The Race Across America is arguably the most difficult bicycle race in the world. It takes riders from Oceanside, California across more than 3,000 miles of diverse terrain and finishes less than 10 days later in Annapolis, Maryland. Race participants ride non-stop, with support crews in chase, and often times go for days on end without the slightest bit of sleep.
It is no surprise then, that a book chronicling the story of the Race Across America was published with the title, “The United States Of Delirium: The Story Of The Race Across America.”
With photos by Lorne Bridgman and text by David Houghton, The United State of Delirium is an impressive collection of photos, stories, history and racer profiles, chronicling both the beauty and pure insanity that is the Race Across America.
I could go on and do my best to explain to you what the Race Across America really is and how it came about, but I think author David Houghton says it best on the book’s very first page:
John Marino was leafing through the Guinness Book of World Records when, by chance, he came across the United States coast-to-coast cycling record. Set by Peter Duker in 1972, the record stood at 18 days, 2 hours and 20 minutes. Marino, a baseball player who’d been drafted by the L.A. dodgers before a career-ending back injury, set his mind to breaking the transcontinental cycling record. After two years of training and preparation, Marino set off on August 26th 1978, and knocked five days off Duker’s time, crossing the country in 13 days, 1 hour and 20 minutes. He then went on to beat his own record two years later with a time of 12 days, 3 hours and 41 minutes.
Lon Haldeman, a lanky endurance cycling from Harvard, Illinois, had been tracking Marino’s successes. In 1981, Haldeman beat Marino’s record with a time of 10 days, 23 hours 27 minutes. For added emphasis, Haldeman beat Marino’s best while completing a couple transcontinental, an ambitious back-to-back traverse of the United States from east to west, then west to east.
By this time, Marino had begun to entertain the idea of a head-to-head transcontinental race. The challenge was dubbed The Great American Bike Race, a name suggested by Stuart John Meyers, editor of American Bicyclist magazine. In 1982, Marino set off from the Santa Monica pier, bound for New York City, with the only three competitors willing to join him: Lon Haldeman, Michael Shermer and John Howard. Shermer, a small, bearded rider from Tustin, California, had just set a new Seattle-to Los Angeles cycling record. Texan John Howard was a three-time Iron-man champion who had been anointed Cycling magazin’es Cyclist of the Decade for the 1970s.
Haldeman won The Great American Bike Race in 9 days, 20 hours and 2 minutes. Marino had to settle for fourth place, but his head-to-head competition had knocked a full day off the transcontinental record. Renamed the Race Across America (RAAM), the race has been run every year since.
The race has grown to include many categories. The first solo woman’s division was introduced in 1984, the first four-person teams in 1989, and the first eight person teams in 2003. The race now includes a staggering array of divisions, including 2 Person Tandem Men, 4 Person Team Recumbent and 8 Person HPV (Human Powered Vehicle). YEt at its core, the Race Across America still clings tightly to John Marino’s vision. It is a race of solitary men and women struggling with internal and external forces, those they can control and those they cannot, fighting fatigue and enduring physical pain as they ride more than three thousand miles across America virtually nonstop, a notion as big and audacious as America itself.
The United States Of Delirium is a beautiful book splashed with wonderful stories, detailed historical information and incredible photographs. Half pictures and half text, The United States Of Delerium is a book that truly captures the spirit of the Race Across America – in both its wonder and its pain.
For more information on the book, or to pick up a copy of the text for yourself, head on over to www.theunitedstatesofdelirium.com