A British man raising money for children’s charities passed through Liberty County last Thursday and Friday, spending Thursday night in the home of Dayton residents, Jason and Gretchen Inman, before continuing his run eastward to Louisiana.
Jamie McDonald, known as Adventureman, is about halfway through a year-long journey that has taken him from Washington state, Oregon, California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas. His 6,000-mile, U-shaped path across the United States now takes him through Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida, before turning northward to travel along the Atlantic Coast, finally ending in Maine.
The run is equivalent to 230 marathons. By Friday, he had completed 127 marathons with another 103 to go. The challenge might seem insurmountable to most people, but for McDonald, it is simply what he does. Last year, he completed a coast-to-coast run across Canada and previously traveled by bike from Thailand to Gloucester, England, where he lives.
With his belongings for the trip packed into a child’s jogging stroller, McDonald, wearing a bright green, red and yellow superhero costume, jogs dozens of miles per day and beds down in his tent at night or enjoys the hospitality of strangers he meets along the way.
“It seems like every night since I’ve been in Texas, I’ve been taken in by a family. It speaks well of the area,” he said. “That’s not to say that Americans all along the coast haven’t shown kindness to me, but the nature of the people in Texas has been very welcoming, which is amazing since I have no support here. I had biscuits and gravy this morning for the first time ever.”
Before arriving in Dayton, he stopped in Houston to visit with the patients of Texas Children’s Hospital. The hospital will receive all the donations McDonald takes in while he is in Texas. For each state he ventures through, another children’s hospital is named the benefactor of McDonald’s charity run.
“One of the kids at Texas Children’s Hospital, when I walked in, pointed at me and said, ‘Awesome.’ Of course, I was wearing my Adventureman costume. The boy’s name is Jeshua and he has cancer. He is only 8 years old. We were chatting away and just as I was about to leave, he said, ‘Jamie, Jamie. Can I ask you a question? When you get to the end of this run, are you going to run back again?’” McDonald said with a laugh.
In West Texas, he said he was briefly believed to be a drug runner when he was stopped by Border Patrol.
“They asked me, ‘What’s in the stroller?’ I said, ‘It’s not what you think,’” he said. “Once they heard my British accent and Googled me, it was okay. They knew I was legitimate.”
For three months of the journey, he traveled at night because of the blazing summer sun.
“I hit the desert in the hottest part of summer. Running at night was the only thing I could do. There was someone who spotted a mountain lion just up the road at 1 o’clock in the morning, so that was pretty scary. I saw tarantulas, snakes and scorpions,” he said. “I was out there on my own – just me and my stroller. It was the rainy season, so there were storms with lightning bolts striking all around me. I am from England. We don’t get that kind of weather there.”
The fact that he is running at all is a miracle. McDonald was born with a rare spinal condition that caused fluid to build up along his spine, causing epilepsy, immune deficiency and periods of paralysis.
“Sometimes I’d wake up and I wouldn’t be able to move my legs. When I was 5 years old, I couldn’t move them for the first time. It was really scary but, in a way, I had gotten used to it because I was born like that,” he said. “I was resilient at that age and it seemed normal. Then when I was about 9 years old, my mom put a piece of string across the back garden, and asked me to come play tennis with her.”
He resisted at first and then went outside and “started cracking balls,” according to McDonald.
“I just got this love of movement after that. I was like a dog. You know how you throw a ball to a dog and he just has to chase it. That was me. Eventually my symptoms disappeared,” he said. “I was really lucky. I should have ended up in a wheelchair or worse.”
For a while he dreamed of playing tennis professionally, but simply lacked the talent. About seven years ago, after saving up enough money for a down-payment on a home, he had an epiphany.
“I was going to sign the papers on the house and I just had this gut feeling. My brain was telling me one thing and my gut was saying something else. I went with my gut. Instead of buying the house, I bought myself a bike for about 50 pounds. It was one of the worst bikes ever, but I ended up cycling on it from Thailand to Gloucester,” McDonald said.
Along the way, he found himself dodging bullets in a war zone in Afghanistan and felt warm hospitality from people in Iran and Iraq.
“The world is an amazing place. Even in those countries of Iran and Iraq, I had never felt so welcome,” he said.
The ride raised funds for the Gloucester Children’s Hospital, where McDonald received care as a child. The money was used to build a new children’s playroom at the hospital.
Despite the exhausting ride, McDonald later got back on a stationary bike to set a new Guinness World Record for the longest stationary bike ride.
“No one has attempted it since then. If someone does, I would love to support them,” he said.
The trip through Canada came after he decided to take a holiday but instead launched a cross-country run. The run generated around a half-million dollars in donations to children’s charities.
McDonald is also the best-selling author of the book titled “Adventureman: Anyone Can Be a Superhero.” All of the royalties of the book are donated to children’s hospitals. McDonald funds his trips and personal expenses through money he earns as a motivational speaker.
“I’m really lucky. I get flown around the world. It allows me to travel around. It also means I can carry on fundraising while giving my time to new adventures. I am lucky,” he said.
When asked what his family thinks of his adventures, McDonald said his mom gets a little nervous. His older brother is also an adventurous person while his father is his biggest fan.
“My dad said since I bought that bike and started pedaling that he knew this was my journey. This was going to be my thing,” McDonald said.
For more information on Adventureman, go online to https://www.jamiemcdonald.org/ or follow him on Facebook. To donate to McDonald’s U.S. charity run, go online to https://www.superherofoundation.org/donate/
By Vanesa Brashier, firstname.lastname@example.org