Swimming the English Channel. Climbing Mount Everest. Competing in the Ironman and the Tour de France. These are just a few of the things I never hope to accomplish. There are others, of course, but my space here is limited. Call me lazy, call me unambitious, call me a wimp. I’ve just never had the desire to push myself to the limits, to test my endurance. But I am fascinated and intrigued by the people who do.

Writer Martin Dugard is one of those adrenaline junkies. Some years ago he competed in the Raid Gauloises, a multiday endurance race where teams of five navigate the tough terrain of some remote place in the world. The trick, among many tricks, is that the team has to cross the finish line together. If one person drops out, they’re all out. Dugard wrote a book on the experience called Surviving the Toughest Race on Earth, and after reading it, I was all the more baffled. Fatigue, dehydration, and nonstop vomiting were some of their milder companions. Hallucinations, broken bones, and even death were some bigger ones.

What, I wondered over and over again, makes these people do this? And not just once. Often they sign up time and time again. (Dugard, in fact, competed in the Raid three times.) And it’s not just a handful of people. Hundreds, if not thousands of them, pay good money for the privilege of entering these races!

On page 28, Dugard writes about a fellow adrena-line junkie, and again, I am baffled. It’s a phenomenal story (one of many phenomenal stories in this issue, I might add) about Brad Van Liew, the most recent winner of Around Alone, billed as the world’s longest endurance race. For more than four months, competitors race around the world, in a sailboat, all alone. They battle raging seas, loneliness, small spaces, sleeplessness, and a host of other discomforts just to receive a silver platter that says they made it around the globe the fastest. All of which seems absolutely crazy. At this point in my life, though, I’m resigned to the fact that it may just remain one of the mysteries of the world for me. But I’m also glad that these people exist, as they make for excellent stories and excellent reading.

Something else that makes for excellent reading, and which is much more fathomable to me, is our story on Washington’s wines. Senior editor Richelle Thomson talked to some of the best wine purveyors in the region to create a fascinating look at a once little-recognized wine industry that’s become the darling of critics and wine drinkers worldwide. I highly suggest not only reading this article, but then finding and sampling the many wines that are recommended. As a bonus, Thomson talked to some of Washington’s best chefs, and they have some great recommendations of their own.

In between endurance racing and exceptional drinking, you’ll find lots of other great stories, including an essential read for anyone who uses e-mail, that oh-so-helpful yet oh-so-dangerous little life changer. Read them all and let us know your favorite. And if you have the answer to what motivates people to push themselves to the limits, let me know. It’s never too late to learn.


Above Right Photo: Want to spend 148 days alone at sea? Then, like Brad Van Liew, you, too, might win a silver platter for your troubles.