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Endurance Adventures for a Cause: Katie Spotz Swims, Bikes, Rows and Runs to Raise Funds

Katie rowed across the Atlantic Ocean—solo—in 70 days. (Photo by Laura Watilo Blake)

Katie Spotz grew up playing tennis and soccer, running track and competing on the swim team. "I was terrible at all of them, but I loved being active," the 24-year-old admits. When she grew out of school-based sports, Spotz searched for new ways to stay fit. She first joined a walk/run class in college—testing her limits since she always thought that endurance was for "'those' people, not me." But she got bit by the running bug, and eventually worked her way up from jogging minutes at a time to five miles, and later to a marathon. "I thought, 'if I can do this, what else can I do?'" Spotz says. After a random discussion with college friends when she was just 19, Spotz heard about someone who had rowed across the Atlantic Ocean. "I called home 24 hours later and told my parents I was going to do it too—despite the fact that I had no rowing experience," Spotz says. So she trained, meditated and prepared, and eventually completed the amazing solo journey from Guyana, South America, to Senegal, Africa, often rowing more than eight hours daily. During her "Row for Water" excursion, Spotz raised funds for Blue Planet Run, a non-profit bringing safe drinking water to all—$150,000 in all! (She tells us that $30 can provide one person clean water for life. That means 5,000 people were helped by her transatlantic travels!) That event kicked off her passion for endurance events and helping others, and since, she has completed the following to raise money for various causes with personal meaning for Spotz:

  • Swim for Water: first person to swim the entire 325 miles of the Allegheny River
  • Big Ride Across America: cycled 3,300 miles from Seattle to Washington, D.C.
  • Desert Run: ran 150 miles solo across the Mojave and Colorado Desert
  • Half Ironman Triathlon (1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike, 13.1 mile run): placed first in age group
  • Oxfam Trail Run: 62-mile ultramarathon in Australia

Spotz is currently visiting Kenya to see the impact of her clean water fundraising and hopes to eventually get her MBA and pursue non-profit work. That way, she says, "I can incorporate my passions into everyday life," Spotz says.

More from FITNESS: Check out 22 ways you can run, walk or get fit for charity.

Now tell us: What causes would keep you motivated to train for endurance events?