A really very remarkable lady

Middle of nowhere? Check. Little cart to live in? Check.
Head to toe in PHD? Check. Indomitable smile? Check.

A bit of a disclaimer to begin with: this isn’t the whole story. It’s not really even a little bit of the story. More a signpost to the fact that there’s an incredible story for you to discover.

Frankly, there wouldn’t be enough space here to tell you everything.

So, a bit of background…

Rosie Swale-Pope was born in Switzerland just after World War II, and grew up with her Grandmother in rural Ireland. It wasn’t an especially conventional childhood. She didn’t attend school all that much until she reached her teens, for example, and she rode a saddled dairy-cow in a gymkhana.

They had loads of animals – orphans, the elderly, the lame and the unwanted which they bought for a few shillings from local farmers – and though she would have loved a horse, she never managed to save enough. So she put a saddle and halter on old Cleopatra and rode her to the Pony Club.

You’re possibly starting to grasp why we’re not going to try and tell her whole story here!

Life continued as unconventionally as it had begun. Rosie sailed around the world with Colin Swale – her first husband – and daughter Eve, giving birth to another child during the trip. In the early 80s, now on her own, she was trying to get an ageing 17ft wooden boat ready to sail solo across the Atlantic, when she met Clive Pope. He helped her rig the boat, and she did indeed sail it solo across the Atlantic, before returning and marrying him.

This wasn’t ‘settling down’ though – together they completed a 1000 mile walk around Wales in 1987, for example. And then, in the mid 90s, a dog-eared copy of Runner’s World in a doctor’s waiting room inspired her to try running, so later that day, she did. And she loved it. So the following year she entered the London Marathon, and then the Swiss Alpine Marathon…and then several more.

Clive’s death from cancer in 2002 brought to light the fact that if he’d been screened earlier, it might have been caught in time for him to have survived it, and this inspired Rosie to run some marathons for cancer awareness. The thing is though, quite a few people who run marathons do that, and by now you’ll have noticed that Rosie doesn’t generally do what quite a few people do.

                “I had been looking at the map of the world on my wall, wondering if I could afford overseas marathons, when something took hold of me by the scruff of the neck; a thought broke through my grief and seized every part of my being.

                I would run around the world instead.”

That’s more like it.

Yes, Rosie saw that if she went far enough north, she could actually run right around the world – oceans and all – without needing to take boats or planes, and so that’s what she did, towing her life in a little cart behind her for five years. As well as cancer awareness, she raised a quarter of a million pounds for a charity supporting Russian orphans. She’s also run across America, from New York to San Francisco (adding hundreds of miles to the journey by going via Texas), again to raise awareness of the importance of screening for cancer. Among other things, the cart she towed had “Stupid Cancer” written across it.

This year – about a year after breaking her hip – she ran from Brighton to Berlin, for similar reasons. And honestly, she shows no real signs of stopping.

Back when the cancer was attacking Clive’s bones and everything hurt, Peter Hutchinson made him a lightweight down vest to stave off the cold. Then when Rosie set off round the world, he outfitted her with the sort of gear necessary to keep warm in the huge range of temperatures she was going to encounter, and we’re extremely proud that she’s been PHD-clad on all her adventures since.

So that’s just a little bit about Rosie and what she’s been up to, but there is of course a great deal more! The quote above is from her book “Just a Little Run Around the World” – which is well worth reading, and you can find out more about her (and maybe even arrange to have her tell you a few stories) at rosieswalepope.co.uk. You might find she’s rather too busy (surprise surprise) for that to be completely up to date all the time, but you can keep an eye on what she’s up to on Facebook or check out @RosieSwalePope on Twitter.

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