A Des Moines man who became the first Iowan to reach the peak of Mount Everest in 2003 is now hoping to conquer what he believes could be the toughest human endurance event ever conceived. In July, 33-year-old Charlie Wittmack plans to begin a 12-nation, 12,000 mile journey he’s calling the World Triathlon.
The expedition will start in London with a 230-mile swim ending in France. From there, Wittmack will travel by bicycle more than 11,000 to Kathmandu, Nepal. The final leg of the triathlon will cover 450 miles and involve a run to the lowest point of Nepal, followed by a climb to the summit of Mount Everest. Wittmack expects the expedition to take 11 months. He dreamed up the idea at the age of 15 and started preparing by joining his high school cross country and swim teams and working at a bike shop.
“As a kid, I guess I was smart enough not to talk about this to anyone, but I was idealistic enough to get started,” Wittmack said at a press conference Tuesday. At the age of 17, Wittmack borrowed $10,000 to attend the National Outdoor Leadership School in Kenya. He learned basic climbing techniques, but also began to learn about health and education challenges around the globe. Wittmack says the World Triathlon will help address some of those challenges.
For instance, a team of medical professionals will join Wittmack on his trip through Nepal – which has one highest infant mortality rates in the world. The doctors will work to raise public awareness and educate women about how they can ensure a safe delivery. Wittmack’s wife, Cate, and their two-year-old son, James, will join him on the expedition. They’ve sold their house and vehicles to help finance the trip.
“I think many of us have a hard time getting off the track of what we feel we have to do and maybe making the sacrifices of the things that aren’t important to make the things that are important happen,” Wittmack said. “It’s a little bit different way of thinking, but we’re very passionate about this path and we’re just putting everything in it.”
Wittmack is receiving support on his World Triathlon dream from Mercy Medical Center in Des Moines, Des Moines University and other donors. Wittmack’s also helped develop a curriculum for schools – so students can follow his progress, interact with Wittmack and learn about the areas of the world through which he’ll be traveling.
You can hear Wittmark talk about the the event here: Wittmack 10:55 MP3
Find out more about the triathlon here: www.facebook.com/TheWorldTri