After more than two years of planning, U.S. Paralympian Ryan Chalmers is off on his Push Across America. He started the journey Saturday morning in Los Angeles.
Chalmers will push his racing wheelchair 3,500 miles from Los Angeles to New York over the next 71 days, meaning he will be going at the rate of two to three marathons per day.
The event is being run by Stay Focused, a non-profit organization based in the Cayman Islands that offers young adults the opportunity to develop leadership and gain independence through scuba diving.
Chalmers hopes it will raise awareness for the Paralympic Movement in America.
A grueling journey
Chalmers plans to pass through 14 different states along the way, as well as Washington, D.C., and his journey will finish in New York’s Central Park on June 15.
“We’ve been talking about this for a while, so I’m finally ready to actually get pushing,” Chalmers said.
“I’m kind of one of those racers who bobs up and down in his chair, so it’s not going to be comfortable in the beginning, but it’s just something I have to train my body to do.”
As Chalmers will be burning an average of 3,800 calories per day during the push, he has spent the last couple of months mentally preparing and practicing new eating habits.
He plans to have large breakfasts and dinners, with small lunches and portable snacks such as rice balls to eat while he pushes across every type of terrain, including mountains, cornfields and deserts.
Because his athletic trainer did not want him to over-do it the last couple of months, he has devoted most of his time to weightlifting and intense physical activity out of his racing chair.
Chalmers has trained his mind to wake up every morning ready to push, no matter how sore or tired he may be.
He is extremely persistent on “sticking to schedule.”
“Seventy-five per cent of the battle is going to be mental,” he said. “It’s just kind of wrapping my head around the fact that there’s going to be days where I don’t want to push.”
“It’s going to be a learning experience along the way, and that’s something that’s exciting about it. If we had all the answers, it wouldn’t be such a learning experience.”
Chalmers hopes people will come out to support him on the road, as well as on social media. To cheer him on via Twitter, fans can tweet @PushUSA use the hashtag #HelpRyanPush.
The event will finish in New York’s Central Park, and Chalmers has already envisioned what it will be like to complete such a journey.
“This is one of those campaigns that’s going to gain momentum along the way, and so there’s a lot of people who haven’t heard about the event yet,” Chalmers said.
“It’s going to raise so much awareness for disability sports, and as long as I remember that along the way, I’m going to be OK and I’m going to be able to make it.”
Story courtesy of Stu Lieberman at the International Paralympic Committee.