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Marathon man ends global trek

Serge and Nicole Roetheli have finally made it back home Keystone

The Swiss husband-and-wife team of Serge and Nicole Roetheli have completed a five-year marathon around the world to collect funds for charity.

This content was published on May 6, 2005 - 15:02

They arrived back in their hometown of Saillon in canton Valais on Saturday, after Serge had run over 40,000 kilometres, and raising SFr300,000 ($250,000) in the process.

The couple set off on their round-the-world trip on February 13, 2000. Five years later, they are back where it all began after travelling across five continents.

"We wanted to be free, have an adventure as a couple and help children in need," said Serge shortly before arriving home. "Now it’s time to share our experiences with other people."

While the runner slogged his way along the planet’s roads, his wife was right beside him, riding on a scooter or a motorbike with a trailer containing all their gear.

"There’s no way I would have started this without Nicole," Serge told swissinfo. "It’s something we began together and we will finish it together."

The hardest thing was simply running, said Serge, who was covering marathon distances six days a week.

Deprived

The trek took them through some of poorest and most deprived regions of the world. "I realise how lucky I was to be born in a rich country," said Serge. "I was able to choose my own difficulties when I set off on this journey."

Starting in Switzerland, the couple trekked through Africa, parts of the Middle East and South Asia, before heading down to Australia and New Zealand. They then resumed their journey in South America, travelled north to Florida, and ran up the east coast of the United States, before crossing the Atlantic to Europe.

During the trek, the couple suffered accidents, snakebites, and were bitten by malarial mosquitoes.

"I think [our trip] made us a bit wiser," Serge said. "But we aren’t better than any other couple because of it.

"You understand people better because you have enough time to get to know them. This trip around the world gave us a sense of the very essence of human emotions."

Experience

Of their many experiences, some stand out, like helping a young girl recover her sight in Costa Rica.

A more troubling memory for Serge was an encounter in a Beirut prison with a teenager who had killed his father. "He was proud of his act," he said. "He admitted he had done this because his father had raped his sister."

The return to Switzerland will be less of a celebration than the couple had hoped. Initially, they planned to mark the finish on Sunday, Serge’s 50th birthday and Mother’s Day in Switzerland.

But following the death of Serge’s mother six months ago, he decided to bring the finish forward to Saturday.

Coming home

The couple are returning home with mixed feelings. "I am looking forward to stopping running," said Serge. "I want to move on to something else."

But he is not looking forward to the mundane aspects of everyday life. A big headache is having to sort out all sorts of administrative details after spending five years abroad.

But the couple won’t be leaving their long trek behind them entirely. A book about their journey should be in print soon and they want to make a film out of the 150 hours of uncut video footage they collected over five years.

"We’re at the beginning of something new," added Serge. "We won’t be off to run around the world again."

swissinfo, Scott Capper

Key facts

Serge and Nicole Roetheli began their worldwide fundraising run just over five years ago.
Serge ran on five continents, crossing countries such as Costa Rica, Chile, Laos, Thailand, Madagascar, Lebanon, Australia and New Zealand.
The couple raised over SFr300,000 for charities, including International Vision Quest, which provides treatment for blinding eye conditions in areas with little or no medical services.

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