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Running With Jesper Olsen

Running around the world is an unimaginable task, and when you'rerunning alone, you face the challenges and obstacles with only yourcourage, faith, and wisdom. This is what inspired me to run withJesper, to offer a drop of inspiration to his ocean of enthusiasm,courage, faith, and wisdom.

Getting in contact with him is possible only through recentinventions known as the 'cell phone' and the 'internet'. As I had methim in LA when he flew into the county, I received his cell phonenumber. Through numerous text messages just a few days before hereached San Francisco, we met in Half Moon Bay, our starting pointabout 25 miles south of San Francisco. He text me a message saying "Irun about 10min/mile pace, I hope this isn't too slow for you." All Icould think was "O my gosh, I hope I can keep up!" Then I thought"Well, maybe he's confused...perhaps he means 10min/kilometer."

Anyway, I set out and met him on a Sunday morning, to what turnedout to be one of the most beautiful days we will ever see in the SanFrancisco area. He had a crew man who drove up from Los Angeles namedJurgen Ankerbrand. As crew, he carried Jesper's baby cart, whichcarries all of his supplies. Usually, Jesper has to push 40 kilos ofpersonal stuff including water and a tent. But today, and for the next week, he had Jurgen, a freelance photographer and writer, carrying his belongings in his car.

I met Jesper at the Harbor View Inn in Granada, just a few milesfrom Half Moon Bay, and I expected to see a guy who was tired andbeaten from endless days on the road. Instead, I greet a jubilant,lively man with a big smile and a hearty handshake. After our briefre-meeting, I see him dash off to the front desk, running, with lots of kick and bounce in his legs. He's still alive.

Before we started running, he did a series of stretches, drankcoca-cola and ate cookies. Whatever keeps you going! He took picturesat the start of the run, for record for Guinness, and he carriessomething which indicates his position by satellite. He always carries that and his cell phone. After a few more stretches, we were off. And yes, he does run at about a 10min/mile pace.

We talked and talked and stopped about every four miles or so toget water from Jurgen's car. The weather was gorgeous; 60-85F and aclear blue sky. And no wind to speak of. 'This is definitely one of my best stages so far' Jesper said several times. We talked about his experiences running through Siberia andthrough Australia. 'I was very surprised, how, in the middle ofknowhere, people in Siberia had come in contact with the World Harmony Run. It made me feel good to know that other people had journeyed through Siberia in places where there seemed to be no life.' We also spoke a lot about ultrarunnning, and we shared stories of our experiences. One question I had and several people asked me was 'Why did you run up the coast of California? Why didn't you just run across the states coast to coast?' 'Well, I had originally planned to run through Canada, but I thought that after coming from the heat of the Australian desert, it would be hard to adjust to the cold in Canada during February. Also, I promised people on my website to do 26000kms in two years, and I needed a few more kilometers to reach that.'

Every couple of miles we would see Jurgen on the side of the road taking pictures while we chatted. We ran up a very narrow shoulder on highway 1, nearly being run over by cars. But that didn't seem to phase him.

We eventually reached San Francisco, where we ran along side Ocean Beach up to and across the Golden Gate Bridge. The bridge wa sremarkable, it was his first time there and the weather was perfect. We finished on the other side of the bridge, and we took pictures. The run was about 35-40 miles, about 6.5 hours.

After we finished the run, the three of us walked back to the other side of the bridge and we took more pictures. We agreed to meet the next day at the finishing line. Today's goal is tomorrows starting line, that is how it is everyday for Jesper. Jesper had a free hotel room and we decided that after he checked in we'd go see some sights in San Francisco. As it turned out we were both tired, and we thought it would be wisest if he rested.

The next day Tzvetan Tzekov came with me to meet Jesper. Westarted at 9am and ran for 3 hours before we had to have my brotherpick us up as we both had to go to work. This run was much hillierthan the last, but even more beautiful, as we ran through the greenvalley alongside the rocky beach. We were on highway 1, on the way toStinson Beach. We stopped a couple times for the view before we parted ways. We said our goodbyes, and promised that we'd meet again in the future.

The person whom I'd gotten to know in the last day is kind,humble, and selfless. He does not think of himself as a greatultrarunner and wanted to make sure that my needs were taken care ofduring the run. He deeply appreciated me running with him. To me, he had everything backwards! I should have been the person looking afterhim, and I am the one that is grateful for being given the honor andprivilege of running with him.

--Lucian Balmer


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