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This Triathlete Plans to Swim, Bike, And Run Around The World

Triathlete and adventurer Jonas Deichmann is charting his own 40,000 kilometer course.

At noon on September 26, 2020, the starting gun fired for triathlete Jonas Deichmann at Munich’s Odeonsplatz. If all goes well, he’ll reach the finish line of his race sometime in August of 2021.

In the 10 months that will elapse, Deichmann will cycle from Munich to Croatia, then swim along the coast toward Montenegro. Once there, he’ll get back on his bike and ride across Europe and Asia until he reaches the eastern coast of China. After sailing across the Pacific Ocean to San Francisco, Deichmann will run more than 5,000 kilometers across the United States, boarding another sailboat that will take him from New York city to Lisbon. Finally, he’ll ride back to Munich.

In short, that’s a long race–40,000 kilometers, to be exact. Yet Deichmann doesn’t see it so much as a long race but a fun adventure.

A map of Jonas Deichmann’s course around the world.

“I’ve always had the dream to go around the world without using an airplane,” the adventurer explains. “So I thought, why not do it as a triathlon?”

Deichmann is no stranger to extreme physical challenges. In 2017, he covered the distance from Cabo da Roca Portugal to Vladivostok in Russia’s far east in only 64 days by bike, setting world records for the fastest known times in cycling across both Europe and Eurasia. He followed that up with an unsupported ride from the Arctic Ocean in Alaska to the Southern point of Argentina, covering the 23,000-kilometer ride in a record-shattering 98 days. In 2019, he rode the “big three” continental crossing from Norway’s Cape North to Cape Town, South Africa in 72 days. Circumnavigating the globe, then, is merely a natural progression for Deichmann’s goals.

But simply covering the route on his bike wasn’t enough for the uber-cyclist. As he plotted out his route around the globe, he noticed patterns related to the Ironman triathlon–if he chose the right route, he could swim, bike, and run the equivalent of 120 iron-distance triathlons. The thought of doing an unsupported Ironman around the world appealed to the endurance athlete. In doing so, he hopes to raise awareness of traveling with a minimal CO2 footprint.

In an interview with Triathlete during week two what he is calling the Triathlon 360 Degree adventure (“We have a little thunderstorm today, so I’ve got some time,” he said before answering our questions), Deichmann describes how the method behind his madness and how things have shaped up so far: 

Jonas Deichmann smiles on the swim course.
Jonas Deichmann smiles during one of his swim legs.

How did you plot the route you would follow?

Deichmann: It needed to be in proportion to the iron distance, and swimming against strong current is impossible. That narrowed it down to swimming in Croatia, as the conditions are good and there are always islands in front of the coast, which minimizes my risk of being blown off the coast. The distance of the run fits well with going across the United States, as it totals a marathon times 120. The cycling route across Europe and Asia is still not fully planned, since some borders are closed. My original plan was to go via Iran, Pakistan, India and southeast Asia to China, but that seems impossible now. So I will probably go via Siberia, as I can get a business visa there. Will be a bit fresh in January.

What changes did you make to your training to prepare for this massive undertaking?

Deichmann: The most important thing for me is that I have fun and stay motivated over the year. For this reason, I don’t have a proper training plan. However, I am a cyclist so I focused on doing more swimming and running during month leading up to the race. I also did a triathlon around Germany which was an Ironman times sixteen, to test the body and equipment.

What logistical issues did you need to address for the success of the event?

Deichmann: I am used to bikepacking, but I needed to find a way to do unsupported swimming and running. I now carry my gear in a raft and trailer, respectively. Another major challenge will the extreme conditions in Siberian winter, with temperatures down to minus 40 degrees Celsius. I trained a few hours on a Hometrainer in a cold chamber at negative 25 Celsius to prepare for that and confirm the clothes, bike and electronics are working.

You’re two weeks in. Have you encountered any challenges to date?

Deichmann: Just when I started, the first snow came and I fought tough conditions when crossing the Alps. Then on the swimming leg, I already had a storm with 6-meter waves, strong currents and a constant lack of food. [Swimming] has been the by far toughest discipline for me.

What has been the coolest thing (so far) you’ve seen or encountered during this undertaking?

Deichmann: The reaction of people when I swim ashore and go shopping in my wetsuit and with my raft under the arm. I must seem like an alien!

To follow Jonas Deichmann’s progress in his Triathlon 360 Degree challenge, visit his website, which has both live tracking and weekly written journal entries.