Armed with little more than an aluminum canoe, plastic paddle and budget PFD, Kev Brady of Gloucester, England, traveled to the source of the Mississippi River last year to undertake the trip of a lifetime. The 30-year-old Brit launched with little river running experience, braving snow storms, dodging shipping barges and perfecting his J-stroke over the course of 146 long days.
He emerged in the Gulf of Mexico in February newly inspired by challenges he’d overcome and the generosity he’d found along the way. “When I started, I was planning to do the whole trip completely, 100 percent on my own,” Brady says, but as he traveled south, he realized it was not pure grit and determination getting him through. “Just because I was pushing myself out of my own comfort zone, I saw through the notes I was receiving just how many people were inspired by my trip. That’s what kept me going.”
C&K: Your trip was a fundraiser from the beginning, right? Did you know how much they would end up helping you?
Kev Brady: I was raising money for a children’s charity. I spent some time working with them before I left the U.K., so I had a connection with the cause. But when I started the trip, the messages that were coming from the people who were following the trip were so phenomenal. It completely changed the whole journey for me. Sometimes on those mornings where you can hear the wind battering on the tent and it’s raining and the last thing you want to do is get out and paddle, I’d get a message on Facebook from a woman near my hometown with a picture of two kids in the hospital saying, “This is a great thing you’re doing.”
Suddenly, the whole motivation and attitude changes for that day, and you’re like, “This is real.”
This video shows some pretty intense moments from the journey.
The wind was often brutal. I got hypothermic on Day 31 and completely broke down mentally and wanted to quit on Day 40, both of which I discussed in detail on my blog. But in some ways it was hardest to adapt back to normal life after the trip. Although life’s a lot tougher on the river and it’s very brutal being in the elements, it’s a lot simpler.
What else helped you complete the paddle?
The River Angels. They’re an organic group of people that’s emerging on the river. I was planning to camp the whole time, but as my Facebook page grew, I had more and more people contacting me to offer a meal, a shower and a place to stay. It was phenomenal–the hospitality I was getting. Of my 146 nights on the river, 58 nights were spent in strangers’ homes.
What have you been working on since you finished?
My cousin–who spent 11 months running 12,000 miles across Canada–and I just set up our own charity called the Superhero Foundation. We’re trying to get people to take on their own physically ridiculous challenges and adventures to fundraise for something close to their heart. This Saturday we’re launching our first campaign with with a man who needs to raise more than $90,000 to pay for an operation for his daughter, who has cerebral palsy. Although the father isn’t an athlete, he’s going to climb a local hill 75 times in a row–the equivalent of Mt. Everest.
We’re calling these people superheroes. We’re going to be setting up specific causes for each of superheroes who are taking on an extraordinary physical challenge. Each fundraising campaign is going to be about the person and a cause that’s close to them. We hope this will help keep a personal touch for athletes and donors.
–To learn more about Brady’s organization, visit superherofoundation.org
–Read about the fastest Missouri-Mississippi source to sea.