How is it you have not heard of Rosie Swale-Pope?
I can’t explain it but I suppose it’s because she is less interested in impressing people than she is in grabbing life by the tender parts and wringing as much adventure out if it as possible.
I first heard of Rosie on NPR when she passed through Moscow in 2004. A reporter ran alongside her and asked her what she was doing. She said, “I’m running.” At that point she had run from Wales and was about to run across Siberia. This was by herself pulling a cart with her all her gear. The reporter said, “Well, you’re young so I suppose you‘ll make it.” She was 58 at the time. I have been on her trail, ever since.
Rosie had already been leading a life full of adventure. She sailed around the world in the early 1970s in a 30 foot catamaran, with her husband and young child (and had another child along the way). They made the journey with a compass from a WWII Spitfire fighter plane, a sextant and paper charts. Later she crossed the Atlantic in a 17 foot sailboat by herself.
She had always been a runner and once completed 26 marathons in 26 days. Another time she rode the length of Chile on horseback (3,000 miles) which took 409 days. It’s all mountains and was not commonly done. In 1997 she completed the Sahara Ultra Marathon (151 miles). She did this twice and this race is completely unsupported along the way. Many say it’s the toughest one on Earth.
In 1992 her husband died of prostate cancer. So Rosie did what Rosie does and took off running. She began an unsupported run around the world to raise awareness about prostate cancer and to support a Russian orphanage.
She left Moscow in April of ‘04 and arrived in Magadan, Russia in September. I would find even flying across Siberia exhausting. Four years after she started she arrive in NYC having run across Canada. She stopped in Greenland and ran across Iceland before flying to Scotland and she finally returned to her starting point on August 25th 2008. She arrived on crutches having sustained multiple stress fractures in her legs.
Along the way she was repeatedly attacked by wolves in Siberia, hit by a truck, chased away a naked drunken Russian who attempted to shoot her, broke ribs and had frostbit several times. She wrote a book about her experiences entitled: “Just a Little Run Around the World: 5 Years, 3 Packs of Wolves and 53 Pairs of Shoes”.
Never one to sit still she continued. At the age of 69 Rosie ran 3371 miles across the USA. Then she ran around the Empire of the Maya and around the perimeter of Iceland. Last year (age 74) she ran from Brighton to Kathmandu.
I think the principle reason that Rosie is not a household name is because she is an iconoclast who is in it for the sheer joy of accomplishment and not to impress others. . In this, at least with me, she has failed. I am very impressed.