Gran who ran around the world returns home

Rosie Swale Pope has defied freezing winters, boiling summers, wolves, thieves, mad men and bereavement in an astonishing run through 12 countries.

Yesterday, she set foot in the Great Britain for the first time since crossing the Channel in October 2003 at the start of her four-year run around the world for charity and claimed to be "the luckiest woman alive".

The 61-year-old grandmother embarked on her great trek after her husband, Clive, died of prostate cancer. She hoped that it would publicise the importance of cancer screening.

Her route took her from her home in Tenby, west Wales, to London and the coast, where she took a ferry across the Channel. She then ran through Europe and across Russia to the east Siberian town of Magadan. From there, she took a boat to Alaska, and ran through part of Canada, Chicago and New York, before travelling across the Atlantic, via Greenland and Iceland. Through the whole journey, she towed an iron cart similar to the one used by Sir Ranulph Fiennes in the Antarctic. She reached Scotland early yesterday after stepping off a ferry from the Faroe Islands.

"I'm out of my mind with excitement," she said. "It's unbelievable to back in this country after nearly five years. Here I am, I've worn out 45 pairs of shoes, and I haven't got even a little bit wiser and cleverer, but I'm the luckiest woman alive.

"The summer doesn't just come in Siberia, it explodes, and the winter is deadly cold. Many times, I ran out of food and had to make it from the bark of birch trees, and catch fish from my mosquito net. The rivers are not deep, but they flow very fast. One time I was hit on the head by a log and knocked unconscious. It was lucky that my clothes caught on a branch, otherwise I would have been swept away and nobody would have found me for months.

"One night there was a crash, and these shapes came out of the forest. They were five or six big timber wolves. You develop an instinct for when animals are really dangerous. They were just curious, and followed me for a couple of days. In a wonderful way they were a kind of company.

"Another time, I was out admiring the beauty when a man jumped out from the trees. He had wild staring eyes, and was wielding an axe. But it turned out that he had heard about me and decided I was the woman for him. While he was hugging me, he nearly cut my ear off by mistake."

Arriving in Scrabster yesterday, she was greeted by a bagpiper and a cheering crowd. After a brief stop, she set off for the last 1,000 miles of her run. She plans to be back in Tenby on 25 August.

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