Discover Christophe Vissant and his crazy challenge: running around Australia! (Part 2)
Christophe Vissant, a French ultra-marathon runner, is unstoppable. The 48-year-old has set himself an unbelievable challenge. His Australian Challenge Tour will see him run all the way around Australia without any rest days, at the pace of two marathons per day.
In the second part of his interview with le Courrier Australien, a sponsor of his achievement, Vissant tells us what he likes about long distance running and shares some stories about his past experiences.
What do you like so much about doing ultra-marathons?
What motivates me is discovering different countries and landscapes, and meeting lots of people. Every morning, I wake up excited about what I will discover and who I will meet.
I’ve met some extraordinary people over the course of my marathon career. That’s essentially what I talk about when I’m giving lectures. There are the people who I meet by chance, who I interact with and take photos with, and there are those who come to meet me, because they’ve heard about my challenge from the media or by word of mouth.
Tell us about some of these encounters.
Well, one example that comes to mind is when I was running through the seemingly endless expanse of Russia. I had lost hope of seeing the Volga River. One day, a Russian woman came to meet me and she gave me a painting of the Volga River, so at least I had the impression of having seen it.
Another time, in Albania, a woman was sitting on a bunker, while watching her sheep. She didn’t look like she was in the best form, and at that point, neither did I. I was really struggling. She asked me for a lolly but I only had a muesli bar, so I gave it to her. She was so grateful that she kissed my hand ten times to thank me.
Throughout my journey in Ukraine I was escorted by four armoured vehicles. They encouraged me, fed me and held me in their arms… One day they found me a little hotel for the night. In fact it was a cheap motel, so I didn’t sleep very well! I didn’t know who the people were at the time but I noticed that they were all missing a finger. Later, I learnt that they were a part of the mafia. Another time I was offered a bed in the house of Youri Gagarine (the first man to journey into outer space)!
Then there was that distinctive moment when I had to turn back after my sponsor pulled out. At the Russian boarder, over 100 Russian people were waiting for me. They welcomed me by congratulating and applauding me!
So you’re going to run an average of 10 to 11 hours a day for almost 6 months. Don’t you feel like that time will go slowly? What do you think about when you’re running?
The hardest thing is trying to distract myself from the pain. You have to mentally disconnect yourself. Serge Girard said what worked for him was to try and figure out complicated maths equations. For me, when it gets really tough, I call on my memories of scuba diving. I imagine a coral reef beneath my feet and I populate it with different organisms and species of fish.
The rest of the time, I think about lots of different things. I think about my family, my sponsors, about the people who follow my journey and support me. It’s very heartening.
Taking in the landscape helps me a lot too. Running while looking over the ocean is really extraordinary. That’s why I decided to run around Australia instead of running across it. I remember one time, in Croatia, when it had become really hard, a pod of dolphins appeared in the water beside me. Straight away, I became revitalised. Hopefully I’ll see some whales when I’m running around Australia. That would be amazing!
Generally when I’m running, the thoughts that come to me are spiritual, almost mystical: for example, the happiness of feeling alive and happy, and my love of life. I also contemplate profound concepts, about the world, and about what I am in the middle of accomplishing…
Hear about the rest of this interview with Christophe Vissant in the next article.
Karine Arguillère – Translated by Claudia Gallois
To know more, or to support Christophe Vissant, check out the Australian Challenge Tour website.
To read this in French, click here.