Dave and I of the Sri Chinmoy Marathon Team made contact with Jesper and arranged to meet him at a hotel south of Derby in the Midlands. He'd said that it wasn't his usual style, but it had been the only place to stay in the area. Luxurious it certainly was- the bed seemed wider than it was long! But it made no impression on Jesper who had slept on the floor at home for a year before beginning his epic journey in preparation for the hard times ahead.

I've never met a man who's just run 26 000 km(the distance he completed the previous day!), and was delighted to feel instantly at ease with this wonderful human being, who literally radiates enthusiasm, joy and humility. I immediately felt immensely privileged and unconditionally welcome. Wow! What a dude! And those eyes.

It was a perfect English autumnal day. Blue skies, golden leaves,
golden sunlight and crisp, fresh air. Jesper sent his position by
satellite, stretched and we were off. He was entering the 26 000's and I was entering my first kilometre yet he was full of energy,
cheerfulness and encouragement. The first 10k we spent chatting happily like old friends- Jesper has a special gift in making others feel relaxed in his company. The conversation often returned to the striking parallels between ultra-running and the spiritual search. This was no forced platitude designed to please his Sri Chinmoy Marathon Team support crew, but a thrilling expression, from his very depths, full of the joy, enthusiasm and eagerness of self-discovery.
It was literally breathtaking! How happy we were! OK, so we were going the wrong way(!), but a connection had been established for which I am extremely grateful.

Jesper's constant concern was for the members of his support team.
Always thanking, always encouraging and inspiring. We stopped every 5k or so to stretch(after 26Kk you must NEED it) and refuel on chocolate and cola. Nutritionists would no doubt proudly assert that it's impossible to run around the world on this diet, but the longer we spent with this Great Dane, the more obvious it was that his ‘fuel' was coming from within. (Dave and I needed something a little more
substantial and the delights of the egg butty from a roadside caf
fitted the bill)

We ran through Leicester, a vibrant city of 280 000, with one of the
largest Indian communities in the UK. At this point we were going past the marathon distance- my previously longest run. The enthusiasm and energy emanating from Jesper, and the inspiration which was now flowing freely within me, made this self-transcendence smooth and inevitable. We finished the day at Kibworth Harcourt after 52k, tired and happy- a stunning sunset sealed a perfect day. Jesper looked as fresh as he had when met him, I honestly don't think I saw him break into a sweat once! And those incredible eyes of his beamed with eagerness.

We drove back to Leicester to find our digs, and after a shower, our
happy and hungry crew found themselves in one of the hundreds of Indian restaurants to be found in this city. Jesper spoke of his reasons for doing the run- not for name and fame, but because it hadn't been done before. The challenge had called out to him and he felt compelled to meet it. He felt that it must be similar to the guys who had first climbed Everest, who had done it,"..because it was there."

 More and more, he said, the run had become about the people who had joined him in support of his adventure. About the experience of
sharing, and the insights into himself and humanity he had garnered
along the way. People everywhere, he had found, were essentially good. The media picture we are treated to is hopelessly inaccurate and represents only a tiny fraction of humanity. He was brimming with Hope.

 He spoke of how the run had become special, even sacred and that he was continuing in a spirit of simplicity and purity. He pointed to our own spiritual lives, and said that he was running around the world with the same principles. In fact, I was now unable to distinguish between the spiritual life and the World Run. His meeting with Sri Chinmoy on the west and east coasts of the US had clearly left an impression on him, and he spoke with great warmth, affection and surprising insight about our team's founder. He would use the term ‘Guru' when talking about him, and it was said with such sweetness that I often felt I was with another one of Sri Chinmoy's students.

He spoke of the other runners who had started with him- especially the Russian, who had a very different approach to the challenge. To him, it had been a struggle and nothing else. Grim determination every day to the end. To Jesper, running is joy and without this joy, he wouldn't be running. Joy is victorious!

Friday dawned, a drizzly, sore-legged morning. Roger from Cardiff had called to say he'd be early, so we had plenty of time for a hearty breakfast and to stock up on chocolate and cola! The great, the good and the ever generous Run and Become provided Jesper with his 27th pair of Asics Kayano's via Roger, and by 9 we were driving to the starting point anticipating a wet day. The A6, a busy main road running the length of the country, was the road of choice now. He wanted the direct route to London, and not take the chance of getting lost on England's intricate tapestry of minor roads. Jesper said he was a little tired and was preparing himself inwardly for the last two days and the double marathon on the last day. Nevertheless, he definitely looked fresher than I felt, and still those amazing child-smiling-eyes sparkled with eagerness and goodwill.

The weather forecast earlier in the week had been disturbing to say the least, with storm warnings and heavy rain predicted. However, after the first 5k it was necessary to remove our showerproofs as the autumn sun smiled benignly. The name Robert Garside was mentioned. I discovered that he had inspired much anger from the ultra-running community with his exposure as a cheat in his alleged round the world run. Ever wide-hearted, Jesper attributed at least part of the inspiration to attempt this run to him. Apparently, around the time of his exposure, many vitriolic e-mails poured into a popular ultra-running web-site attacking Garside, prompting Jesper to make a heartfelt plea to the running world - ‘what is the mileage in criticising this guy, if you want to do something, do the run!' Within hours, other runners around the world were expressing their willingness to try and demanding an approximate start date! This was a reality check for Jesper and it was also the moment when the dream began to be transformed into reality. Inspiration had truly struck! Jesper set himself the task of figuring out the practicalities. The dream, the inspiration was so strong that not only was it going to keep him going for 26 000k, but it was also going to attract financial sponsorship, support and admiration right around the world. Never underestimate the power of dreams!

My own running that day ended after only 20k- my legs were protesting from the previous day and I spent the rest of the day exchanging superlatives with Roger about our new friend. We stopped 14 miles short of Bedford, and Jesper stayed in Kettering.
The morning of the penultimate day was marked by the addition of three new friends. Devashishu and Suswara from the Sri Chinmoy Marathon Team and Tony Mangan, a regular on the Irish ultra marathon national team and world record holder for 48 hours on a treadmill(about 230 miles!).

After another hearty breakfast and loading up with chocolate and cola, we were on our way. Jesper really seems to appreciate contact with people and he was again in fine spirits, offering enthusiasm and
gratitude to us all. It was sometimes hard to believe that we were in
the presence of a giant, so unaffected and humble was his manner. Tony was tired from an overnight crossing from Ireland, I was tired from running further than ever before and as usual, Jesper looked as fresh as if he'd just started.

At the end of another days running we were joined by the irrepressible 62 years young Finn known as Aimo, or the Iceman (he likes to run 100k races in the arctic snow!). A passionate supporter of the run and Jesper, with a capacity for talking which I've rarely seen rivalled! Combined with his quiet and reserved buddy, also from Finland, we were turning into quite an eclectic band of happy runners and helpers. Jesper's obvious joy was reaching new heights.

Six miles north of Luton was the end of the day where the eight of us
spent a surreal half hour having the most animated exchanges imaginable next to a busy dual carriageway and a roadsign, on 2 feet of hard shoulder. The joy of the moment was sweeping away all practical common sense, and of course it was wonderful!

We left Jesper and Co at a hotel in Luton and the Sri Chinmoy crew went back to London to pick up reflectors and other gear for the dark and early start to the final day. It was an early start, so early in fact, that we passed a retiring Match of the Day devotee on our way to breakfast at the world famous Torpy Towers! We flew down the M1 and were standing in the reception of the hotel at 2am as Jesper and friends assembled. There were two additions- the German sponsor Oliver, who had promised to run the last stage(every credit) and Dirk Thys, a Belgium runner, known to our friends in Australia as a regular in the Sri Chinmoy 24 hour race out there. The banter was good, the energy was high and the final day beckoned- 78k to victory!

At 3am we were stretching and making ready at the start point. Of the runners, Suswara, myself and Oliver the sponsor,were the only runners who weren't experienced ultra-runners. The pace was quite brisk at the outset and many doubts as to my own capacity for this clouded my mind.

Jesper had stressed at the start, that it was a priority that we all
run together and he quickly set a pace which was comfortable for all.
Nevertheless, the first twenty odd miles were a bit of a blur for me as I was struggling with some pains. I welcomed each 5k stage, and my goal through the night was just to reach the next 5k. Jesper was clearly thrilled to be reaching his goal and to be surrounded by friends and our group turned into a bit of a party!

The morning was truly beautiful, and with this the pains in my knee and achilles dissolved into a general tiredness and stiffness, which was our general condition. How happy and grateful I was! There was a very strong energy and a feeling of oneness in the group now, and inwardly I was certain I could finish, with the constant support of Jesper and Co.

Running into London was like a dream. Devashishu and others from Sri Chinmoy Marathon Team had worked tirelessly to plot a brilliant route, and that side of things went without a hitch. It could have been very different, and we were all very grateful. He even arranged a cappuccino from the Starbucks in Barnet at around 9am- a more welcome and delicious coffee I have never tasted!

At Finchley we met up with more members of Sri Chinmoy Marathon Team and Amelia led the runners towards central London, past some ridiculously opulent homes in Hampstead towards the river. The day was now in full swing and many people were enjoying the sights of this great city, as we weaved our way towards Greenwich.

As we ran along, Tony shouted,"This man has just run around the
world!" Bemused looks, nervous laughter or a simple"Yeah, right,"
greeted us. Hardly surprising, as it's probably impossible to form a
conception of what he had achieved. Jesper himself had previously told us that up to the 3100 mile (the length of the world's longest race in NY) and 5000k(plus a little more) distance, he had had some frame of reference. But at 10, 15, 20 and 25,000km it was only big numbers, marking a journey into himself and the hearts of those who came into contact with him.

Finally we stood at the entrance to the park at the Greenwich
Observatory. Respectfully, all the runners filed behind Jesper as he
ran the last 200m to the finish. Family friends and the press had
gathered there to celebrate one of the last great challenges of the
world falling to this humble Dane.

Aimo had claimed that Jesper was the only man alive who could have
completed this odyssey, but I'm not sure he would agree with that. He conquered the world and in doing so, demonstrated its possibility. The door is now well and truly open to the next intrepid soul to take up the challenge - with Jesper's blessings. In his own words,"Records are there to be broken!“

Sri Chinmoy AC Cambridge
October 2005