The long road ahead

Steve Pope of Crosspool, Sheffield who is running across north America for Help the Heroes charity'. See Story Catherine Scott  Picture by CHRIS LAWTON'04 August 2011
Steve Pope of Crosspool, Sheffield who is running across north America for Help the Heroes charity'. See Story Catherine Scott Picture by CHRIS LAWTON'04 August 2011

SHEFFIELD long-distance runner Steve Pope has passed the 1,000 mile mark on his 3,000-mile journey across America.

The 44-year-old student landlord was in the Rockies this w eek after setting off last month from San Francisco on a route to New York that will take him across nine mountain ranges and three deserts.

With friend Chris Finill, from Surrey, the duo say they hope to survive “heatstroke, sunstroke, rattlesnakes, bears and gun-toting rednecks” to raise £10,000 for the charity Help for Heroes.

Already they have passed through desert in Nevada where temperatures were well over 40 degrees C and there was no shade. “One stretch between the towns of Tonopah and Ely had no houses, shops or any signs of life for 168 miles,” says Steve.

The duo, accompanied by cameraman Ben Southern in a back-up vehicle, aimsto cover 40 miles a day, for 77 days, on a challenge they are calling ‘From Golden Gate to New York State’.

Both men are established long distance runners, but eight times as many people have climbed Everest as have crossed America on foot and only one, an American, has taken a route similar to the one being taken by the British runners.

In a blog, Steve, who lives with wife Penny in Crosspool, describes the importance of staying hydrated. “After drinking at least a pint of fluid before setting off, we each knock back about eight to ten pints of water, milk or whatever we can get our hands on during the seven to eight hours we are on the road.

“On the drive back to our hotel we usually manage a three pint carton of milk between us, followed by a pint each of whatever disgusting fizzy drink is available during the evening meal.”

They try to start running by 8am each morning and to finish by 5pm.

“We break five or six times during the day and load up on avocados, lentil soup, crisps (for salt replacement), iced water, bananas, milk, coke (great in the afternoon for a caffeine hit) and of course Reese’s Pieces (a peanut butter flavoured sweet). If the temperature goes over 80ish we usually run with backpacks filled ideally with iced water.

“At the end of each day, feet stay in ice for 15 minutes made possible by the motel’s ice machine and a standard waste paper bin. Eat, sleep, alarm clock and so the routine continues...”

Steve and Chris, aged 52, a school bursar, who is the only man to have run all 31 London marathons in under three hours, set off on August 19 by running out of the Pacific Ocean, and aim to finish on November 6 by plunging headlong into the Atlantic. They are taking part in the New York marathon on the same day.

Steve, who runs his own student property business after working as a teacher, cycled from Vancouver to the Mexican border over six weeks in 1995. Now he is crossing America the hard way, on a route that has so far ticked off California, Nevada, Utah and Colorado.

It can be difficult to judge distances, he says. “We constantly underestimate how far things are away from us, so a bend in the road, which gets us quite excited, that appears to be a mile away is still in front of us two hours later.”

At least, the searing heat is being them.

“We are now in the Rockies and the scenery is stunning. The altitude is around 8000 feet so first thing in the morning with clear blue skies it’s only a few degrees above freezing, but by mid afternoon it’s shirts-off weather.”

The run can be followed on http://verylongrun.blogspot.com.