Jim O'Brien from United States
Jim O’Brien, the 30-year old athlete from Chicago, IL, is philosophical about his first multi-day endurance race. He said: “I wanted to see what it would be like. Of course, I wanted to do well, but more importantly see how my body would handle it.”
Jim is not a novice runner, having run for his high school team but then he chose the more leisurely track of “beers and birds” at Marquette College in Wisconsin. For the last eight years, Jim has been an Account Manager for Ventfabrics Inc., with clients in the steel industry. He says the job is not the most exciting, but at least it leaves him more time to run around the desert.
On being asked how he came to be running in the Atacama Crossing, Jim said that he heard about the 4 Deserts from a friend. He found the website on the Internet, watched the videos of the races and signed up. He doesn’t rule out doing another race in the series, but wants to try some shorter, single-stage events, such as the Badwater 135 – a 135-mile race run in Death Valley, CA, and the Wasatch 100, which takes place in the Wasatch mountains of Utah.
“I like the camaraderie, the community of people. Getting to the point in the race where you know you are going to finish. I really like that. I guess I’m always chasing that.”
Jim peppered his training for the Atacama Crossing with finishes in the Dublin Marathon the preceding October and the Honk Kong Marathon in November. He also began wearing a heavy pack on long runs (which earned him some strange glances at the gym).
For the Atacama, Jim’s pack weight started at 18 pounds (8kg), about the average weight that a competitor carries on the Atacama Crossing. Jim is warm-blooded and feels lucky that he can get away with carrying only minimal clothing for the six-day event: a long-sleeve, light-weight top, a wafer-thin wool top, knee-high socks and shorts. His sleeping bag weighs in at one-pound and he does not use a sleeping pad. With a laugh, Jim says, “I’m lucky, because I can sleep anywhere. I’m a little cold, and I wake up a few times during the night, but basically I’m getting a good nights’ sleep.”
(It should be noted that his tent mates in the Aucuanquilcha tent - Amanda Heading of the UK, and Soren Hauch of Denmark - report that Jim makes puppy sounds while sleeping.)
All barking aside, Jim ought to feel good, because during the day he has been running well, and not really “plodding along” as he refers to it. He’s had very strong finishes, especially on the 5th and longest stage, at 75km, earning him 17th place overall, going into the 6th and final stage.
Once again, Jim will step onto the dirt tarmac, ready to do his best, but there for more than the glory of a top-20 finish. “I’m really pleased with my results. But I’m jazzed that I am here in this beautiful place having run through some incredible terrain. I’ve met some great like-minded folks, and we’re hoping to meet up again at another race, some time, some place.”