OVER 3,000 MILES IN UNDER 12 DAYS
André Kajlich is a Washington-born paratriathlete with a knack for tackling the extreme – and making it look easy. With several Ironmans and Ultramans under his belt, he’s now set his sights on making history: being the first hand-cyclist to qualify for and compete in the Race Across America (RAAM).
Even André will admit, this one is a beast. This twelve day, 3,000+ mile race from California to Maryland is infamous for the sheer number of riders who drop out every year, often more than half. Riders battle fatigue, dehydration, harsh weather, even delusions brought on by the endless exertion.
The question is, why would someone take on such a daunting challenge?
For Andre this is not simply a matter of making history – this is personal. In 2003 André was attending university in Prague, enjoying life and regularly carousing with friends into the early hours of the morning. After ending a night out with a breakfast of waffles, he parted ways with his friends and wandered towards home. How he ended up on the tracks facing an oncoming metro remains a mystery, even to him. With one leg requiring amputation above the knee, the other at the hip, there was little hope he would walk again. Having spent his young adult years dabbling in sport after sport this was a bitter pill to swallow. Over the next five years André only concerned himself with resuming life as usual, claiming “life isn’t always a willing experience; you just have to keep moving forward.”
From the seeds of that struggle grew a newfound perspective and perseverance. After entering the world of endurance sports on a whim in 2010, he became the USA’s Paratriathlete of the year in 2012. He’s taken the gold at the Panamerican Championship in Edmonton, the National Ironman 70.3 Championship, and the Ironman World Championship in Kona. He's the first wheelchair athlete to finish Ultramans in Canada, Hawaii and Australia, and was even the first to complete the grueling Brazil135 Ultramarathon in the Mantiqueira Mountains. André even turned the San Francisco marathon into his own little Ultra – racing the course in reverse the night before, then turning around and jumping in with the main field in the morning.
The cycle of finding a race, puzzling through its completion, working to hit training goals and finally seeing himself across the finish line represents for André the positive side of his life’s struggle. Through sheer determination André did learn to walk again, but more importantly he brought the lessons he learned from the process into other facets of his life. Yet despite André’s profound capability to overcome the impossible, the Race Across America could not be achieved without immense support. RAAM not only demands intensive training, mental fortitude, logistical planning, and the love of family and friends. But it requires full team support every step of the way too, an asset which could not achieved without the financial backing of those who believe in his cause.
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