When you first meet United Kingdom's Rosie Swale Pope, referred to by most people as just Rosie, you can't help getting caught up in her enthusiasm and her love of life. She is on a mission to raise cancer awareness and to inspire people to live life to the fullest and to never give up. She made a stop in Philadelphia Wednesday and Thursday as a part of her journey to run the United States from New York to San Francisco.
"I first came to America as part of my sailing trip," she said, referring to her solo transatlantic voyage in 1982. "I was blown away by how friendly America was."
She also spent time here on her trip around the world. This time around she is exploring as much of the states as she can. She expects to run 10 to 12 miles a day. It should take her about 9 months to a year to complete this jaunt.
"I can do 17 miles a day and have even done 27 miles a day before, but this trip I want to spend more time meeting and talking with people," she said.
When she leaves Philly, Rosie will be heading to Washington through Baltimore and she plans on stopping by the White House although she doesn't expect to meet with the president. Then she will head to Louisville Kentucky and all the way west to San Francisco.
"It is all the in between places that are magic," she said.
Rosie comes to Philly
When Rosie first arrived in Philly on Wednesday, she was so tired that she pulled up some grass and took a three hour nap in "Icebird", her survival cart which contains all her supplies and is her constant companion. "Icebird" is a lightweight aluminum cart made by the Amish that is tough and durable on the inside with a three-wheel system, but inside provides Rosie with a cosy, insulated sleeping area with an upholstered mattress.
When she woke up feeling refreshed, she stepped out of her cart and came face to face with a man, Demetri, and his dog that promptly licked her face.
"I've never met a pit bull before, but he was very gentle natured. He is now my favorite dog that I have met in America."
Things like this always happen to Rosie, because she and Icebird draw attention everywhere they go. She was recently in Princeton just hanging out at a parking lot when she was asked by a sociology professor to speak to his class of post graduate students at Princeton University.
She loves it this way. "Everywhere I go, I meet inspiring people," she said.
Rosie is really enjoying her time in the city of Brotherly Love. She got her nails done a beautiful pink color on Torresdale Avenue and had a banner made for Icebird at Aztec Signs and Graphics. She also enjoyed Wednesday night in a hotel instead of her usual camping out in Icebird.
"This is fun! I am planning on spending a gorgeous day here before I leave," she said with a beaming smile. "It is important to have fun in life, to be passionate about living."
Turning serious, she added, "You need to fight darkness with light."
While on Kensington Avenue on Wednesday, she also talked to some people that are down on their luck. One man she met shared with her his struggles and his plans for a better life.
"I love America's 'can do' society. It is much more encouraging than in England," she said.
A little run around the world
Rosie has been an athlete and an adventurer for years. Before her husband Clive's death in 2002 from prostate cancer, she had run marathons in different countries like Albania, Romania, Iceland and war-torn Kosovo and wrote about some of them for publications like Runner's World and Woman's Weekly. From those experiences, she learned how to travel with a backpack and tent and survive on a small budget. When she first met Clive she was preparing for her solo transatlantic sailing expedition in a 17 foot boat.
But it was her husband's death at their home in Tenby, Wales that spurred her on for her run around the world. Heartbroken over her loss, in 2003 she decided to run a circle around the world in his memory to raise awareness about the importance of health checks and to raise money for cancer research. She wonders even today if Clive had gone to the doctor earlier maybe he would still be with her now. It took her 4 years and 10 months and over 20,000 miles to circle the world. In typical Rosie fashion as she met people on her journey and heard their stories, she added causes to run for along the way, but her two main charities were The Prostate Cancer Charity and Kitezh Children's Community.
One of the most challenging parts of that journey was travelling in Siberia with the extreme temperatures. It was so cold she got frostbite and almost lost her toes.
Although her adventures on this trip are too many to list, she did share the time in Siberia where a timber wolf decided to pop his head into her tent to say hello. She wondered if he had never seen a human before.
"He never hurt me and he and his pack followed me for awhile. It was like they were running with me," she said.
She also shared how one early morning in the forests of Russia, at 1 a.m., she woke up to find a man coming at her with an axe. At first she thought he was yelling at her in anger, only to realize that he was yelling with joy. He hugged her and invited her to a party with his fellow woodsman and said she was the woman for him. She politely declined, but later in the morning she found that he left her a parcel of food and a small bottle of vodka.
"There really is kindness in everyone," she said.
Never ever give up
Since her little run around the world, Rosie does a lot of motivational speaking. She uses money she earns from speaking to businesses to pay for talks she gives freely at schools. She has also run 27 marathons in 27 days pulling Icebird to raise money for children's hospices.
When she gives motivational speeches to business people, some of them very powerful CEOs, she teaches them little tricks to stay focused on their goals and to not give up when feeling down. All of them come from her personal experiences.
"I like to imagine I am eating chocolate or I will say, 'oh, I have nothing to do today', and then my body will relax, but then my head will start to race with ideas," she explained.
At the age of 68, Rosie doesn't look like she is slowing down anytime soon. She wants people to see from her life that nothing is impossible.
"I learned that there is absolutely nothing special about me and that you don't have to be stopped by the things you can't do. Don't give up. It is easier to be the best that you can be than to give up," she said.
Her Irish grandmother always said to her, "Rosie, it's not good looks or natural gifts that count – luckily for you my girl! – it's the wanting to do things that makes them happen."
Read more of her adventures in her book, Just a Little Run Around the World or visit her website or e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.