Pandemic threatens world-record triathlon attempt

Though my dream is in danger, nothing will stop me from my goal to swim, run, and pedal 17,000 kilometers.

  • 3 years ago
  • June 14, 2021
5 min read
Jonas Deichmann on his bike. Jonas Deichmann on his bike. | Jonas Deichmann Facebook
Jonas Deichmann
First-person source
Jonas Deichmann is 34 years old, and he was born in Stuttgart, Germany.

He is a high-performance athlete who specializes in ultra-cycling. He seeks to impose his style of human strength to help the environment and raise awareness in society.
An ultramarathon (also called ultra distance) is any sporting event that includes a running run of distances greater than the length of a traditional marathon of 42,195 kilometers (26,2188 miles).

There are two types of ultramarathon events: those covering a certain distance and the events that occur during a specific time (the one that covers the greatest distance in that period of time wins). The most common distances are 50 km, 50 miles (80 km), 100 km, and 100 miles (160 km).

Other distances and/or times include 24-hour races and multi-day races, a specialty known as Multiday. Multiday races can cover a distance of 1,000 kilometers or more, such as the world’s longest 3,100-mile race held each year in New York City (Self-Transcendence 3100-mile race).

Many ultramarathons, especially those focused on challenges, present severe obstacles, such as inclement weather, change in elevation, or rough terrain.

The International Ultra Runners Association (IAU) organizes the world championships of various distances of an ultra marathon, including 50 km (31 mi), 100 km (62 mi), 24 hours, and ultra trail races, which the Association also recognizes. International Athletics Federations (IAAF).

Many countries have their own ultramarathon running organizations, sometimes recognized by the national athletics federation or endorsed by such national athletic bodies.

The IUA recognizes world records of different distances, terms, and categories.


VLADIVOSTOK, Russia — My faithful partner is my bicycle.

Together, we have traversed the globe, celebrated victories, and breathed in the air atop wondrous mountains. I never feel alone in the company of my bike. 

Chasing our fourth triathlon word record, we became stranded by the COVID-19 Pandemic in Vladivostok, Russia. 

Though my dream is in danger, nothing will stop me from my goal to swim, run, and pedal 17,000 kilometers (10,563 miles). 

I call this “Triathlon 360 Degrees,” and it is more than a competition against myself. I am using it to raise awareness about the importance of reducing the carbon footprint. Proceeds will support an NGO protecting the tropical jungle. 

Breaking a new record

My journey started by pedaling and swimming from Europe to Asia. I will face 5,040 kilometers (3,131 miles) through North America until I reach New York for my next challenge. The final phase of my journey will cross the Atlantic Ocean, stopping over in Lisbon, Portugal, and ultimately reaching my destination in Munich, Germany. 

My effort equates to 120 Ironman competitions. 

Sportsman’s life

Before this triathlon, my life was empty, and I needed to take a resounding turn. 

I had broken other records. I traveled from Alaska to Argentina by bicycle in 97 days and from Norway to South Africa in 75 days. With each accomplished goal, happiness was followed by heartbreak and uncertainty. 

I would think, a thousand times, about this project – about Triathlon 360. The challenges are incredibly significant, but my passion surpasses all my limits. 

While the performance is 17,000 kilometers (10,563 miles), I must travel a total distance of 40,000 kilometers (24,854 miles) to complete this goal. I expect exhaustion, but I continue anyway.

The crossing

On a cold morning in September 2020, I got on my bike in Munich, Germany, and headed out for Croatia.

Full of hope and bursting with emotion, I started pedaling in what, to this day, is the biggest challenge of my life.

The road to Croatia was easy. The routes were in good condition, and the people’s cheers as I passed through towns and cities were energizing.

The next step was to swim 456 kilometers (283 miles) along the coast towards Montenegro, the longest swim ever in the world. 

I made it and, a few meters from the arrival, an incredible reception awaited. Players of the local water polo team hovered in the water to accompany me on the last stretch.

When I looked up, a crowd was watching; even the press was there with cameras flashing. 

When I stepped onto solid ground, they poured champagne on me, marking the start of the festivities. 

These are moments I will never forget.

When the time came to get back on the road, I was clear about my goal, and I knew nothing could distract me from my dream.

Back on the bike, I crossed Europe and Asia until I reached the Chinese coast.

I could feel the fresh air of the mountains with every pedal.

As I moved forward, passing from town to town, people stopped to say hi and brought me water and food.

Throughout the triathlon, countless people came to help me and encourage me. Without that support, it would have been much more difficult.

I know that wherever I go, I will always have people cheering me on. My family and friends are fundamental pillars of support. Despite the distance, technology allows them to be with me. Still, I miss them every day.

A stone on the road

The pandemic paused my journey. Had it not, I would have continued on a sailboat that would take me across the Pacific Ocean to San Francisco in the United States.

When the last leg of my triathlon brought me to Russia, my future became clouded. 

I am currently going through my 34th week of crossing, and I am stranded in Vladivostok.

Winter freezes the country, and they relocated all the sailboats to Korea. With the added challenge of the pandemic, my stay is getting longer than expected.

My alternative option was to take a boat in the South, but now, it is impossible since Russia requires prior authorization to navigate.

When it seemed that the picture could not be worse, I realized that my visa was about to expire. For a moment, I thought, “I hope my dream is not shattered!”

I am not giving up. I spend my days looking for a way to cross the Ocean and fulfill my goal.

I am a person who believes in hopes and dreams. They are like the engine that powers me.

Against all odds, I maintain a firm conviction I will pass through the world on my triathlon without leaving a trace of carbon. 

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