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Running around the world

Sometimes you hear something so amazing that you just need to sit down, hang your head, and come to terms with it. That’s what I did when I read Kickass Trips recently and learned of Rosie Swale-Pope. In 2002, after her husband died of prostate cancer, Mrs Swale-Pope vowed to run around the world. On 2 October the next year, she set off from her home town of Tenby, Wales. It was her 57th birthday.

Not exactly a stranger to adventure, Rosie had once sailed with her family to Australia and back and even sailed solo across the Atlantic. But her run was something else. With only her legs for power, Rosie pulled a small cart behind her, which doubled as a shelter, and contained basic supplies. Her sole supporter, a man named Geoff Hall, would arrange for fresh supplies to meet her at various points along her route. Meanwhile, her son James updated a website about her progress. But when running she was absolutely on her own.

Rosie in her trailer

Rosie planned her around the world run to take in the “coldest, hardest, most fascinating way”, which would also keep her on the maximum possible landmass, for maximum running. After a gentle warm-up through Holland, Germany and Poland, she was then faced with 7,000 miles of Russia. In Siberia, she reported that a pack of wolves ran with her for a week. Ironically, a tick bite caused her a lot more problems: she fell ill from that at Lake Baikal and wandered into the path of a bus, which then fortunately took her to hospital. She reached Magadan in far-eastern Russia on 13 September 2005.

Rosie Swale-Pope

Running through the Alaskan winter also proved a challenge: with temperatures as low as -50°C (-60°F), and caught in blizzards, the tireless 60-year-old had to be rescued by the Alaskan National Guard and treated for frostbite. But she got through that too, plus entire breadth of North America (via the Chicago marathon), reaching New York city on 2 October 2007.

Run around the world?

In Iceland in 2008, she (predictably) slipped on the ice, breaking some ribs and cracking her hip. She was over 100 miles from the nearest house, but luckily only had to walk two miles (with her injuries) before she got help. Needless to say, she still managed to make it across to Scotland, and ran from there back to Tenby, arriving back home on crutches, with stress fractures in her legs, on 25 August 2008. She had run 19,000 miles.

Running can take you to places that do not exist if you travel in any other way. Maybe even more than walking, because you can get so exhausted, almost fail so very often, and are vulnerable and shaky. Sometimes when you are weakest, you can feel things the most strongly. This is when those you meet in the midst of their own difficult lives and situations are not fearful of you. You tread gently through someone else’s land, part of the life going on all around you. Part of the people, places, sunrises, storms, terrors and joys; seeing, feeling, laughing, crying, in happiness or despair. – Rosie Swale-Pope

Rosie comes home

Read Rosie’s account of her amazing trip in her book, Just a Little Run Around the World

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