'The Adventureman' aims to run from coast to coast to help sick kids
OAKLAND, Calif. (KTVU) - An English man known as 'The Adventureman' isn't hard to miss running along the side of the road - often barefoot - in a well-loved, stained and tattered superhero outfit.
Jamie McDonald, 32, of Gloucestershire, is very adamant on one fact - "I am not a runner. I'm really not." Yet he's taken on the daunting task of running 6,000 miles across the country, because of an illness he experienced as a child, and his desire to help others.
As a child, McDonald was dealt a rare spinal condition called syringomyelia, which meant he spent the first nine years of his life in and out of hospitals and searching for answers.
The scariest moment came one night when McDonald was just five years old. "I woke up overnight and I couldn't feel my legs. I was crying my eyes out," McDonald says at that point, his parents didn't know what the outcome of his life would be. "They didn't know if I would end up in a wheelchair... or die."
One day McDonald's mom invited him into their backyard to play with a tennis racket and ball. McDonald says, "Once I started moving I was like a dog with a ball. I loved it. I just couldn't stop. I wanted to be the next big Roger Federer, but I was terrible at tennis."
The symptoms of his illness began to fade when he was 11 or 12, but his need to move never went away.
McDonald says he came to a turning point in life when he saved up enough money for a down payment on a home, but something didn't feel right. "I had 20,000 pounds ready to put down, but I had a gut feeling that something was wrong. My brain was saying get the house, but my tummy was saying 'do you really want this?' It felt like there must be more to life."
That's when McDonald started reflecting, and thought of all the time he spent in hospitals over the years. On a whim, he decided to pass on purchasing a home and put the cash toward adventures to raise money for children in hospitals. Since then, his life's passion has been to come up with new and "crazy" ways to raise money for kids.
It started with a fundraising bike ride from his hometown of Gloucestershire to Bangkok.
In his next fundraising challenge, McDonald ran across Canada and even lost a part of his nose to frostbite. "It turned into a bit like Forrest Gump," he says with a laugh.
He even took on the challenge of gaining the Guinness World Record title for stationary biking which took him 12 days. He recalls the challenge saying it was probably 'quite dangerous,' "By day eight I started hallucinating… I cried my eyes out for a day. My bum was sore, but I managed to pedal through the pain."
Over the years he has learned to embrace pain, and hopes that will serve him well as he continues his journey, running from Washington state across the United States to Maine.
In his latest journey, as he embarked on this run of a lifetime, McDonald had a moment of doubt. "On my very first day of running I was very overwhelmed. I was like what am I doing? And I had 6,000 miles ahead."
McDonald's travels will take him through 15 states as he will depend on the hospitality of strangers he encounters along the way. He has a nine-month Visa, so he says every day counts toward his goal of completing his mission.
He hopes to hit about 26 miles a day, and will visit kids at schools to give inspirational talks along the way. He says kids light up when they see his 'Adventureman' costume.'
"They love it, they absolutely love it. I do an adventure man pose, kind of like Colin Kaepernick's dab. They just love it." he said with a laugh.
For this particular adventure McDonald is raising money for one children's hospital in each state he visits.
McDonald started his journey in Port Angeles, Washington with a clear mind and a clean 'Adventureman' suit.
But on just his third day he hit a snag when he injured his foot. McDonald tore his plantar fascia and had a shooting pain whenever he tried to put his foot in his shoe. He had to resort to running barefoot, which he says was not painful. "It's obviously a rocky start, but, it's a start. I'd expect nothing less on an adventure!"
He continued on and depended on the kindness of strangers as he made his way through the rain forests of Washington State. He camped out and was even offered some shelter from the rain from some kind homeowners.
As McDonald made his way through Oregon he says as he woke up every day it felt like his calves and Achilles tendons had been beaten with a baseball bat.
There was a bright spot when McDonald found the humor in a Lois Lane sign he spotted in the road.
"When I saw the 'Lois Lane' road I sign, I wasn't sure if it was spelled right so I Googled it. When I found that it was the right spelling of Lois - I realized I'd stuck gold and cracked up laughing to myself. The Lois Lane sign was a distraction, on a day when my brain spent the day totally task oriented."
McDonald ran down the coast and winded his way through San Francisco and across the Golden Gate Bridge. He describes San Francisco as "absolutely beautiful" with terrain that's very challenging "like running up waves."
McDonald has been enjoying all of California's Mexican food to keep him going - which isn't an option back home! He also discovered a love for peanut butter.
McDonald admits this challenge is not easy and he had a setback in Los Angeles.
"Over the past week, running around and through LA, I've met so many amazing people and had a few heart breaking experiences (which I'm hoping to share in blogs with you over the next few days). I've ran so many miles and had very little sleep, and I've finally hit a point where I've started to ask myself some serious questions. Questions like…Has the run really made a difference? Will it make a difference if I just keep at it..."
McDonald said the kind Californians he was staying with offered him a break so he could get through what he calls an "emotional blockage."
McDonald made it to Las Vegas, Nevada. He said it was pretty posh of him but he made it in time for a big conference at the Bellagio.
McDonald made it through Arizona as he dodged scorpions and ran through monsoons.
He spoke to our sister station Fox 10 Phoenix about his adventures.
At this point - through all of his adventures combined - McDonald has raised more than $800,000 for children's hospitals. He is also raising money through his book sales, 'Adventureman: The Astonishing True Story.'
Check back - we will update this story as McDonald makes his way across the country.