To run a marathon one must be prepared to run a grueling 26.2 miles to reach the finish line. For so many in a small town that distance is further than our average daily drive to our occupations. Sometimes even further than making a round trip to and from work.
Now imagine running 33 miles. Every. Single. Day. That is the average distance Björn Suneson of Stockholm, Sweden runs every day as he is on his seventh quest to run coast-to-coast across the United States.
For so many our jaws may drop to even imagine how this is possible, let alone for the seventh time. Now add in the age factor, as Suneson is 71-years young as he works towards this goal once again.
Beginning his journey in Los Angeles with a final destination of New York, Suneson made his way into our place we call home here in Corydon on Day 61 of his trek. Staying at a motel in Leon the night before, his plans were to travel from Leon to Centerville on this day’s stretch.
Of course as us locals are aware, and he too mapped out, the route from Leon to Centerville would put him over his 33-miles per day average. With the route being 46-miles, Suneson relied on help in the form of catching a ride for a 13-mile distance to be sure he would reach his planned destination.
With his ride helping him make his way into Corydon, he was able to take a short rest break while grabbing lunch at Outlaw Pizza. From there he knew he needed something from a hardware store so off to Gambles he went.
His next stop would be with us here at the Times-Republican where we could listen to his stories of his travels. Not only from this go-round in the present, but previous adventures as well.
“I remember once passing through this town and there was a festival of sorts going on in town,” said Suneson. “There wasn’t a single room vacant for me to have an overnight stay at your local hotel.”
With former passings through Corydon throughout the years, he has realized passing through town during our festival we call Old Settler’s can make overnight stays impossible when they weren’t in the plans.
He remembered the exact location of our longtime Nodyroc Motel and was pleased to hear of the newly remodeled Hotel Rea adding another option for guests when more space is needed for visitors to our quaint little town. He also remembered our museum, Prairie Trails Museum, at the edge of town that he hoped to visit this time around as he has missed business hours in previous trips.
Taking off on his first coast-to-coast run in 2007, Suneson sees many changes as he passes through towns big and small. While his route changes on each journey, he believes this is his sixth passing through Corydon.
As he entered Corydon, he noticed the big, bright mural painting on the side of Hometown Thrift Shop that he was sure to snap a photo of.
“There are so many changes I notice in communities big and small that I have passed through before,” said Suneson. “Sometimes there are positive things happening, but so often in smaller areas I see things have closed or shut down.”
While towns whether big or small have their own attributes to offer, he recognizes some distinct traits that separate the two.
“Smaller communities like this are so much friendlier when I pass through, and they don’t think I am crazy when they see me,” Suneson said. “Rural areas also I noticed people know so much about the weather. If you ask someone in Stockholm they can look up at the sky and say yes it’s nice weather now, but they don’t know past that. Rural areas someone may say yes it’s nice now but rain is coming and they can look to the sky and know if it feels like rain. That is much different from back home.”
While weather can absolutely play a big role in travels on foot, you will find Suneson still pounding the pavement rain or shine. Only dangerous weather keeps him from moving forward day to day.
When Suneson finally reaches New York, he will have traveled 3,200 miles on this coast-to-coast journey. The miles could have been fewer, however he wanted to travel through Arizona, New Mexico and Texas along with flooding in Nebraska and Missouri creating unexpected detours.
Knowing how the states are laid out on a US map, it isn’t hard to see this trip absolutely isn’t one that just runs straight across the US from east to west. With him being an independent runner without the support of a car so many others use, he is free to choose the route he wants for himself.
“It isn’t very common for someone to run coast-coast alone as usually it is bikers or others with support cars,” said Suneson. “I am independent and doing it this way and no one can decide what I do.”
In Stockholm, Suneson was employed as an economics reporter before his retirement. One could assume he would be a single man as he takes off on these several month adventures alone, however he is a happily married man to wife Sophia with whom they have five grown children together.
“I absolutely couldn’t do this without her support and it is important to have that,” said Suneson. “Some think the hardest part of this is the distance of running, but if I was not satisfied at home I couldn’t do this and that would be the hardest.”
Seeing someone at the age of 71 taking off on such a tasking feat like he is, he feels he is better prepared now than that of his first trek at the age of 59.
“When I was 59 running my first coast-to-coast I didn’t have near the experience I do now,” said Suneson. “I may not be as fast, but now I am better prepared.”
The cost of an adventure like Suneson’s is one of great expense. Staying night-to-night in different hotels and motels can add up along with the price of meals daily, however he wouldn’t give this opportunity up.
“I now realize I am more satisfied with my life and I want others to know if you have a problem in life to take it easy and realize it’s not so bad as you think,” he began. “People are more kind than you think they are and troubles could be worse.”
“I meet so many people and see so much countryside in my travels that so many never see,” Suneson continued. “Normal Americans will travel to big cities as tourists and never experience the small communities and what they hold just like yours here in Corydon.”
You can find Suneson’s daily blog as he continues towards New York and see where he’s been, by following his journey at www.suneson.se.