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Last Updated: Monday, 13 June, 2005, 14:36 GMT 15:36 UK
World runner considers the impossible
By Sarah Rainsford
BBC correspondent in Russia

Rosie Swale Pope
Rosie Swale Pope is heading into sweltering temperatures
Twenty months and over 13,000km after setting off running from her home in Wales, Rosie Swale Pope is contemplating the toughest choice yet.

Can she make it alone and on foot, through the unchartered wilds of far northern Russia to the Bering Straits and beyond?

The 58-year-old adventurer is now in the gold-mining hub of Yakutsk gathering her strength and considering her options. She's also enjoying her first hotel bed in many months.

Rosie's mission is to run the world covering the maximum possible distance on solid land.

She has no back-up team, very little funding to speak of - and she's camping almost every night in a tiny tent by the side of the road.

The most testing stretch of her route so far has taken her the entire breadth of Russia - most recently passing the abandoned gulags of eastern Siberia - and through two treacherous winters.

Yet incredibly, her spirits are as high as when I met her on the road to Moscow over a year ago.

"People have been spoiling me all the way," Rosie enthuses by telephone from Yakutsk.

I was fighting the frost every single second. My tent poles snapped, the stove barely worked, and it was so cold it was impossible to wash
Rosie Swale Pope

"Drivers toot and blow kisses as they pass, lorry drivers stop to make me tea and old ladies keep dragging me to their homes to use the bathroom!"

And there have been gifts too. An old lady once gave her slippers to run in when her trainers turned to rags, and during the big-freeze last winter a generous local policeman presented her with his stripy thermal long-johns.

Now it's June, Yakutia is swarming with mosquitoes and heading towards stiflingly hot. But for months, Rosie was battling temperatures of minus 45 and below.

"The winter was very hard and it seemed to go on forever," Rosie tells me.

"I was fighting the frost every single second. My tent poles snapped, the stove barely worked, and it was so cold it was impossible to wash. I can't believe I made it!"

Rosie Swale Pope's trainers
She once ran in slippers after her trainers collapsed

The hard slog of the road took its toll in November when Rosie was diagnosed with double pneumonia and forced to hang-up her trainers for a while to recuperate.

But doctors only discovered Rosie was sick when she was x-rayed in hospital - after being run over by a bus.

"I was very fortunate to be run over really," she laughs.

"The bus driver said he couldn't avoid me - I was swerving all over the road."

The intrepid lady from Wales clearly charmed the bus driver concerned.

He invited Rosie into his home while she recovered, and once she was fit again he took her back to the precise point where she had fallen, so she wouldn't cheat an inch on her round-the-world challenge.

Rosie's determination to complete this run is not only to fulfil a personal goal. She's also trying to raise money for charity, including the Kitezh community for Russian orphans.

Bears in the woods

Inspired by Rosie, the children there are organising their own fundraising run later this month.

Nature has thrown up other dangers for Rosie besides the weather, though. She describes one night when her tent was surrounded by a pack of wolves.

"They were howling and sniffling around," Rosie says. "Luckily they didn't seem very hungry."

Another morning she woke to discover a giant bear print outside her tent.

Rosie Swale Pope
Accommodation is usually a tent by the side of the road
It is the bears - as well as the sheer logistics of it - that are making Rosie think twice now about her original plan to strike north east from here through Chukotka towards the Bering Straits.

Chukotka does not even feature in most guide books because it is a restricted zone, accessible with special permission only.

It is also one of the least hospitable places on earth, and unlike big-budget, celebrity adventurers, there is no jeep or team of medics waiting round the corner for Rosie.

Any alternative?

"People told me what I've done so far was impossible," Rosie argues, clearly still unconvinced Chukotka is totally impossible. But she adds that she does not have a death wish.

So she is looking at an alternative route via Magadan. She would then fly to Alaska and start running again towards Wales from the far side of the Bering Straits.

"If I get a break en route, or see a way to do it, I will reconsider Chukotka though," Rosie insists, never one to be defeated.

But just crossing the 1700km east to Magadan should be testing enough for now.

There's barely a road to speak of - and numerous rivers to navigate.

"The Russian scientists say the river Aldan is impossible to cross in summer, but the locals seem to do it," Rosie tells me - her spirits apparently lifted at the thought of another challenge.

"Perhaps I can perch on something, and get across? It should be lovely."




SEE ALSO:
World runner faces bleak winter
20 Dec 04 |  South West Wales
World trip runner hits 5,000 miles
02 Oct 04 |  South West Wales
Round-world-runner's cash plea
09 Jul 04 |  South West Wales


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