Sam Hitch '12


Guinness World Record Quest Raises $35,000 for Cancer Research

A year ago, Sam Hitch ’12 was getting ready to graduate from the University of Virginia with a degree in cognitive science. But unlike his classmates, Sam was also gearing up for TriAmerica2016, a 3,906-mile swim, bike and run from Yorktown, Virginia, to San Francisco designed to put him in the Guinness Book of World Records while raising money for a good cause.

Sam recounted tales of his adventure – complete with a shark sighting early on in the York River and a rattlesnake encounter in the desert – at Norfolk Collegiate’s Alumni Awards Breakfast last Friday, where he was the keynote speaker and recipient of the Young Alumni Achievement Award. His mother, Virginia ’81, and his father, John, were also in attendance. They, along with Sam’s older brothers, James ’09 and Clarke ’07, were key members of his support crew.

Sam and his brothers attended Norfolk Collegiate from kindergarten through 12th grade, and their mother, Virginia ’81, is also an alumna. He credited the school with instilling in him the passion and confidence to pursue his dream. “Absolutely nothing is insurmountable,” he said.

Here’s one factoid that brings home the difficulty and magnitude of his accomplishment. During the run portion, which lasted 20 days, he averaged around 40 miles per day. That’s one-and-a-half marathons. Per day!

Completing his TriAmerica2016 in under two months, Sam raised more than $35,000 for the Lustgarten Foundation in support of research into the diagnosis, treatment and cure of pancreatic cancer. “I have several friends whose parents are fighting pancreatic cancer,” he said.

As for the Guinness Book of World Records, he believes he could get the “longest triathlon” record if he submitted the paperwork. But he’s “conflicted” because he’s heard of others that were longer, even if they didn’t make it into the record books.

Here are a few nuggets from his speech and Q&A session at the Alumni Breakfast:

WHEN HE GOT THE IDEA: When he was a sophomore in college. Of course, back then he “could barely swim 100 yards, did not own a bike, and had never done a triathlon.”

UNCOMFORTABLE MOMENT: When swimming in the York River, he had two open wounds where his wetsuit and heart rate monitor were rubbing against his skin. Around that time he saw a shark fin in the water – which gave him pause.

LOL MOMENT: When he and his mother (his support crew for that stage) accidentally flipped the kayak that she was paddling alongside – which was carrying food, supplies and equipment.

MOMENT OF WEAKNESS: On the 4th of July, while imagining the fun his friends were probably having back home, he started daydreaming about going to a hospital and having a doctor declare him unfit to continue.

NATURE ENCOUNTER: A rattlesnake “jumped out” while biking through the apparently very aptly named Snake Valley, Utah.

SCARIEST MOMENT: “When I looked at the shape my feet were in after the second full day of running 40 plus miles a day. Not pretty.”

MOST SATISFYING MEAL: On occasion, an entire bag of white powder donuts seemed to really hit the spot. 

MOST SATISFYING EXPERIENCE: August 6, running the final 18 miles, crossing the Golden Gate Bridge, and diving into the Pacific Ocean. Mission accomplished.