I’m sitting here in awe after reading a few posts on the blog and Facebook page for the Iron Cowboy. Who the heck is that? Well, he’s a crazy person, yes, but one with a big heart and an apparently infinite reserve of determination. James Lawrence, a Canadian born endurance athlete, is completing 50 Ironman distance triathlons in 50 states in 50 days. (I’ll just leave some space here for you to think about that for a minute.)
Okay, let me start by saying that if I had to fly or drive to 50 different states in 50 days, I would be the grumpiest person you’ve ever met by day eight. Then imagine completing 12 to 14 hours of grueling exercise on each of those 50 days. See – crazy! But crazy for a wonderful cause.
Lawrence isn’t pulling this stunt to break world records – he’s already done that, twice. Instead, the Iron Cowboy is using the publicity he’s generating with the 50-50-50 Challenge to raise funds for celebrity chef Jamie Oliver’s Food Foundation charity. The Food Foundation strives to raise awareness and create change that can end childhood obesity. The Iron Cowboy hopes to raise $1Million for the cause. Here’s exactly what he’ll do with the money:
“The funding that his event will generate will have a dual purpose – we will provide direct financial support to schools that wish to incorporate practical food education on the curriculum. These micro-grants will be used to support US schools at a grassroots level to develop and improve their programmes around food, nutrition and growing. The remaining funds would be used for research, to ensure that the interventions and materials we create will continue to have the biggest possible impact and drive the behavioural change that is needed to truly reverse the current obesity crisis.” – IronCowboy.co/donate
As I write this, the Iron Cowboy has just completed the swim for Day 25, in the state of Virginia. While reaching the halfway point is certainly something to celebrate, the past 24 days have not been without challenges and controversy. On Day 18, he crashed his bike. He was able to finish both the bike and the marathon for that day, but the following day, his hip hurt so bad he couldn’t walk much less run. This prompted what is hilariously (in the cynical way that only the internet can be) being dubbed “Ellipticalgate.” On Day 19, James completed a normal swim and bike, and then did 26.2 miles on an elliptical machine instead of walking or running. This riled a lot of people in the endurance community, who all immediately said that he failed the challenge and might as well stop, but James and his support crew reminded everyone that he’s doing this for a cause, not for personal notoriety or to claim any records. So good news – if YOU want to be the first person to complete 50 Ironmans in 50 states in 50 days, you still can!
There have been other issues, too, of course. His feet are basically two big blisters, one of which has become infected so badly that he’s cut the top of his shoe off so it doesn’t touch the infected area. He also has an infection on his tongue, which, one can imagine, makes it painful to swallow the 8,000 calories he must ingest every day to sustain his effort. Yet, there were cheerful photos posted on the Iron Cowboy Facebook page this morning, the sun just rising over the horizon in front of the camper van that James, his wife and their five children are living in as he attempts this amazing feat.
If you live on the east coast or in the upper midwest, you can still catch the Iron Cowboy when he passes through your state, and you can do more than just cheer him on from the sidelines. You can register to run the last 5k of the Iron Cowboy’s marathon with him. Registration is free, but runners are encouraged to make a donation to the Food Foundation. He’ll be in Waconia, MN on July 17th, completing Day 42. You can view all of the remaining days of his event on the calendar here.
If you can’t make it out to cheer him on in person, you can leave a supportive comment on his blog or Facebook page. But what the Iron Cowboy would appreciate most is a donation, no matter how small, to support his fight to end childhood obesity.