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John Lees - Walking across the USA

On 14 August John Lees came to give a talk to the Rotary Club of Seaford at its lunch meeting on 14 August about his 1972 walk across America. He first explained that, as a youngster, he was an asthmatic weakling. However while walking on the Downs one day he thought he would like to walk from Lands' End to John O'Groats. In 1971 he achieved that dream in 26.5 days, and discovered that his asthma had gone.
Next John did the London to Brighton Walk coming 15th, and decided to join Brighton & Hove Athletics Club where he was befriended by Phil Chapman and Marilyn. He also knew of Bruce Tulloh, 1969 European 5000 metres Champion, who had by then walked across the USA.
So in 1972 he flew to Los Angeles with Phil and Marilyn, took possession of a camper van, and started a regime of walking 50 miles per day towards New York.
John became something of a celebrity as he walked along Route 66 - a very boring with the occasional City, "any populated area with more than 5 inhabitants" says John. Then one day a reporter saw John eating a strange orange food and asked what it was. "Secret weapon called Mosh" explained Phil, and the walk took on a new dimension as US reporters tried to find out what this mysterious substance was. It was in fact mashed potato and baked beans!
Then came alarm. John Ball had started the same route earlier, and the team discovered that Ball, a runner, had just broken Bruce Tulloh's record. The pace was raised, walking whenever it was light, with a varied audience having differing amounts of interest expressed in a variety of ways. Then the Twin Towers came into view, and the Lincoln Tunnel was closed for John to walk through.
He had done it! In 53 days, 12minutes and 15 seconds, beating John Banks's 53 days and 23 hours.
In 1975 John became a member of the British Athletics Team, which he describes as a wonderful experience. He is now radio sports reporter with BBC Sussex.
Our own sports journalist, Bill Pierce, described John's story as "an amazing feat


posted: Monday, 19 August 2013

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