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Media Coverage The Olympian

A real globe-trotter

Runner reaches South Sound on trek around the world


Jesper Olsen has run all the way across Russia -- including through the Siberian wilderness -- so Thursday's pelting rain and spray from logging trucks on State Highway 8 didn't faze him much. In fact, the soggy day was a happy one, as Olsen hit the 20,000 kilometer mark -- that's 12,000 miles -- on his quest to be the first person to run around the world.

Olsen, who is from Denmark and is a junior research scientist at Copenhagen University, snapped a digital photograph of himself and the day's running partner, Brian Kessler, of Olympia, at the side of the highway.

"There are good parts, and parts when I struggle with it," Olsen said. "It is very difficult -- I'm averaging 50 kilometers a day."

That is 30 miles -- longer than a marathon, which is 26 miles, 385 yards -- per day.

Olsen and Kessler ran from Elma to Olympia Thursday, and they'll run from Olympia to Tacoma today.

Olsen hopes to finish his around-the-world jog in mid-September, when he plans to run back to his starting point in Greenwich, England.

Olsen began his run 15 months ago, and he's gone from England through France, Belgium, Holland, Germany, Sweden, Finland, Russia, Australia and other countries. Running on water is impossible -- even for a man who runs so much -- so Olsen takes an airliner over the oceans.

Olsen has worn out 19 pairs of running shoes during the past 15 months.

Olsen likes to stay with local runners on his long journey, but he does push a stroller loaded with food and camping gear down the road when he doesn't have support or a place to stay.

The toughest part of the trip so far was in Siberia, Olsen said.

"In Siberia, people were extremely hospitable, but that didn't make it easy to run," Olsen said. "There was no running water, no electricity, and I had to push the stroller with my supplies.

"It could be 500 kilometers between villages, and a couple of times, I almost ran out of food."

Siberia, along with Australia, also was the best part of the run.

"Seeing the Pacific Ocean after running through Siberia was a big moment," Olsen said. "And in Australia, people came out and cheered me as I ran 1,500 kilometers across the desert."

Olsen knows all about "Forrest Gump," the movie in which actor Tom Hanks plays a character who runs across the United States several times.

"Yes, I saw the movie when I was running in Russia," Olsen said. "One family I was staying with had the video, and we watched it."

But the movie was wrong -- it takes years to set up such a long run, Olsen said.

It took Olsen 2 1/2 years to get his run on the road.

Olsen wants to get Guinness Book of World Records approval as the first man to run across the world -- that's why he started -- and he keeps careful records and snaps photographs each day that are later posted to his website.

Kessler heard of Olsen's quest a couple of weeks ago through the tight network of ultra-distance runners.

Olsen has been staying at Kessler's home for the past few days -- the two have driven out to each daily running segment and then returned for showers and huge meals.

"I'm finding it very enjoyable to run along at his side," said Kessler, a veteran ultra-distance runner who retired from the Lacey Fire Department last year. "Our conversations have been good."

"That makes a big difference -- running together when it's rainy and cold," Olsen said.

Kessler said he's glad that Olsen will have places to stay and running companions all the way to Vancouver, B.C.

After Vancouver, Olsen will run across Canada.

Olsen said lots of stretching and paying attention to his body has kept him in good shape through the run.

"The main thing is to get enough carbs," Olsen said. "We've been having excellent pasta at Brian's."

Olsen said western Washington looks a lot like Scandinavia, but he'll remember one thing about the area for a long time.

"People here are the most helpful, friendly people I've met in the United States," Olsen said.

Photos by Tony Overman/The Olympian
Jesper Olsen (left) of Denmark is escorted by Brian Kessler of Olympia as the two run through the rain along Highway 8 west of Olympia on Thursday afternoon. Olsen is more than 12,000 miles into his attempt at running around the world. Photos by Tony Overman/The Olympian

Karen Hagenborg, originally from Denmark but now of Olympia, holds an umbrella for around-the-world runner Jesper Olsen as he stops shortly to fill out a report on his trip alongside Highway 8 west of Olympia.



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