Don Altrichter won the 2019 World Erg Challenge by logging an incredible 3,086,913 metres. World Rowing went to discover the man behind this extraordinary feat.

Altrichter was a member of the United States Marine Corps. He suffered some injuries and complications related to diabetes, which led to the loss of one leg. Altrichter uses a wheelchair to move around, but getting on the rowing machine helped him through his recovery.

“I started rowing with my Recreation Therapist at the St. Cloud VA (Minnesota). Leah (Egan) got me to get out of bed and out of my room and come exercise in the Fitness Clinic. She showed me how I could use the rower even without a leg and invited me to participate in the St. Cloud VA Summer Games. She made it fun and made it competitive, which I needed,” Altrichter says.

To put Altrichter’s World Erg Challenge achievement in perspective, three million metres in 30 days means averaging more than 100,000 metres per day. At an average of 2:30 minutes per 500 metres, this would take more than eight hours per day.

Altrichter confirms this. “Yes, 8.5-9 hours per day. Everyday. Whenever I get a chance or can’t sleep.”

Altrichter’s near full-time indoor rowing job made him a tough man to track down. Friend and teammate Michael Rawlings helped. Rawlings and Altrichter compete together in the Chapter 22 Disabled American Veterans Crew (Chp. 22 DAV Crew). This is a virtual group they have created to log their metres for the Concept2 online challenges, including the World Erg Challenge. Both Altrichter and Rawlings use the challenges as motivation.

“I enjoy the Challenges and being at the World level is motivation enough to stay after it and try to inspire younger veterans and individuals with limitations to take up rowing for the many benefits mentally and physically,” Rawlings says.

But Rawlings also attributes some of his success to Altrichter’s determination.

“Don keeps me motivated,” he says. “His distance rowed and the dedication to rowing puts him second to none. My goal this past World Erg Challenge was to surpass 1 million metres, which I was proud to achieve, but Don blew me away with over 3 million meters. Unreal!”

For Altrichter, the challenges give him a goal to strive for and keep him motivated. When asked if he ever gets tired of it, he says with conviction, “no, never.”

For both Rawlings and Altrichter, indoor rowing provides great mental and physical benefits. Rawlings sums it up by saying, “I stick with rowing because of its physical and mental benefits. It’s a great stress reliever and it keeps my joints loose. I can say that if I didn’t row, I would be incapacitated.”

 For more information on the World Erg Challenge, click here