As she finished her 395th marathon, Marie Leautey, of France, found herself greeted by several Spokane distance runners who met her on the Sunset Highway on Thursday afternoon.
As of Thursday, Leautey completed nearly 16,000 kilometers – about 9,942 miles – of a 26,232-kilometer distance runner’s challenge.
On a “run around the world” only six people have completed, Leautey aims to become the second female runner in its history after Rosie Swale Pope finished in 2008.
She’ll travel what equals more than half of the Earth’s circumference by running from one end of a continent to the other, excluding Antarctica.
“A year and a half ago I realized my life dream was to go around the world, except I’ve chosen to do it in a way that is probably not so common,” said Leautey, 42. “So that’s what I’m doing, I’m going around the world running one marathon a day.”
Leautey’s journey began in November 2019 when she set out from Cabo da Roca, Portugal. That’s also where she’ll finish, though she is not sure when that will be.
The World Runners Association organizes the challenge and establishes rules for participants, Leautey said, which include running continuously across each continent.
But there was one problem – the COVID-19 pandemic.
Because of the travel restrictions in Asia, Australia and New Zealand, Leautey got an exemption from the association to temporarily skip those checkpoints and travel the North American and South American legs of her tour. She got to Seattle two weeks ago and hopes to finish the U.S. tour in New York City in November.
She reached Spokane from Davenport at 1 p.m. on Thursday. That’s when Chris Morlan, a coach for the Spokane Distance Guild, met and ran with Leautey about 4 miles before the end of her 395th marathon.
Morlan said he heard about Leautey by chance. A friend from his running community met Leautey while she rested in Davenport and connected Morlan with Leautey.
“Any chance we get to shed light and bring attention to a project like this, we jump on it,” Morlan said.
Though he said he would never take on such a challenge, Morlan said he wanted to welcome Leautey to the small but passionate local running community.
Joe Schubring, a Spokane Distance Guild member and sixth-grade teacher, came with Morlan to meet Leautey as she arrived with the baby stroller that holds all of her belongings.
“It’s beautiful to run with someone who is doing a project that’s much bigger than you,” Schubring said.
Leautey said she has seen the scope of strangers’ kindness on her journey. More than 100 runners across Europe and the U.S. opted to run with her, some for the entire marathon, some for a few miles. She keeps track of everyone who joins on an ever-growing spreadsheet.
Nearly everywhere she goes she’s gifted something from within the culture she’s experiencing. She sends them to her mother’s home in France, where at least two boxes full of relics wait for Leautey’s return.
“My heart is filled with all the people I meet on the road,” Leautey said.
First, though, Leautey said she had to ensure her own safety. She never went anywhere unless she had a secure spot to stay, like in a hotel or at an Airbnb.
Then she had to figure out how to carry her belongings. A backpack could increase risk of back injury, so Leautey said she ruled that option out almost immediately. She decided on a sturdy baby stroller that carried her more than 10,000 miles through mountains and bad weather before she replaced it last week.
“It took me two years to plan stage-by-stage, and I’ve got a giant Excel spreadsheet of all the details of where I’m going and what I need to get and the people who ran with me,” Leautey said. “It’s a lot because my parents are following me, so they are happy to know I’m staying safe.”
The next stop for Leautey will be in Coeur d’Alene, which she pinpointed specifically because of the Ironman triathlon race.
“Everybody in Europe knows about the Coeur d’Alene triathlon so I’m looking forward to see what’s special and beautiful about this place,” Leautey said. “But I’m always excited for every single place I’m running through.”
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