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Greatest Dare

By Michael McCarthy

Photography by Greg Powers | Shot on location at the Potomac Boat Club

11.01.17

Silver Spring, Md., resident Courtney Farber takes on the Pacific Ocean to raise money for Doctors Without Borders.

COURTNEY FARBER HAS heard the question repeatedly since she decided to row across the Pacific Ocean. Why? Farber, who is 48 and the mother of three teenagers, offers answers that are simple yet brimming with conviction. With three women from America and Great Britain, Farber will set off from Monterey, Calif., June 2 and row to Honolulu—some 2,400 miles—in the Great Pacific Race. The crew’s mode of transportation is a 23-foot rowing scull dubbed Team 2400 Miles. They’ll carry all of their food (5,000 calories a day, including protein powders and dried nuts and berries), produce their own water via a desalination pump and navigate the seas using a solar-powered GPS.

“At first, I asked tons of questions about the race, but I had no intention of signing up,” says Farber, who’s a private personal trainer and has an undergraduate degree from the University of Massachusetts and a master’s from Columbia. “And then I watched a clip about Doctors Without Borders and their work rescuing Syrian refugees crossing the Aegean Sea from Turkey to Greece. I saw the horrible condition of the boats these people were traveling in and the risks they were taking to flee to a land they knew little or nothing about. And I knew I had found my way to help.”

Farber says she intends to break the GPR record of 50 days, 19 hours and 14 minutes. She’s working out up to six hours a day to prepare, including indoor rowing, interval training and even meditation to combat the long days—which will likely entail intervals of rowing two hours on and off each day. That’s 12 hours of rowing in a 24-hour period for nearly two months. “I’d like to think that I’m modeling an important value for my children,” says Farber, who’s raising money via 2400miles.org. “You have to work hard for something you believe in, and sometimes it means you even have to part from the ones you love for a time. I would like them to know that age—being young or being older—doesn’t have to define you.”