Discover Christophe Vissant and his crazy challenge: running around Australia! (Part 1)
Vissant, a 48-year-old man from the Franche-Comté region of France has set himself a huge challenge: to run all the way around Australia. He is planning to do this without any rest days, and with an average of 84km per day – the equivalent of two regular marathons. In doing this, he will break the world record of going the furthest distance at this pace. His Australian Challenge Tour spans a distance of about 15,000km, and will cover all the state capitals, except Canberra.
Vissant has allowed the Courrier Australien, who is sponsoring his achievement, to do an exclusive interview. He explains the origins of this challenge with passion and gives us a behind the scenes insight into his preparation.
In part one, you’ll get to know Vissant and discover what lead him to set such an incredible challenge.
Where does your passion for running come from?
I used to hate running. I played soccer at a high level, so I sprinted and dribbled, and juggled… but I never ran long distances. When I finished my soccer career, I became passionate about a new hobby: scuba diving. I have had the opportunity to go scuba diving in some of the most beautiful oceans around the world. In 2003, during a dive in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt, I was involved in a decompression accident, which resulted in the loss of the movement of my legs for some time. During the long period of rehabilitation, I had only one fear: that I would never walk again. That’s when I decided that if I regained the ability to run again, that is what I would do.
Tell us about how it began…
As soon as I started running, I realised that I had the ability to jog at a very low pace for a very long time, even though it’s not evident in my build, which is not exactly one of a marathon runner at 1m82 with a weight of between 80-85kgs. So, I signed up for the 100km race in Millau, France in 2003. It was completely crazy – I was just beginning to do long distance running – but I managed to finish it.
Since then it’s been a story of encounters above anything else. I heard about Serge Girard, the creator of challenges such as the ultra-marathon from Paris to Tokyo, and I told myself that it was what I wanted to do. I heard that he was doing a conference at Juan-les-Pins and I wanted to meet him. When I contacted his team, they told me that the best gift I could give him would be to run to the event. It was going to be a 180km run to get to Juan-les-Pins. So I got myself ready. I put my sneakers on and I headed to the event. I gave myself 24 hours, and I arrived in the middle of the conference, exhausted and sweaty. Serge greeted me in front of 300 people… and since then, we’ve been friends. He is my mentor, he has given me invaluable advice, and he continues to support and encourage me.
Have you ever done any ultra-marathons like the one that you are planning to do in your Australian Challenge Tour?
Yes, certainly, but this one will be the furthest I’ve run over the longest period of time. The first one was from a region in France called Aubagne to Paris in 2008. It was a very challenging experience. I made a bad choice with my shoes and I suffered a lot. I also realised that the hardest thing is not running a long distance in one day, but it’s returning the next day, and the day after… the body takes about 15 days to get used to this repeated strain.
Then there was the ultra marathon from Aubagne to Athens in 2010, the crossing of 9 countries in one and a half months. That was a huge achievement.
My third challenge was to run from France to Australia over 16 months. In 2013, I left the Velodrome stadium in Marseille. I crossed the Ukraine, Siberia, and reached Mongolia… and there, I had to stop. Everything was going well except for my funds. My main sponsor company had just been bought and the new company wasn’t willing to fund the rest of the challenge. It was a huge disappointment, and a very difficult time for me. I had already run all the way to the boarder of Mongolia (7300km) without a day off. To cheer myself up, I reminded myself that I had succeeded in running across the Ukraine, Russia, and Siberia. At that point, I was the only person who had achieved that.
Hear about the rest of this interview with Christophe Vissant in the next article.
Karine Arguillère – Traduction Claudia Murnong
To know more, or to support Christophe Vissant, check out the Australian Challenge Tour website.
To read this in French, click here.