Have you ever run a 26.2-mile marathon? Try running a marathon — at least — a day.
That's what one woman is doing as she aims to become the seventh person to run around the world.
Marie Leautey, who is French, was in Alexandria last week on her continuing trip across the United States, which began in July, although the journey as a whole began a year and a half ago.
"I think today is exactly 50% of my U.S. crossing. I should reach New York City on the 25th of November, so it's going really, really well," Leautey said. "I've already crossed all of Europe, which was during the pandemic, so you can imagine. I had a straight line that was my plan that ended up being like a plate of spaghetti. It was supposed to be 4,000 miles and it ended up being 9,600 miles."
Leautey keeps to the same basic schedule each day of the six days a week that she runs. She has something to eat, then tries to start running at dawn so she can finish around noon or 1 p.m., after which time she has a nice meal and explores whatever town or city she has arrived at.
Most days she runs the length of a marathon, although some are shorter, and some are longer — up to 35 miles.
She keeps all of her gear — three running kits, one set of casual clothes, a computer and a spare pair of shoes — in a stroller.
"It's not much, but there was no way I could carry it on my back," she said.
The stroller has also afforded Leautey a certain amount of protection, she said.
"It attracts the best in people, because when people see a woman with a stroller they feel protective," she said.
Leautey's route is highly organized, having been worked out over the course of two years before she started. On her "magic Excel spreadsheet" it says the date, where she is going, how far she will be running and where she will be staying.
"I know all the stages going forward," Leautey said. "Everything is planned in such detail. Every continent is planned this way, so it was a lot of work prior to starting the journey."
That doesn't mean everything has gone according to plan, however. Initially Leautey wanted to go back and forth between Canada and the U.S. on the North American leg of her journey, but COVID made that impossible.
"When I started from Seattle, Canada was still not open, so I had to revise the whole plan and stick to one side of the border, so I did all of this again," she said. "Two weeks ago now Canada is open, but I would have needed to head back up north (to go there). It's too late. But I'm happy with this plan."
Despite the route change, everything has gone very well, Leautey said.
"Physically it couldn't go any better than how it is," she said. "It's one year and a half that I'm on this regimen of running a marathon six days a week."
In that time she has experienced no negative side effects, she said.
"The body is extremely resilient," she said.
The weather has cooperated, as well.
"I've been very lucky," Leautey said. "I must have had two days of rain since I started in the U.S., so that's pretty good. I hope it stays this way."
Leautey said she undertook this journey because she always wanted to see the world, and checked whether running around it would be feasible. The guidelines stated she would have to cross four continents, going in the same basic direction the entire way.
She has already crossed Europe, and after she reaches New York City she will be heading to South America, which she said will be more difficult as the higher altitude means the air will be thinner.
"I've crossed five mountain ranges in Europe … but we are talking different altitude there. We are talking major differences," she said.
Leautey is also running for a cause, benefitting the charity, Women for Women International.
"They help women rebuild communities in postwar countries," she said. "What I like about it is they don't just go and give them money, they really have an educational program … and it spans a year or two years. (They're) really there in the long run."
She promised to raise $1 for every kilometer she ran. In the beginning she was going to run 26,232 kilometers, but because of delays the total will be north of 30,000.
Although Leautey had been to many European countries before she began, she had not had much experience with the United States.
"I started with the crossing of Europe because I've been in so many different countries in Europe," she said. "I know people all over the place, so there's a sense of, yes, it's a big adventure, but I started on the most familiar ground so that maybe the physical element of it, I can get used to it while not being completely on my own.
"But when I jumped from Europe to the U.S. I was looking at a continent. I had the Pacific Ocean behind me looking in this direction. I don't know one person on this whole continent. This is insane, and I'm on my own, pushing a stroller, running. It was a bit daunting," she said.
She also thought that because she had been to Manhattan she had an idea of what the rest of the country would be like.
"I had no clue what the U.S. was about," she said. "No clue at all. It's a different world."
Perhaps the biggest surprise was the open spaces.
"In Europe you see a village somewhere in the distance or a church, and here (there is open space) as far as the eye can see," Leautey said. "I've never seen this kind of beauty before or since."
For more information about Women for Women International, visit https://www.womenforwomen.org/.
You can follow Leautey's progress at her website, https://lootie-run.com/.