Did you see our final finisher, John Vann, at this year’s triathlon? He decided to complete the run with a 40 lbs pack! We were intrigued by this extra challenge and asked John to tell us more…
20 years ago, John completed his first triathlon in Machynlleth, and ever since, he’s completed various distances up to Ironman and even becoming semi-competitive in his early 40’s, whilst getting involved in tri coaching too.
He has always enjoyed cross training with his rucksack either over the mountains or running on the trails, having spent several years in the Army Reserves serving with the Royal Engineers and 3rd Battalion Staffords.
With his love for military-fitness he joined a “Tabbing group” (TAB is military parlance for Tactical Advance to Battle) on Facebook about 6 years ago, where he met local Aberfeldy coaching guru Neil Scholes of Performance Edge Coaching. Since then, he has taken part in a number of load bearing events, including the Fandance 14 miles over Pen Y Fan, the Commando Shuffle 30 miler on Dartmoor, the Spean Bridge Commando Speed March, and a few Special Forces selection test events designed for civilians to get a taste of selection over the same routes, carrying loads up to 55lb.
In 2019, he formulated an idea to complete an Ironman carrying 40lb. To test the theory, he completed the Outlaw X Half the same year, running the 13.1 miles with the Bergen (military rucksack) to see how it was. He was pleased to find out that he didn’t die!
In June 2020, for Pilgrims Bandit’s charity, which helps injured services personnel, he first covered the 226km towing a log in the swim, and weighted daysack on the bike before donning boots and trousers and full-size Bergen for the Tab, after around 19h 20min he completed it and raised over £2,000.
Researching the Guinness World Records, he found there was a record for doing an Ironman with 40lb Rucksack, so he toed the line at IM Suisse in July 2022. He hadn’t done many bike miles in training, and the bike course and heat were brutal, especially when carrying an extra 40lb pack so was pulled at the 56-mile point. On a positive note, the swim with the Crib Gogh diver’s rucksack went well. Not giving up, he looked for a flatter course and IM Kalmar stepped in to help.
In August ‘22 he flew into Kalmar, but unfortunately his bike, bike shoes, helmet didn’t arrive so in the military way of Improvise, Adapt, Overcome, he begged and borrowed and with the help of very kind locals was able to start. The swim went well finishing in 1:37, bike was just inside the cut-off and then onto the marathon, and ultimately, he managed to get round in a shade under 16h20 for the Guinness World Record.
What an achievement! We salute you, John, for being made of tough stuff!