Jamie McDonald dipped his hand in the Pacific Ocean two weeks ago to mark the start of his latest test of human endurance — a 6,000-mile run from the westernmost point of the continental United States to the easternmost point. On Monday, he got another hand from Microsoft.
To go along with the technical expertise the company and its partners are lending McDonald, a few hundred employees of the software giant gave him a rousing applause as he made a stop in Redmond, Wash., to deliver one of his motivational speeches.
McDonald, a 31-year-old native of the United Kingdom, has scheduled a year for his run as Adventureman, the alter-ego superhero persona he assumes during his efforts to raise awareness and money for children’s charities and hospitals. The distance he’s running, down the West Coast, across the Southern U.S. and up the East Coast, is equal to about 230 marathons. On a map, he said, the route looks like a big smiley face.
Three years ago, he completed a 5,000-mile solo run across Canada and raised £250,000 ($348,000). In the time since, he co-founded a charity of his own called Superhero Foundation and he wrote a book about his adventure, called “Adventureman: Anyone Can Be a Superhero.” It was during a tour for that book that he decided to run again, this time in America.
After starting in Cape Alva, in Washington’s Clallam County, McDonald spoke to GeekWire this week about how he’s feeling with so much road ahead of him.
“I put my hand in the ocean and I just got running,” McDonald said, describing a moment captured in a video (below) posted on his Facebook page. “I was feeling really, really overwhelmed. I went a bit crazy in the brain, ‘What are you thinking? This is a long way.’ … I don’t know if your body can ever be prepared to run across a country, and I guess especially America. I didn’t realize how big it is actually. It’s ridiculously big isn’t it? Each day that I run I’m hoping, fingers crossed, my body gets stronger, and of course it can deteriorate in places, but I’ve just got to believe that it will get stronger.”
***Here it is – the video – for the start of my 6,000 mile solo run across America!!!***Plus a blog, about the experience and my first day running…This morning, I donned my Adventureman costume and, after passing feelings of cheating on The Flash, thought, ‘wow, my very own Superhero costume, I’m probably living every little kid's dream in the world right now.’After breakfast, Super-Ted drove me to Cape Alava, or as close as we could get. We left Caesar the buggy in his car, because we had to walk a 4km rocky trail to get to the beach (I did feel bad about Caesar not accompanying us, but hey, he is just too fat to lug over steps and rocks!). When we arrived at the beach, it was just magnificently beautiful and the sun was out. For the one and only RAIN forest in the US, we were lucky that the sun was out.Before walking over to the ocean, Super-Ted left me to it, to have ‘a moment’. I walked the beach alone to soak it all up. It's been a hard road emotionally just to get to this beach. Like any big journey, one of the hardest parts is simply getting to the start line. Every journey begins with that first step, after all.As I walked, I grabbed my camera to film and started to pour out all my emotions, expectations on not wanting to let anyone down and the fact I’ll just try my best. I felt a lump in my throat throughout.As I put my hand in the ocean, I’d definitely felt like I’d done it before, but it didn’t stop that surge of excitement at what’s to come! So much so I sprinted for 30 metres and… well, I blew my engine out. I had to stop just after! Running and filming will come again with practise.Running on, Super-Ted joined me and we ran on leaving his car behind. He said, “I’m gonna run a half marathon today, 13 miles. I’ve only ever ran 9 miles before. It’s gonna hurt”As we ran I was feeding off his energy. I’m not going to lie, Caesar was BRUTAL to push. Either I’m unfit, or Caesar has put on weight – actually, probably both are the problem.It was amazing to run along, it’s just I feel soooo unfit, it was a bit of a shock to the lungs.Super-Ted ran back after clocking up enough miles for his half marathon – I love watching people achieve. He eventually caught me up in the car, and headed on to a house that sells Jelly Jam. We spotted it driving past earlier in the day, and both agreed it could be the spot that I sleep (maybe).Arriving at Jelly Jam’s, Super-Ted was at the house and gave Wonda there my Adventureman book, I think as a bribe so they’d let me stay. As I got ready to put my bed ready in their shed (if I’ve got a roof over my head – I’m happy!), the husband Darryl came out and said, “you can sleep at the front of the house.” I immediately thought, ‘oh nooo, please don’t say I have to sleep on your lawn and put my tent up in the rain – I'd just started getting excited about the idea of the shed!” So I sheepishly said, “umm, is it a good spot?”Then I properly got what he was saying. “You can sleep in our caravan at the front of the house.” It’s the first day and I’ve nailed a caravan that hasn’t been used since the 90’s. First night – I promise you, this was better than anything I could have imagined!Wanting to spoon tin fish into my mouth, I realised that I forgot a spoon. A SPOON!? Caesar weighs 80kg, a large proportion of that tinned food – and… there wasn’t even a spoon in there. What is wrong with me!?I sheepishly went to Wonda and Darryl’s house to ask for a spoon, but needn't have worried! Wonda laughed at me, give me a spoon and even a bowl of pasta and a hot sandwich to go with it!I’m very overwhelmed at the minute, so thank you for bearing with me. It’s been years since I’ve done this, but the Americans are breaking me in nicely!•••••••••••••••••Sorry about the delay in posting, it’s a pretty remote rain forest! We're having a few issues with the tracker as it stands. I'm very sorry, but it should be up and running tomorrow, and show the route I've ran so far. Here's where to track: https://lynx-hero.azurewebsites.net/Maps/IndexAnd if you’d like to donate, please do, it really will make a big difference: https://www.superherofoundation.org/donate/Please note too, an American fundraising page will be live on 17th April. All that said, WE'RE OFF! We’re doing it. We're actually doing it! Thank you for all the lovely comments and shares too, it’s really helping to get this #SuperUSrun off the ground!
Posted by Jamie McDonald on Wednesday, April 11, 2018
McDonald runs without a support team. Dressed in a superhero costume designed by a young boy, he pushes a three-wheeled stroller loaded with supplies and camping equipment. And this time he’ll have some tech along for the journey.
McDonald met Craig Joseph, CEO of intY, the cloud services company, when Joseph was booking McDonald for a talk in London. intY is a Microsoft partner and together with folks from Acacus, another Microsoft partner, solutions were developed to make McDonald more trackable, social and safer on his run.
A tracker uses GPS to relay information in real time, showing location, speed and distance information, including useful features like weather and danger zones. Users also gain the ability to opt in to notifications so they can be alerted when McDonald is close to their location. They can also get automated pings on new social media posts and more.
“Their technology that they’re helping with, it’s incredible,” McDonald said. “I’m not much of a geek, but, in a nutshell, people can see exactly where I am, live, which is a game changer because for me, I need to connect with the kids and the families at the hospitals and just the everyday people in America. The more connections I make the bigger the difference I can make.”
Clearly delighted and genuinely thankful for the help and the technology he’ll be using over the next year — a time frame dictated by the length of his visa — McDonald called the world we live in “just nuts.” He also boasted about the ability to send an emergency alert from a special “button” even if he doesn’t have a signal.
Following his talk in London and his eventual arrival in the U.S., McDonald was invited by Ted Eisele, director of partner development at Microsoft, to speak at the company’s headquarters.
“I thought, ‘This is ridiculous, I’m just a boy from Gloucester in England. How did this ever happen?’ I’ve got to say, I’m used to doing talks around the world, but I have never experienced anything like it.”
McDonald said his talk on Monday complemented themes promoted by Microsoft vice president Gavriella Schuster, about having clear goals and visions, and believing that anyone can achieve the impossible. Before he went on, the crowd was encouraged to bring the energy of an American football stadium. McDonald said he ran in and everyone stood up and went “absolutely bonkers.”
After shedding a costume with outsized muscles, and continuing his talk in street clothes, McDonald said that his point was to encourage his audience to find the superhero within themselves.
Born with a rare spinal condition called syringomyelia, McDonald spent the first nine years of his life in and out of hospitals. A very weak immune system and epilepsy combined to give him very poor health. Eventually, his symptoms eased and later in life he made a commitment to give back to the hospitals which supported him.
With the run across the U.S., he hopes to raise another £250,000 from his U.K. followers, with 100 percent of those donations going to his Superhero Foundation. The target amount in the U.S. is $1 million, with plans to split that amount between the foundation and children’s hospitals in each state that he runs through. (Donate here.)
McDonald will stop at children’s hospitals and schools along the way, delivering talks and meeting the children he hopes his donations will help. Monday afternoon he did just that at Seattle Children’s Hospital as part of Superhero Day, an event that previously attracted film stars Chris Evans (Captain America) and Chris Pratt (Star-Lord).
McDonald laughed when asked about the similarity between his quest and that of fictional film star Forrest Gump.
“It’s one of my favorite films. It’s an absolute classic. I’m a big Tom Hanks fan. What a brilliant movie,” he said. “I probably do end up running a bit like Forrest Gump, which is hilarious, but I think it’s important that people know that I ended up spending most of my life in hospital as a kid.”
And now he’ll be out running through towns and cities across the country, meeting lots of strangers and hopefully being encouraged to run, Jamie, run!
“It’s quite lonely because I’m out there on my own, I don’t have a support crew or anything like that. People just kind of took me in and took me into their homes and gave me good meals,” he said of his Canadian experience. “I’ll be surviving off tin fish and butter, so any hot meal I can get to top off the calories would just be incredible.”