Wednesday, May 16, 2012

A Swede Crosses America on Foot

Two different friends each recently encountered an older fellow wearing running gear who was pushing a jogger stroller while running through our fair community. One of my friends does triathlons. While on a training run, he and his training partners stopped at our local McDonald's to use the restroom. They saw this man sitting there in his running gear typing away on a laptop computer.

My triathlete friend walked over to the man and remarked that he must be a tremendously dedicated employee to take time out of his run to do work. The fellow responded kindly in accented English that he was blogging about his coast-to-coast run across the United States. He explained that he had already done a similar run twice in the past, but using different routes.

The intrigued triathlete sat down and chatted with the long-distance runner. 64-year-old Björn Suneson is a retired economic news reporter from Stockholm, Sweden. Having taken up running at age 35, Suneson says he has run enough miles in the past 30 years to have circled the globe three times. He did his first U.S. coast-to-coast run in 2007 and his second in 2010.

Suneson regularly blogs about his adventures. He pushes a jogger stroller laden with his sparse personal effects, covering an astonishing daily distance at a very good clip. His brother in Sweden helps map out his route. They look for routes where economically priced hotels are located at the right intervals and where Björn can find a McDonald's restaurant.

The Swedish runner needs about 7,000 calories daily due to his energy expenditure. (The average U.S. male in his mid-60s consumes about 2,100 calories daily.) He would like to get at least one warm meal each day. McDonald's is cheap enough per calorie to make it a good stopping place. Plus, McDonald's usually provides free WiFi, which Suneson uses to blog and to communicate with family in Sweden. (He has a wife and five kids, two of which still live at home.)

This time, Suneson's coast-to-coast trip began on March 19 in Seaside, Oregon. He is currently in Iowa, more than halfway along his journey. He plans to wrap up this trip in Ocean Grove, New Jersey.

I am not a runner. I run when I must, but I don't enjoy it. I do high intensity interval cardio workouts three days each week. But it's not my favorite thing. One of the main reasons I went to high intensity intervals is that I can get the benefit of a longer run in a relatively short period of time. I'm no endurance athlete.

But I take my hat off to Suneson. Although I can't see myself ever attempting anything like his coast-to-coast run, his feat is a testament to the greatness of the human spirit. I think that's why most that find out about his adventure cheer him on.

Suneson notes that only 262 people have crossed the U.S. on foot since 1909, most of them accompanied by a support vehicle. Only 28 people have made the trip twice; and only one has done it four times. Suneson hopes to break that record without ever using a support vehicle. So one might expect to see him running on the American roads again in a couple of years.

I wish this running Swede well on his sojourn and hope that he eventually realizes his goal of setting a new record. Gospeed, Björn Suneson.

1 comment:

rmwarnick said...

I wonder where he got the statistic that only 262 people have crossed the U.S. on foot since 1909. I'll have to check out his blog.

I backpacked from San Francisco to Washington, D.C. with a group sponsored by the American Hiking Society in 1980-81. We had a support vehicle, but it wasn't with us every night because we took hiking trails wherever possible.