He Modeled the Challenge Off Hercules, and It's Wild

'Outside' looks at Mike McCastle's 'Labors'
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 6, 2021 8:00 AM CDT
One Man's Quest: to Finish 12 Incredible Feats of Strength
Stock photo.   (Getty Images)

One badly executed jump ended Mike McCastle's hope of becoming a Navy SEAL—he blew out both his knees while in training—but it launched something else just as physical, and much more jaw-dropping. In a lengthy story for Outside, Julian Smith writes that the injury robbed McCastle of his sense of self and led to a 30-pound weight gain and increased drinking. "I felt like nobody." Extreme physical activity had long energized him, so he decided, in 2013, to run a 50K around Lake Union in Seattle while wearing a 40-pound vest, in a nod to the weight children fighting cancer must carry. It became the first of his "Labors," an idea modeled off the story of Hercules, who was himself given 12 impossible-seeming feats.

Impossible-seeming applies to McCastle's list. Next up was trying to break the record for most pull-ups in 24 hours, which stood at 4,030. His July 2014 fell far short: He got to 3,202 and ended up hospitalized for four days. As Smith writes, "During rest breaks, he watched his urine turn as dark as barrel-aged whiskey. His body was breaking down his damaged muscle tissue and flushing it out through his circulatory system, a condition called rhabdomyolysis that can lead to kidney failure and death." He felt like a failure once more, until a teen hospital patient came into his room to tell him how inspired he was by the attempt. "I saw that even in failure, I could still impact people in a positive way," says McCastle. "It was an epiphany." In January 2021 he finished Labor No. 8, and those completed are wild: In 2015 he climbed up (and down, over and over) a rope 29,029 feet in 27 hours; that's the height of Everest. (Read the full story.)

Stories to sink your teeth into.
Get our roundup of longform stories every Saturday.
Sign up
Get the news faster.
Tap to install our app.
Install the Newser News app
in two easy steps:
1. Tap in your navigation bar.
2. Tap to Add to Home Screen.