Rosie Swale-Pope is no stranger to a challenge. In her latest adventure, the 73-year-old, who ran round the world, was heading from the UK to Kathmandu to raise money for the PHASE Worldwide charity’s work in Nepal when she was stopped in her tracks by lockdown. Advertiser editor ANDREW MOSLEY spoke to her and discovered her affection for Rotherham
THE Hilton Garden Inn in the historic Turkish city of Safranbolu has a pool, spa and 124 rooms with views across the hills. Having the whole place to yourself sounds idyllic.
Rosie Swale-Pope was 905km from completing her trek from Brighton to Kathmandu when coronavirus intervened and Turkey went into total lockdown, leaving her stuck in the hotel as its only guest for two months.
The 73-year-old global adventurer was on her way to completing the 9,000km solo run pulling a trailer weighing 200 kilogrammes — in which she camps — when Turkey pulled the plug on travel for over-65s.
Rosie said: “All the hotel’s services were suspended, but they kept it open and brought gym equipment up to my room though everything was closed. They brought in a rule that over-65s could not go out so I could not go anywhere.
“Three policemen even came to see me to accompany me to the ATM. I couldn’t do a thing about it because the local police would have got into trouble if I had run for it and the hotel would have got into trouble too.”
While in the hotel, Rosie supplemented her gym work by running up and down the stairs three times a day and lifting water bottles as weights to stay fit, while living largely on tea and spaghetti cooked on her camping stove kept in her trailer in the car park.
Eventually Rosie was allowed to return to England, but unfazed by any challenge has now written — with the help of a translator — in Turkish to the country’s president Recep Tayyip Erdogan pleading for restrictions for pensioners to be lifted to allow her to complete her journey.
“I need to get back to Turkey. They have allowed people back to work and back into the country but if you are over 65 they are keeping you in so I cannot run, so I have written to the president.
“I have a job to do like Kemal Ataturk ((founder of the Republic of Turkey) to help the people of Nepal and the people of Turkey”
Rosie has already run from Brighton to Dover, taken a ferry to Calais, then trekked through Belgium to Germany, the Czech Republic, Austria, Slovakia, Hungary, Serbia, Bulgaria and into Turkey where, prior to her hotel lockdown, she ended up on TV.
“The television crew was waiting for an ISIS terrorist but they got me instead.” she said.
She’s had plenty of adventures too: “People would avoid me and think I am a mad woman if I was just running but they see me with the trailer and I end up talking to everyone from butchers to architects.
“In Turkey I got my shoes stolen and what happened was magic.
“A lady wanted a selfie with me and she came back with some shoes for me but they didn’t fit.
“We walked three miles barefoot back to the shoe shop in Istanbul and I saw a pair of yellow wellingtons and they were much cheaper so I said I would have those and gave her the rest of the money back.
“Then I saw a guy sitting on a bench wearing my shoes. I went up to him and gave him a big hug and said you have my shoes, you must have thought I had thrown them away. I bought them back off him and gave him my wellingtons.”
When she is eventually given clearance she aims to resume her journey and run to Georgia, on to Azerbaijan, then across the Caspian Sea by ferry and hopefully to Turkmenistan and Islamabad — where she would like to meet Imran Khan (Prime Minister of Pakistan and former international cricketer) — through Pakistan to Kashmir.
There she aims to visit the Sheffield College For Girls in Bagh Azad, built after a group from Sheffield visited after an earthquake destroyed most of the area’s schools, taking the lives of many residents, and set up a charity to rebuild the Girls College. She will end her run in Kathmandu, where she says she will “jump up and down”.
Grandmother Rosie is raising money for the Nepal project of the PHASE Worldwide charity — of which Rotherham businessman Nick Cragg is a trustee — which involves running health, education and livelihoods programmes in some of the most remote areas where communities can be a three-day walk away from basic services.
The other purpose of the challenge is to show the world that age is not a barrier when it comes to achieving your dreams, and she says: “It is fun being 73, it is the new 37.”
The journey actually began with a “simple” plan to run from Brighton to Berlin, somewhere her mother, who was Swiss and died of tuberculosis when Rosie was two, had always dreamed of visiting.
Then at a talk in Germany for PHASE Worldwide, she was asked if she might like to run to Kathmandu to raise money for the rural communities it supports in Nepal. Rosie, of course, said yes. “People in Nepal are poor but have a lot of resilience from not having what we have. We all live in different worlds and each world helps the other, We are all on a one way ticket in life and if we help each other it makes the journey longer.”
Rosie has previously completed ultra marathons in the Sahara, sailed solo across the Atlantic and ridden the length of Chile on horseback, but her adventures only started in 2002 — and they started big — when she lost her husband to cancer.
In 2003 she began a five-year run-around-the-world, travelling 20,000 miles, while carrying her belongings in a cart behind her, to raise awareness for the early diagnosis of cancer, and to raise funds for an orphanage in Kitezh, Russia.
“I had to do something for Clive that would be crazy and huge.
“I had been looking at the map of the world on my wall, wondering if I could afford overseas marathons, when a thought broke through my grief and seized every part of my being.
“I would run around the world instead,” she would later write.
She ran from her then home in Tenby, Wales, through northern Europe, Russia, Alaska, Canada and the US, returning to the UK via Greenland and Iceland, suffering broken bones, frostbite and encounters with hungry wolves, recounting her story in her book Just a Little Run Around the World.
Rosie is a brand ambassador for Mr Cragg’s Nicholas Associates company as well as PHASE Worldwide, and adds: “Without Nick and his wife Marie’s support I would not have achieved so much and I don’t accept sponsorship apart from Nicholas Associates, who have been absolutely wonderful.”
Mr Cragg, chairman of the Nicholas Associates Group and co-founder of PHASE Worldwide, said: “We are very proud to have such an inspirational person as Rosie as our brand ambassador.
“She is a fantastic role model and an incredible woman.”
Rosie credits Rotherham for her adventures and says: “It all started because of Rotherham, which is such a beautiful place.
“After Covid I am going back to Everest base camp and taking the emblem of Rotherham there, because of everything the town has done.
“I am going there because I always like the idea of going the extra step.
“I’m not a tough woman and I was useless at running when I was at school and people think it’s crazy that I run round the world.
“I am quite strong and fit but I do it for love.”