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Swede completes record-breaking US run

Published: 14 Sep 2007 17:41 GMT+02:00
Updated: 14 Sep 2007 17:41 GMT+02:00

Swedish journalist Björn Suneson has become the oldest person on record to run coast to coast across the United States without the aid of a support vehicle.

On Friday morning at 8.30am local time, the 59-year-old business reporter dived into the Atlantic at Virginia Beach, thereby bringing to an end a journey that began 96 days earlier at Florence, Oregon on the Pacific coast.

Suneson's stated goal when embarking on the trip had been to traverse the continent in 100 days or less.

Having covered an average distance of 53 kilometres (33 miles) per day, he was finally able to throw himself into the Atlantic four days ahead of schedule.

"I may even be the oldest person ever to run all the way across the US without a support car or any other assistance. The statistics are however not entirely reliable," he wrote on his website shortly after his arrival at Virginia Beach.

Armed with just a jogging stroller in which to carry his luggage, Suneson left the west coast on June 14th and followed the road into Oregon's McKenzie River Valley.

Writing on his website, the jogging journo recorded the many adventures that befell him on the way.

"Suddenly, the three sisters appear," he wrote on Day 2.

"What peaks! More beautiful visions have seldom been seen but the ladies seem a little cold.

"I was not able to get any closer to them but I am thoroughly smitten and tomorrow I will mount them," he added.

Lest anyone doubt the veracity of his tale, Suneson was quick to provide an explanation.

"Take it easy, I am talking about the mountain peaks of the Three Sisters, each of which is about 10,000 feet above sea level."

After two weeks of solid running, Suneson finally crossed the state line into Idaho, the second of the ten states listed on his itinerary.

In the searing heat of July, he ran marathon after marathon over the High Plains of Wyoming and into the Great Plains of Nebraska.

Updating his website from motels across the nation, Suneson punctuated each passing day with the upbeat mantra: "Keep on running!"

At the end of that month, he realized to his delight that the west was finally won.

"At the eastern end of Lexington [NE], the trip meter on the stroller hit 2,600 kilometers (1,600 miles), which means that half the distance is now done. [...] Oh my God, I have covered half the US! I can hardly believe it myself," he wrote.

August came and went, a month in which Suneson left the roads of Montana, Illinois, Indiana and Ohio trailing in his wake. August 30th in particular is a day that will live long in his memory.

"Today I made the longest run of my life, two marathons or a total of 84 km (52.5 miles), I can hardly believe it myself." he wrote.

Next up was West Virginia and the dreaded Appalachians. By September 8th he had already conquered a good portion of the winding roads along the range. It was also the day on which he crossed the border over to Virginia, the last of the ten states.

On the Virginia side he quickly found some badly needed replacement tyres for his long-suffering stroller.

Morale was high and with the end in sight Suneson expressed the hope that his remarkable feat would inspire others approaching retirement age not to hang up their running shoes just yet.

"Maybe I’ve managed to spread the message: you’re not finished yet because you’re over 50. And it’s never too late to start training.

"The human body is a fantastic machine, but unlike machines it can repair itself and even become stronger," he wrote.

On Friday morning, the last day of the journey, Suneson dragged himself out of bed at 4am despite having run 80 kilometres the day before. His employer, Svenska Dagbladet, was keen for him to complete the run in time for the weekend editions.

And so, with the Atlantic already in sight, Björn Suneson departed from his Norfolk motel to complete the last leg of the journey.

At 8.30am he finally arrived at the Virginia Beach seashore. There was no fanfare or jubilant crowd, just a supportive reporter from his own newspaper waiting to interview her tireless colleague.

After a quick dip in the warm waters, he switched on his trusty laptop and wrote of his exhilaration at having finally reached the end of the road.

"My first thought is: Oh my God, this is almost impossible to believe. Me, an old old man, and I've made it!"

And, of course: "Keep on running!"

Read all about the trip at Björn Suneson's website.

Paul O'Mahony (paul.omahony@thelocal.se)

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