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Last Updated:  Saturday, 15 March, 2003, 17:46 GMT
Running man bids for world record
by Juliet Aylward
BBC News Online

Robert Garside
Robert Garside has run in Tibetan snow and Saharan sand
A 36-year-old college drop out, who says he has never stuck at anything in his life before, is nearing his goal of being the first person to run around the world.

Robert Garside began his epic jog more than five years ago, when he set off from New Delhi in India on 17 October 1997.

After more than 35,000 miles and 50 pairs of running shoes, having been jailed in China and threatened by armed men in Mexico and Panama, he is aiming to arrive back at his starting point later this month.

He has just flown from Cairo, where he had been resting after the Middle East leg of his trip, to Bombay.

From there over the next few weeks, he hopes to complete the last 738 miles to enter the Guinness Book of Records.

From Cairo, he told BBC News Online that he had always loved running, but this type of test was not like running a marathon.

You need endurance and need to be a bit self-punishing ... a bit of a masochist
Robert Garside
"I'd been running for a long time, but I'm not a competitive runner. It's about freedom and nature ... freedom of the mind.

"I should have made something of my running and doing something like this is more my kind of character.

He was born in Stockport, Greater Manchester, but left home at 17 and lived and worked in 80 different places in the next 10 years.

He had the idea of the record attempt in 1995 when he read an entry in the Guinness Book of Records about a man who had walked around the world.

At the time he was a second-year psychology student at Royal Holloway College in west London.

He decided to drop out of college, and in December 1996 set off from London on his first attempt on the global running challenge.

Avoiding problem areas

He had to abandon it in Russia because his route would have taken him across Afghanistan where fighting had broken out.

Later, in 1997, he tried again, this time using New Delhi as his starting point.

Robert Garside
Robert Garside in Brazil in 2000
"You need endurance and need to be a bit self-punishing ... a bit of a masochist," he said.

But he tried to avoid areas where the political situation could have meant trouble.

"When you're crossing the world on foot you have to know the realities - so you know what's safe.

"I'm not such a brave guy and that's how I've survived - I'm very safe."

His worst experiences were running without eating for three days and being jailed for five days in China for not having the right documents.

In Panama, he was threatened with a gun as two men tried to steal his backpack.

Despite inhospitable terrain and temperatures dropping to minus 35C overnight, he found the journey over the Himalayas "fantastic".

"Sweat became salty ice. Hair froze, so did eyebrows and eyelashes.

What goes beyond everything is sport - a language of sport which people understand and people see me as harmless
Robert Garside
"My eyes stung with the cold. But the journey over 5,500 metres altitudes was the most spiritual of mind journeys."

He has spent more than 170,000 over the five years, mostly from private donations and some from sponsorship.

He runs 25 miles a day or more and then has to find somewhere to sleep and eat at night.

He has been given free accommodation in hotels and private homes, youth hostels and police stations, straw huts and a Tibetan monastery.

"What goes beyond everything is sport - a language of sport which people understand and people see me as harmless."

The Guinness Book of Records set a minimum requirement of 18,000 miles across four continents.

Garside will have completed around 40,000 miles across six continents.

Verifying his progress

To prove to Guinness he really has run all that way, he has been taking pictures and video every few miles, as well as getting local officials to sign him off at each stage.

In his backpack, apart from the cameras, he carries one change of clothing, paperwork, a portable cassette player, a toothbrush and water.

He is looking forward to returning to the UK for the first time in five-and-a-half years but may soon be off again.

His next challenge is to run across Antarctica and then maybe swim around the world.

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