"Every day something could happen that I have never seen before."
Project Horizon athlete Jonas Deichmann has circumnavigated the world in triathlon - and turned ours upside down. In 430 days he completed the Ironman distance 120 times. In numbers, that means 450 kilometers of swimming, 21,000 kilometers of cycling and 5,060 kilometers of running. Here you can find his RYZON favorites that accompanied him on the journey. We asked the extreme athlete and world record holder a few questions.
The motto of this year's Christmas campaign is: "The biggest achievements often remain unseen". What was such an achievement for you, an unobserved, challenging moment?
JD: The biggest achievement for me was completing the swim course. Swimming was by far the most difficult for me. So when cycling, also in Siberia, I felt in my terrain and when running too. I can do that. But when I was swimming, I had no idea what I was doing. I just started swimming and already on day 1 I realized: this is so much harder than I expected. And then arriving in Dubrovnik, that was the biggest achievement for me.
And that's exactly where you were actually alone the whole time, right?
JD: First of all, swimming is mentally incredibly tough because it's monotonous, nothing happens there. So just looking at water and plastic waste for 6-7 hours a day is really difficult mentally.
Have you really seen a lot of plastic waste in the sea? That's something we also deal with, recycling and sustainability. The bike jersey you were wearing is made from recycled material.
JD: Well I wouldn't say it's more polluted than other seas, or parts of Europe. But you see more plastic waste there than fish, of course. So also things like refrigerators, car tires and beer bottles and cans. It's unbelievable what you can see on the seabed.
But running, unlike swimming, you can do it.
JD: Yeah, I really enjoyed that too. So my running career is not over yet. Cycling is my favorite discipline and it will stay that way. But I'm also in the mood to do another big run somewhere.
And why are you running? You were compared to Forrest Gump in Mexico. In the scene in which the journalists are walking alongside him, he answers the question why he is running: “for no particular reason”. So for no specific reason. What would be your answer to this question?
JD: Exactly the same, actually. When I woke up in my tent in the morning, I felt like running a marathon every day.
If motivation were that easy for everyone - that would be nice.
JD: For me, it's ultimately these special experiences. When cycling and when running. It's really the little moments. Night camping in the Baja California desert or when the mariachis come by. Such encounters. So just the little moments, the things you're not used to, the things you're surprised by, and that's what I draw on when things get tough.
And do you think that you experience more of these small and special moments when you run because you are a little slower and can perceive them even more than when you ride a bike?
JD: The moments are different. When you ride a bike, of course, you have a lot more impressions of the landscape because you are simply faster. But when you run, you come into much more contact with the country and its people. So it's just different. Both have advantages and disadvantages. To sum it up, when you ride a bike you have more impressions, but when you run they are more intense.
Interesting. Were there such intense encounters while running, or encounters in general that left a lasting impression on you? Or ones that you think were really special?
JD: Yes, of course La Coqueta, the street dog, stands out. That was a very special encounter. She was so cool, she just ran 130 kilometers with me. And it changed everything for me. From the day after that I was in the National News in Mexico - and from then on I wasn't alone anymore.
This encounter not only sticks in your head, it also changed your life.
JD: Yes, definitely. From that day I was really famous in Mexico. And the moment when the attention really got even bigger, crowds of people came and I got a police escort, that was something very special. Something you don't forget. The police officers with their guns, that people ran with me, that's a unique experience. That changes you. But I also made a lot of friends on the trip, which I believe will remain friends with these people for a very long time.
That sounds even nicer. On the contrary: were there moments when you felt lonely? You said in another interview that you don't feel lonely in nature. But how do you feel when you are alone in nature?
JD: I'm comfortable in nature when I'm alone. I actually felt the loneliest there in Mexico, when the most people were there. Everyone suddenly wants something from you. At the beginning there were about 20 runners who ran along. That was cool, everything was wonderful. But when there are 200-300 running after you and you get a huge reception with journalists, the police and everyone else wants something from you. But you don't know anyone about it. Then you feel lonely. Because you're just alone.
I can understand that. Above all, it is probably difficult to find peace then.
JD: Yes. Sometimes I ran 50 kilometers and was done. And then I come into a village, there are 2000 people waiting for me. Everyone wants selfies and interviews and I really just want to go to the hotel and eat something and sleep. This is difficult.
I think I would feel the loneliest when driving through the frozen desert in Siberia.
JD: Oh, that was nice, in Siberia in the frozen desert.
What was the biggest motivation for you to go through with the project? In your lectures you speak of "from chocolate bar to chocolate bar", i.e. breaking it down to individual goals. But what's going on in your head aside from that? What is your inner drive?
JD: So it's more like why am I doing this? And not so small, how do I motivate myself every day. And ultimately, why I do it is the experiences, the encounters. They're just so intense when you do that. And there are so many things I can still talk about in 30 years. It's not the record at the end. What remains at the end are the experiences and the memories. It's so much more intense when you do it this way. And that's exactly what motivates me. Even if I look out of the tent in the morning and it's a bit uncomfortable, I still know: Hey, today could be a very special day. Something could happen any day that I've never seen before.
What was the biggest surprise on your trip?
JD: Of course that was the hype in Mexico. I could never have imagined that. I would never have imagined that I would become a folk hero overnight. It was just absurd what happened there. In Mexico City I was traveling with nine pick-ups and armored vehicles and 11 motorcycles, which cordoned off the entire city freeway. These are things that suddenly make you think, am I in the wrong movie?
And the biggest surprise in terms of: what scared you, what were you not prepared for?
JD: Those were the swim traverses. I really had no idea about swimming and approached the whole thing with optimistic naivety. Somehow it works. And such a crossing is already damn far. And it sucks when you're swimming alone miles from shore and there's current and waves. That's unconfortable. But you can hardly prepare for it. When it gets dark in the sea, the thought arises, what could be underneath me?
On such a journey you are very much alone with yourself. You like to be out and about alone, but have you sometimes lacked company?
JD: I generally like to travel alone. But for example when swimming, or in Russia, where no one speaks English, I was always happy when someone was there. People I know, with whom I can talk, that's really nice after a month. I was really looking forward to that too.
And are you already thinking about the next projects?
Yes, in any case. I'll tell you what I'm up to soon.