to do.
In 2014, I decided to try my first ultramarathon, and ended up doing three that year: a 50k, a 50 miler and a 100 miler. Despite the times of pain and pushing through the difficulty of the race, there was never a moment when I felt I would stop.
Once I got into the ultrarunning, I knew I was supposed to do it just because of how I felt during races and training. I knew it was my calling.
Can you walk us through how ultramarathons changed your race experience?
For starters, ultras present a bigger mental battle than marathons. In a marathon, if you train well, in most cases you can still hit a wall but that wall doesn’t come until mile 20 or 22 when there’s still 5 or 6 miles left to go.
In an ultramarathon, you can get to that 20 mile mark but still have 30 or 80 miles left to go! It’s a much bigger mental game. You learn that a race can be a total rollercoaster ride.
The first 100-miler I ran was the Yellowstone-Teton 100. It’s a beautiful course that’s very close to the park and goes through three different states. At mile 15 or 20, my body wasn’t feeling good at all, and then at mile 80 my body felt better than when I started the race! I’ve had to gain the understanding that sometimes everything’s not going to feel the best, but if you can push through it, then five miles later you might feel great.
A second difference is nutrition. In a marathon, a lot of people will have electrolytes in some form, like Gatorade or energy gels, to give you the sugars and carbs and energy you need during the race.
In an ultramarathon, if you don’t stay on top of that, it can derail your race really quickly. As soon as you get behind on nutrition and hydration, your body can start to shut down and not give you a chance to recover.
What do you eat during an ultra?
In ultras, I like to have nut mixes on hand, energy bars… Sometimes I’ll eat half a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, fruit, etc. Usually a lot of carbs, protein-rich snacks.
Can you break down your route across the country for us?
We’ll be starting February 15th and running from Huntington Beach, California, to New York City. Because we’re running in February and March, we’re going to stay in the southern half of the US in order to hopefully get the best weather along the way. That means Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, all the way over to Tennessee, and then we’ll cut up through the northeast.
In total, I think we go through 16 states. There are a couple of states we’ll do in one day—Connecticut, West Virginia and Maryland. We’ll finish in Times Square at the end of March.
You say “we” but you’re the only one running, right?
I’m the only one running the full distance but I have a crew of 5 people assisting me: my wife and 4 good friends of ours. All of those people at some point are going to run along. We’re also trying to get some friends and family to come see us, and working with an online running community called RunJunkees to coordinate meetups so people can come out to cheer or run a few miles, to just give me the added boost that I’ll definitely need.
Any sights you hope to see along the course?
I think the beauty of America will absolutely blow me away, but I’m really hoping to come across some of the more interesting sights. I’m a fan of the odd tourist attractions that are generally found in small towns. Hopefully that provides some much needed entertainment!
How will you stay focused? Do you listen to music while running?
When I started running shorter races, I always listened to music. Now that I run ultramarathons, I never listen to it! I think it probably has to do with wanting to just be alone with my thoughts and experience the nature around me. For this race, though, I’m making an exception! I’m going to be running so many hours that it’s going to be necessary to have music, so I’m currently building a massive playlist with thousands of songs, all different genres and types. I want music for every emotion that I experience. I’m also including podcasts, books on tape, anything that I can throw on for an hour or two to take my mind off what I’m doing.
Which is essentially running an ultra a day for 45 days. What does a “typical” day look like?
Our plan is to wake up everyday around 3:15am. By 4, I’d like to be out and moving whether I’m jogging or power walking or hiking, just getting the blood moving. Then I’ll run for 2 or 3 hours. We’ll stop to have breakfast around 7-8am, then run for 4-5 hours, break for lunch, then do another 4-5 hours. We expect to finish around 9pm every night. After stretching and doing recovery techniques, I’ll probably sleep for about 5 hours, then start over.
Wow. Wait, so why are you doing this again?
It started as a crazy challenge for myself, and now it’s morphed into something else. I want to use this thing to inspire and encourage people to go after a big goal in their life. I want to give them that extra push to say, yeah, go for it. That’s become the theme for me—showing people they can achieve greater things than they ever thought possible. I think this really parallels with the vision of Impossible2Possible (I2P), the charity that we’ll be supporting through the race. You can see me do my two minute pitch online.
What’s the one piece of gear you can’t live without?
My Garmin watch. It has become an extension of my arm!
Have you thought about how you’ll celebrate? Do you have a dream meal on deck?
Pizza. And beer, whatever local Amber Ale is on draft. That’s what I want. I’m not going to be drinking beer during the run so obviously that alone will be amazing. And then, with the pizza, people may disagree with me, but I think I have to go deep dish for the finish…
You just lost all of your east coast fans.
Nooo…!!! I mean, I would take a New York-style slice any day. On a normal day. But this time, the thickest juiciest pizza is what needs to be at the finish line.
Bravo, Adam, and best of luck!
UPDATE: Adam is partnering with Gociety, a community of outdoor adventurers, so people can find out about meet-ups along the route. Find out if Adam is running near you and come out! Learn more here: http://adamkimble.com/join/
We’re sending Adam all of our well wishes, prayers, and cosmic vibrations (not to mention a hefty stash of Camping Provisions) as he sets out on his boldest adventure yet. Adam and crew will leave from Huntington Beach on February 15th and aim to complete the course by the end of March in New York.