Is this a familiar conversation in your house?
“I’m off for a run”
“where are you going and when will you be back?”
“Across America and I’ll be back in 53 days”.
Mimi has just set off on the 7th September to attempt to break the women’s Guinness World Record for running the 2850 miles from Los Angeles to New York, which currently stands at 69 days and between her and her husband this is just normality.
As you may know, Mimi has form with this sort of thing. She already holds the records for John O’Groats to Land’s End and M2M (Malin Head to Mizen Head, North to South of Ireland). She’s established herself over the last decade as the boss of epic challenges (double Grand Union Canal (290 miles) or double Spartathlon (303 miles) anyone?), particularly in extreme climates (fancy a 6633 Extreme Ultra -352 miles of self-sufficiency in the Arctic – or a double Badwater?).
We caught up with Mimi to find out a bit about what’s involved in running across America.
Preparation for the World Record attempt
“Planning for such a big event is logistically challenging” says Mimi. “Running across America is something that has been on my radar since 2011 but the planning began at the end of 2014 after I returned from running along the Freedom Trail in South Africa. “
“Firstly I had to apply to Guinness World Records to be able to take on the attempt but once I had been given the go ahead it was a case of going through a very large list of ‘things to be done’. First up was sponsorship as you can imagine this sort of event is extremely expensive and getting financial support is always hard (I have never been very good at asking for money) but am extremely lucky to have some amazing companies that are backing me, which is fantastic.”
“The current female world record of 69 days 2hrs has stood since 1979 starting in Los Angeles and finish in New York. There was no route that I could find so I went onto Google maps, put in Los Angeles City Hall and then George Washington Bridge followed by New York City Hall on a walking route (I had to put in George Washington Bridge otherwise the route would have taken me on the ferry and I have to cover the whole distance on foot!) Once I had this initial route I then spent weeks going through it in more detail. I was lucky enough in May last year to be able to go out to the USA and recce the route – thank goodness we did as a lot of the route on the West Coast took me into areas that weren’t passable with vehicles and on many occasions we would drive for 30 miles and find a large fence between us and the continuation of the route, so we would have to turn back and find an alternative way round. Very time consuming as you can imagine but well worth it and essential for this type of run.”
“We also discovered during the recce that on day two my route would take me through an Indian Reservation and the only way through the security guards would be if I had permission from their police department. On my return to the UK I managed to contact the Morongo Reservation and they are very kindly giving me a police escort through the reservation!”
Once the route was finalised Mimi’s next job was to assemble her crew, which she describes as ‘one of the toughest jobs around, especially for a World Record attempt’. Mimi’s crew consists of Jenny Davis (head crew), Jan Strachan, Becky and Paul George, Sophie Rooney, Tim Anderson, Aaron Asaro, Fiona Philips, Beccy Williams, and Becky Ash.
The role of the crew
“They will be doing everything! Feeding me, making sure I go the right way, motivating me, washing my clothes, running with me, buying provisions, photos, 2 mins of video footage has to be taken each day, witness statements, keeping a detailed log book of my everything I do, mileage covered up until when I stop, watches downloaded to Strava and hopefully once that is done they may have time to do what they want to do! Although they will take it in turns to be in the support vehicle, everyone will have certain tasks that they have to make sure are done daily. It really is a full time job. I will try not to be too grumpy!”
Recovery from injury
Mimi actually had to delay this World Record attempt due to injury – sound familiar? A torn meniscus meant that she had to endure an operation, then months of painstaking rehab before finally ramping things up in preparation for America. “You can imagine how devastated I was, in fact I was absolutely gutted. I was totally focused on my rehab, did exactly as I was told and with the help of Kent University who allowed me to use their Alter-G treadmill & give me treatment on my leg 3 times a week together with my osteopath my knee has made a full recovery.”
A typical day on the record attempt
“My day will start at 4.30am when I’m woken up. My kit would have been laid out the night before so quick and easy for me to get dressed. While dressing I will have to eat my first breakfast of the day, go through some medical checks then start my run at 5am.
All going well I will run 30ish miles supported by one of the VW cars and two members of the crew, the other members of the crew will take the RV and the 2nd vehicle to the 30 mile stop where I will have a 20-30 mins stop. During this time I will have some food, a quick massage if needed then head back out on the road again for the next section of the run. During this time the RV will move on to the finish for the day, set up camp, organise everything and make sure food is ready and waiting for everyone on my arrival. I will have a quick shower (or wash) food, massage, more food and bed.”
Running for good causes
Mimi always uses her big challenges to raise awareness and funds for good causes. She’ll be raising money for two charities while she running across America. Marie Curie, who give support and care to people with a terminal illness, are a cause close to her heart after they looked after her father and brother-in-law. Her other charity is Free to Run (set up by fellow ultra runner Stephanie Case), who support women and girls who live in or have fled conflict areas by empowering and educating them through sport. She has also set up her own fitness initiative called Mimi and Me in 53, which allows people to follow her virtually on her run across America by embarking on their own 53 day fitness challenge.
You can follow Mimi’s journey (and donate to her charities) at www.mimirunsusa.com
Article & Interview by Kirsty Reade of www.run247.com