INTERVIEW | 01/11/2022

“1000 candy bars later I have once circled the world”

Jonas Deichmann
Jonas Deichmann mit Sombrero
Author:
Uschi Horner

He inspires many people with his adventures: Jonas Deichmann cycled, swam and ran once around the world. He was on the road for 429 days. In an interview with ISPO.com, the 34-year-old talks about beautiful experiences with people and magical moments in solitude. He also reveals his secret to mastering not-so-good situations and how candy bars helped him swim 460 kilometers in the Adriatic Sea.

The figures of his new record are impressive: Jonas Deichmann swam in the Adriatic Sea for 460 kilometers - accompanied only by his raft, which he pulled behind himself. He covered 21,600 kilometers on his bike, with only the most essential things attached to the frame and under the handlebars. And for his 120 marathons (all in all 5060 kilometers) across Mexico, his belongings were packed in a trailer (a so-called Kidrunner), which he also pulled behind him.

His journey started and ended at Odeonsplatz in Munich. It led him around the world in 429 days. Along the Croatian coast via Turkey to Vladivostok, then on foot from Tijuana to Cancun, and for the last stage from Portugal to Germany he climbed again on his gravel bike "Esposa".

Jonas Deichmann beim Fahrradfahren
The adventurer feels most comfortable on the bike

ISPO.com: How are you doing now health-wise?

Jonas Deichmann: My physiotherapist checked me out recently. He was surprised how mobile I was after the marathons. It seems as if this project didn't do me any harm. I also got through it without any major injuries or illnesses. Of course I had a few aches and pains, but nothing serious.

Swimming 460 Kilometers in the Adriatic Sea without Experience

And how did you prepare for this adventure in advance? You didn't use such a training method for swimming?

In the past four years I have set several records on the long distance. Bicycling has always been my main discipline, and that's where I got my basic endurance from. So I didn't have to do any special training for that. I've also always been a decent runner, though not a professional one. In swimming, I have the seahorse (the most basic German swimming badge). So zero experience. I ran a lot in the run-up to the race. Swimming I have not trained at all. So without any experience I threw myself into Lake Constance with a raft, which worked. Then I thought to myself, if you can swim across Lake Constance, I can also swim in the Adriatic Sea. But everything is quite different there. The wind, the current, the salt water. It's just hell.

Jonas Deichmann schwimmt in der Adria
The bare essentials Deichmann pulls behind him

When swimming in the Adriatic Sea, did you have less beautiful moments then?

In Croatia, the water is very, very clear - at least during the day.Neart the coast, you can see the ten meters below you. Mentally, though, it's very boring. As long as I can still see my hands and feet, it's okay. But in darkness it's unpleasant. It's a queasy feeling. In my head I know there are no shark attacks in Croatia, but still my thoughts are running wild, wondering what's in the water around and below me...

Doesn't that cause panic?

I never panic. I focus. And I block things out.

I tell myself: This is not doing me any good now, don't speed up, stay in rhythm. That's the shore over there, that's where we're going now, and that's all that matters now.

Jonas Deichmann schwimmt in der Adria
Kilometer after kilometer alone through the Adriatic Sea

But to swim 460 kilometers at a stretch, you have to block out a lot?

I visualize things very strongly. In a project like this, there is no room for doubt. My big secret is that I can see the finish line long before I get there. Also, I break down big goals into smaller steps. Even if day 1 of swimming was hell, I didn't think, that was only ten kilometers and there are 450 kilometers to go. That would be extremely demotivating. Arriving is my vision. But my goal is the next rock, the next gas station, the next candy bar. Especially in swimming, I always move towards the next candy bar. 1000 candy bars later, I have circled the world once.

Jonas Deichmann beim Essen
The vision: arriving - the destination: the next gas station

All of Mexico Celebrates the German Forrest Gump

Eating a candy bar was certainly one of the good moments on your triathlon around the world - what were happy and special moments for you?

Mexico clearly stands out. Not only the dog LaCoqueta, who followed me for 130 kilometers, but simply the enthusiasm of the people. Because what remains of such a project? Of course, it is also fun for me to be at the limit, or to work towards a goal. But I often ask myself what will you remember when you are old? It's not the record, that's a bonus. What remains are experiences and memories. And I experienced some really bizarre things in Mexico.

What, for example?

Entire police detachments walked along, their machine guns at hand and sang their marching songs. Or the drug cartel came by and wanted to take a selfie with me. I couldn't believe what was happening. But the lonely moments in Baja California were also beautiful. There, I was running through the desert. And I knew, behind the next cactus, behind the next bend, there's a beautiful place to camp. You lie under your mosquito net in the open air, in the middle of the wilderness. Those are nights I won't forget. And of course Lake Baikal is also part of it. I have camped on the lake. It is these lonely moments, and special encounters with people that will stay with me forever.

Jonas Deichmann vor seinem Zelt
Jonas Deichmann enjoys lonely moments in Mexico

There were quite a few people who accompanied you? In Mexico, they also called you "El Forrest Gump alemán"?

In Mexico, I was only a local story first, and then came LaCoqueta. And she quickly became the most famous dog in Mexico. I was on the front page of every daily newspaper, in the news of every television station. From one day to the next. One month later everyone in Mexico knew me. In the end, it also spilled over to Germany.

Begleiter von Jonas Deichmann beim Marathon
Companion on the marathons through Mexico

Like a Movie Script: "No One Would Believe You".

Were you surprised by all the attention?

My run through Mexico and  all the attention there has made my journey a very unique experience. If it were a script for a movie - no one would believe it, it sounds completely exaggerated. So yes, the fact that it was going so well definitely surprised me.

Die Medien interviewen Jonas Deichmann in Mexiko
"El Forrest Gump alemán" causes a stir

Why do you think you inspire so many people with your triathlon around the world?

I think there are several aspects. My triathlon around the world is currently unique, no one else did anything like it so far. As it was a year dominated by the pandemic, no one else did a global project. My journey showed people that you can dream, that somehow things keep going. That's a very important point. Yes, I am a competitive athlete, but that's not my focus. When it comes to how many kilometers you can run, bike or swim in a day, that's interesting for athletes, but not the masses. It's the experiences, the encounters with people, the stories that inspire. It's simply a project with many facets.

95 Percent Headache: "In the End, the Limit Is Me".

You talk about many facets of your journey in your book "The limit is just me" - what is the essence of the title?

The message "The limit is just me" is addressed to everyone. I am not the fastest cyclist, I am in good physical condition, but so are others. I'm just always convinced that I can achieve what I set out to do. Ninety-five percent is a matter of the head. There are always objections: "Okay, but you've been riding a bike all your life - how am I supposed to do something like that?" My answer to that: "Yes, but I've never swum in my life and now I've swum 460 kilometers. I am also not a runner, but now I have run 120 marathons." So, in the end, the limit is me. And if you have a dream, if you believe in it, and if you are positive, then you can achieve so much more than you think is possible.

Jonas Deichmann liest ein Buch
A travel diary with depth "The limit is only me".

That's right - you definitely showed that. But beforehand, you were a bit worried about whether the technology would be able to cope with everything?

On cycling adventures, I always know: I can do it, but will the material hold out? That's the bigger question. There's no help if something breaks. That's why I took my gravel bike to the cold chamber of the Deutsche Bahn.

Why is your bike actually called Esposa (Spanish for wife)?

I spend so much time with her, and she is also a beauty, so she must be a woman.

Are you talking to your Esposa?

No, I don't do that. But I like to sing while I'm on the bike and while running.

Schnee Foto von Jonas Deichmann
Snow, ice and cold - Jonas Deichmann experienced extremes on his trip around the world

Future Project: Once around the World Climate Neutral

Will your Esposa be back for your next project?

We'll see. In principle I can also imagine to get used to a horse saddle. The days after riding in Kharkiv, Ukraine, were hell, because I could hardly sit on my bicycle. But I can see myself horseriding through Mongolia. I would also find that exciting.

Could this mode of transportation eventually replace bicycling?

I have come to the realisation: Cycling will always be my favorite discipline. Running was also super fun for me though. And when I was swimming, I saw the world from a completely different perspective. Bicycling has always been the first discovery of places, I've been to over 100 countries. Half of them were nice, but that was enough, but the other half I definitely want to go again. With more time.

Jonas Deichmann auf dem Balkan
Preferring to travel by bike - Jonas Deichmann in the Balkans

Traveling carbon neutral was very important to you in this project, but you had to fly two routes....

Yes, both in Vladivostok and Cancun I had the problem that I couldn't find a sailboat that could take me. I tried, tried and tried. And at some point I realized that there was less than a five percent chance that I would find a climate-neutral way of transportation. I did my best, but the journey still had to continue. This is what I have learned on my expeditions: I have a plan, but I don't know what to expect. My philosophy: I make the decision with the knowledge I have at the time, and I stand by it. And even if it was wrong, I don't think to myself afterwards: Oh, shouldn't you have done it differently. It's like that, check it off, look ahead. That's why the decision to fly was okay for me. But in any case, I would like to travel around the world again in a CO2-neutral way.

Jonas Deichmann hält sein Fahrrad triumphal in die Luft
The end of the journey around the world at the Odeonsplatz in Munich

You want to see Jonas Deichmann at the European Outdoor Film Tour? Here you can find more information and tickets.

Find out more about Jonas Deichmann on his website.

Share article
Author:
Uschi Horner
Topics in this article