trains and automobiles — who needs ’em?
For some people,
a pair of running shoes or a bicycle is what it takes to see America.
of Waukesha recently joined the elite ranks of those who have used
their legs to travel across the country. He rode his bike from Seattle
to the Georgia coast, a journey that only the most extreme endurance
athletes truly understand.
you need to be a dreamer and a person who likes an element of
challenge mixed in with the sense of adventure," says Abe Clark,
who’s traveled the United States both on foot and by bicycle.
complete the adventure, you need to have that burning mentality inside
you where nothing will stop you. You need to find purpose in what you
To find his
purpose, Reilly, 34, needed to look no further than Bryon Riesch.
Their friendship goes back decades. They attended St. Mary’s
Elementary School and Catholic Memorial High School together in
They went to
college just a few miles apart, Riesch at Marquette University and
Reilly at UW-Milwaukee. And one spring day in 1998, the two were
attending parties across the street from one another. Reilly was
enjoying time with his rugby team buddies; Riesch’s day would bring
tragedy — a bruised spinal cord due to an accident on a plastic
therapy, Riesch was able to use a wheelchair and regain some of his
independence. He resumed college classes just four months after the
accident, graduated and even holds an honorary degree from the Medical
College of Wisconsin. His Bryon Riesch Paralysis Foundation has
awarded nearly $1.5 million in research grants to MCW and other
schools, and provides adaptive equipment and scholarships to others
an inspiration," says Reilly. "I thrive around people like
that. I’ve seen what his foundation has done for other people. I
knew if I was going to help somebody out, I wanted it to be Bryon and
Reilly had spent
much of his 20s in a frustrating search for happiness. He held a
series of jobs, even working for Riesch’s family business —
R&R Insurance Services Inc. — for a while. He abused alcohol and
other drugs, and was in trouble with the law.
He got clean and
began racing triathlons about five years ago. "I substituted one
addiction for another," he deadpans. And he started hearing about
people who did months-long rides.
summer, such feats were "something cool that other people
did," says Reilly. One July day, he suddenly decided to cycle
cross-country; within days he quit his warehouse job in Oconomowoc and
was asking Riesch how he could raise money for Riesch’s Foundation.
set up a fundraising website for Reilly, and he got on a train to
Seattle to begin his 11-state ride.
started, I was a pretty cynical guy," says Reilly. "I
learned there are a lot of really good people out there. If you’re
doing something good, they’ll do whatever they can to help."
needed help. He hadn’t done any special training for his ride, and
started it so late in the summer (Aug. 22) that by the time he reached
the Plains and Midwest, weather became a real problem. He got stopped
in his tracks for four days by an early December snowstorm in Pilot
Knob, Mo.; his brother Paul drove from Wisconsin to ferry him to
Mississippi to resume the ride. (Earlier, Paul had joined the ride for
about 200 miles in Nevada.)
planned to ride four or five days and then rest for one day.
"That went right out the window," says Reilly. "I
listened to my body a lot. When I needed to rest, I rested. When I
felt good, I rode as hard as I could."
He got sick a
couple times from dehydration, and of course developed saddle sores.
Along the California coast, he got sideswiped by an RV — its
side-view mirror smacked him in the left shoulder and sent him into
the ditch. He sustained only minor cuts and scrapes.
proved to be Reilly’s biggest test because of the wind-swept,
see 20 or 30 miles ahead, but every mile you ride you see another mile
of nothing," he says. "That’s when I would get lonely or
start to question myself. But then you wake up the next morning and
you get another shot at the title. That’s what sobriety taught me,
that it’s just one day at a time."
downloaded maps, but refused to look more than one day ahead. He slept
most nights in the tent he carried in his saddlebag. On other nights,
people he’d met along the roads offered food and shelter.
donated more than $8,200 to the Bryon Riesch Paralysis Foundation on
Reilly’s behalf and flooded his phone and Facebook page with
over 2 million people with different tweets, with other individuals
relaying his story," says an astonished Riesch. "The
awareness for the foundation and individuals who are paralyzed, you
can’t pay for that."
Once Reilly got
to Jackson, Miss., he rode 16 consecutive days, dipping his front tire
in the Atlantic Ocean at Tybee Island, Ga., on Dec. 21. The ride
totaled 4,267 miles.
four months, that last 100 miles I was still sore," he says.
"It was a chore."
working on his certification to become a personal trainer and is
"looking for the next adventure."
leave tomorrow if I could," he says. To donate visit www.brpf.org
Thirsting for Adventure
continues to meet endurance challenges head-on, four years after a
2,960-mile solo run across the country.
His latest feat
was living "off the grid" in the San Francisco mountain
range for five months over the winter of 2012-13. His home was a small
hand-built hut known as a yurt, with only a small propane heater for
warmth. "The challenge was staying in one place and making it
work vs. waking up every morning and trying to make it to a new
cross-country run collected $90,000 for Living Water International, an
organization that aided Haiti following the 2010 earthquake. More
money was raised for the effort in 2011, when Clark joined four people
from Texas for a 9,000-plus-mile bicycle ride around the perimeter of
the United States.
In 2012 he
traveled to Haiti with a church group from his hometown of Gillett for
a "very rewarding and humbling experience" as they installed
a hand pump well.
Clark and his
wife, Kate, have moved from Milwaukee to Union, Wash., where they
manage a small resort of 13 cottages. They welcomed baby Jonah Louis
Gregory Clark to their family last fall, and already are introducing
him to the outdoors.
connection to Wisconsin remains strong. In 2012, he helped create the
Drip Drop Trail Run, an eight-hour solo or relay event at Pike Lake
State Park near Hartford. It is a benefit for Living Water
As for his own
running, Clark, 27, considers himself to be in "normal
shape" now. "A good five-miler would do me in for the
day," he says.
ran about a marathon a day, six days a week, in crossing the country
in 2010. Not that it was easy, but the only injuries for the
then-26-year-old were two blisters. The payoff was $37,000 raised for
her then-new organization, MS Run the US.
Kumlein found 15 other hearty souls to join her for a four-month
cross-country relay event. It raised $234,000 for the National MS
Society and Kumlein’s Brookfield-based charity, which she founded in
honor of her mother, Jill, who has lived with multiple sclerosis for
participant ran six consecutive days, totaling 140 to 200 miles,
before handing off to the next person. There are 18 relay slots this
year. Many more people will participate in 5K run/walk MS benefit
events in three cities on the route, beginning with Santa Monica,
Calif., where the relay kicks off on April 13.
have never orchestrated the success of our 2013 relay without the
sponsors, supporters and team that came together and continued to
believe that this event was worth fighting for, even when it seemed
impossible financially or logistically," Kumlein says.
foundation and organizing the runs is a full-time job for Kumlein, who
also works full-time as a personal trainer and nutritional consultant.
event was certainly something I feel nostalgic about, but I have
different responsibilities now," says Kumlein. "I enjoy my
daily running on a lower hour-per-day basis while helping other
runners prepare for their own event of a lifetime."