Running into Fame

They weren’t the usual pair of joggers one sees around the Eiffel Tower on a frosty winter morning (well… the first day of spring actually!). One was a heroic French long distance runner, Christophe Vissant, whose exploits have taken him 80,000 kilometres – that’s twice the world’s circumference – and who was once told he would never walk again.

The other was Brendon Berne, the Australian Ambassador to France.  A man who ruefully confesses his jogging exploits extend to a quick run round the block once a week.  And only if the sun is shining.

Luckily the sun was out when a group of Australian and French enthusiasts welcomed the runners over the finish line made of Australian flags.

Marseille marathon runner Christophe Vissant is preparing his next ultra-run: The Australian Challenge Tour. After crossing Siberia in a pair of joggers, and from Marseille to Mongolia, he’s tackling a 15, 500 kilometre jog around Australia.  He plans to run at a speed of 84 kilometres a day for six months.  That is two marathons a day!

On Tuesday, March 20, Ambassador Berne was there to give him a leg up – or a foot up, if you will – in his endeavours. “I lend Australia’s support for such a magnificent challenge” he told the group as they warmed up with a post-jog coffee and cake in his residence.  “It represents the values of Australia:  a great sport, a personal challenge, and the culture of open spaces.”

Running for Christophe is certainly a personal challenge.  In 2003, after a serious diving accident in the Red Sea, he was told he may never walk again. He not only walked, but ran – thousands and thousands of kilometres in the ultra-marathons that have made his fame.

Christophe already has the steady support of two ABIE board members, Tea Dietterich, whose company 2M Language Services is an official partner of the Australian Challenge Tour and has translated his website and all the necessary official and publicity papers for him, and keen obstacle racer Fred Calinaud (Tribe OCR Team), whose law firm Calinaud David Avocats financially and logistically supports the challenge.

More sponsors are needed before the runner and his support team of four can take off from Sydney this summer.

Asked what was his greatest fear in a country where he is likely to meet snakes, crocodiles, venomous spiders and speeding road-trains, the burly Christophe’s answer was a surprise:  “flies” he said.  “They get into your nose, your eyes, your ears.  Little beasts are the worst!”.