After cycling 3,004 miles from southern California to Annapolis, Md., Brian Toone received cheering and applause as he crossed the finish line Saturday morning in the Race Across America.
The 38-year-old Samford University assistant professor of computer science got off his bicycle at about 6:53 a.m. Eastern time and received hugs from his wife, Kristine, and their children Analise and Josiah.
“I want to thank everyone involved and the RAAM organization and also my family and my crew and supporters back home — none of this would be possible,” Toone said during a brief interview with a race representative at the finish line.
“It’s not possible without a huge level of support and I’m deeply appreciative of that,” he said during the interview, which was captured on video by his crew and broadcast live onto wireless devices with the Periscope app.
Toone finished in seventh place in the men’s solo category with an official time of 10 days, 14 hours and 20 minutes in the endurance race that started in Oceanside, Calif., on June 16. His average speed was 11.81 miles per hour.
Toone participated in the race just over a year after suffering significant injuries that resulted in hospitalization for a week after a bike crash in Vestavia Hills. His finish this morning generated an outpouring of support on social media with people tweeting messages to congratulate him.
As part of Toone’s ride, he was raising money for the nonprofit Nuevas Esperanzas, which translates to New Hope in English. The organization, through which Toone met his wife, helps with community development projects for rural areas around its base of operations in León, Nicaragua.
As of Friday with almost 200 miles remaining in the grueling race, Toone was approaching the $10,000 mark for the organization thanks to donations collected along the trip.
With his crew of volunteers who accompanied him every mile of the trip across the country, Toone received a finisher’s medal amid more cheers from the small group that had gathered at the finish line for his arrival. He gave a thumbs up to the group and waved from the stage as his family joined him for the celebration.
The interviewer asked Toone about missing his family on the ride. “Yeah, it was hard,” Toone said, noting that having his wife accompanying him on the trip made it somewhat easier. “But I definitely missed the kids.”
He had talked to his children several times during the ride, but one conversation with his daughter was especially notable — she was having an emergency with her goldfish. He remembered thinking how he wanted to help her, but “I’m in the middle of the country on a race.”
The trip almost came to an early conclusion for Toone, who nearly gave up while cycling through the desert in Arizona and stopping in a gas station in the small town of Hope, where it was over 110 degrees outside.
“We were in the gas station in Hope, I think I was in the cot there for four and half hours. I thought the race was over,” he said. “My wife, especially, and all the crew just encouraged me to keep going and the race wasn’t over yet.”
When the interviewer made a joke about the town’s name — Hope — Toone replied, “That was actually super significant. We were raising money for Nuevas Esperanzas, which means New Hope in Spanish, and just the irony of laying there in Hope with no hope, and then thanks to my wife I did have that new hope that ‘OK, well this is not over yet, let’s keep going and do this,’ so that was real important.”
Asked about the single toughest aspect of RAAM, Toone said, “Definitely, physically, the heat for sure. Mentally, I think, you hit on it. I think I did have pretty high expectations and having to adjust those repeatedly. That plays into your mind, ‘What am I doing out here?’ …
“There was no way I was going to stop after I got started again in Hope. It’s just amazing what the human body can endure — body and mind can endure. I think this race really pushes you to the absolute limit of what you can endure,” Toone said.
How does Toone plan to recover over the next week or two?
“My wife has already organized things so the bike leaves without us,” Toone said with a laugh. “Although we will probably rent some beach cruisers and have some fun around town. You can’t get rid of the bike completely.”
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