Running Man finds love on world-wide way


Mexico City - Robert Garside is running around the world. On bad days, people chase him.

The British man trying to become the first person to run the length of the Earth's continents has encountered a few bumps in the road, so to speak. He's outrun thieves in Mexico and Panama, dodged bullets in Russia and been jailed in China for running in restricted areas.

But he's also found love in Venezuela, and is looking forward to running with hundreds of fans in the United States - his next destination.

"I don't like being alone," he said. "I run alone a lot."

Garside, known as "The Runningman," plans to spend five years running 67 370km. He left London on December 7 1996, and has covered Australia, Asia, Europe and South America.

Stopping to rest for a few days in Mexico City, the former police officer described being robbed a few kilometres outside Acapulco. As he approached the town, three men - at least one with a gun - tried to surround him.

"I couldn't believe it," he said. "I thought, 'Oh, no. Not again.' "

He sprinted into traffic and got away - a trick he learned in Panama when two men began running alongside him and tried unsuccessfully to rip off his backpack.

At first, he though the two were trying to join him.

"I thought, 'They must be wanting to run with me,' " he said.

Despite the setbacks, Garside is upbeat, largely because his Venezuelan girlfriend - whom he calls "The Running Woman" - is joining him in Mexico City.

The two met in Venezuela while Garside was updating his Web page at an Internet cafe. Endrina Perez, 24, visited Garside during several of his stops in Central America, but she plans to start running with him in Mexico City.

Garside said Perez isn't a "hard-core runner" but the two plan to run across the United States together, entering near Mexicali, 150km east of Tijuana, in a little over two weeks.

From the border they will head to San Diego, where they expect to join several American running enthusiasts who have been following Garside's trip on his Web site. The anticipated extra company has been compared to the fictional runners who joined the main character in the movie "Forrest Gump" as he ran across the United States.

Garside, who didn't see the movie until after he planned his trip, said he doesn't mind the comparison. The former psychology student sees his trip as an odyssey, and he hopes others will learn the lesson he says he has: Life is more than work and running is more than just exercise.

For Garside, both should be adventures.

On Friday, however, he was taking a break and hanging out in a downtown Mexico City hotel, negotiating with customs officers who have refused to hand over the jogging suit his mother sent from Europe and waiting for more money, which he raised by selling his story to television stations and publications.

Mostly, though, he's waiting for Perez.

"I'm getting the girlfriend and the money, and I'm going to run for the border," he said.

On the Net:

www.runningman.org

- Sapa-AP


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