Rosie Swale–Pope, who is currently taking on the #RosieRuns challenge has just celebrated her 73rd birthday. That alone is exciting enough, but she also got to celebrate it on the road from Sofia to Istanbul; the current leg of her run from England to Nepal. We caught up with Rosie whilst she was back in the UK to see how she was getting on. I met her at Paddington Station, where we sat and talked over a couple of cups of tea.
Sparing no time at all, we jumped into a conversation about the most recent leg of her journey: her run from Serbia to Bulgaria: “well, I recently had my phone stolen by a professional thief, it took me a while to realise it was gone. But nothing more important was taken so that’s okay!” Rosie is currently running through Sofia, the capital of Bulgaria, the tenth country on her journey. So far Rosie has run about 1,800 kilometres and seems cheerful that she ‘only’ has 600 kilometres to go until Istanbul.
I wished Rosie a happy birthday, to which she replied: “Thank you. You know, this has been the most incredible journey of my entire life. It has so many sides to it. I’m getting old now, so everything is just a bit more ‘interesting’. I am 73 and I’m running a marathon every day and feeling better than I ever have.” I asked her if she felt old: “Not really, but I know I am, and I love it. I’m fortunate enough to be healthy, so I simply live my life feeling happy and not worrying about numbers. I’m ‘only’ 73, but I still feel like I can change the world.”
Do you have any advice for anyone else in their 70s? “Frankly, you need to speed up when you get older, not slow down. Do activities. That doesn’t mean you need to run marathons all the time, just make sure that you fill up every day with something exciting. There is no point saying, ‘I’m retired now, I’m going to take it easy’ when ‘taking it easy’ is what really kills you. Keep the wildness in your heart, socialise, see your friends and family, engage in mental activity”. Rosie then got up and showed me how she can still bend over and touch her toes, something I am unable to do at 23.
We then decided to go on a walk, Rosie likes to keep moving. She started to reveal to me just how much her journey means to her: “Two years ago I never thought I’d be doing this. I broke my hip, and everyone was telling me that I’d never run again”. I asked her how it happened: “On my last run around the world, I had fallen over a few times on the ice in Siberia, but I hadn’t thought anything of it. Turns out the ice in Hove (UK) was the straw that broke the camel‘s ‘hip’. I was walking to the shop and I slipped and that was it, broken. A group of people gathered around me and tried to help me up, but I couldn’t move.
“So, we called the ambulance and they came and sorted me out. I remember telling the paramedics there and then that I was going to run around the world. They laughed; must have thought me a crazy old woman. The doctor looked at me suspiciously when I told him that I lived in a cart called Ice Chick, which I pulled behind me everywhere I went. He was probably considering the possibility that he would fix my hip only to have me go out and break it again!”
But she recovered, and her hip is working just fine. Rosie told me that the whole ordeal taught her that she could not afford to slow down: “Some things in life are going to try and slow you down but you can’t pay attention to them. Learn to get back up after you fall and keep going. Shortly after this, I started #RosieRuns, and the rest is still being written.” It was soon time for me to catch a train back to Bristol, so Rosie left me with some words of advice.
“You don’t want to get old and be like ‘I really wish I had done that’. Dreams and reality should be a team, not enemies. You must do what you want to do otherwise what’s the point in living. You don’t know how far you can go until you’ve tried to go too far. There are no barriers in the sky, otherwise, the wind would have to stop and acquire a visa before blowing from Serbia to Bulgaria.”
Rosie is now back on the road and even found time to run a short 10k race in Sofia before strapping herself in for the long run to Istanbul. ‘Only’ 600km to go… then several thousand more! You can keep up to date with everything that is happening with Rosie on the #RosieRuns Update Feed. If you would like to donate to support PHASE’s work, head to the fundraising page.