Photo by Joe Chitwood
At the U-Fillem on N. Jeffers
A selfie, celebrating his return to Nebraska
Photo by Joe Chitwood
Heading on out on East Fourth.
Swedish citizen Bjorn Suneson, 66, is truly a long distance runner. He is making his fourth coast-to-coast run from Los Angeles to New York. Suneson spent Friday night in North Platte before continuing on to Gothenburg.
He began this year's trip April 25 and tries to average 30-35 miles per day.
He figures the entire run takes about 100 days. He plans to arrive in New York City by Aug. 4.
It’s nothing new to him.
"I started twice in Washington, once in Oregon and this year in Los Angeles," he said. The Bulletinasked what inspired him to continue to make this trip.
"A couple of older people in Gothenburg, Neb. came up to me on my first trip and spoke fluent Swedish, that was amazing to me," he said, so he wanted to return and run through Nebraska again.
Suneson said that most "coast to coast" runners, as they are called, leave from Los Angeles or San Diego, like he did. He always travels U.S. Highway 30, which he calls “30 highway”
"It is always good to have a highway close to an interstate,” he said.
Along the way, he has had memorable experiences meeting people. Suneson said that even if people are not interested in running, they often offer encouragement.
He pushes a baby carriage that contains all his gear, with a sign in front that says “Coast to Coast."
The sign helps avoid delays. When law officers notice the sign they don't stop him as often to find out what he is doing.
He said that the worst part of his trip so far was in Colorado, where he received considerable attention from police, causing delays, and the towns seemed to be further apart.
Unlike your typical motorist, when Suneson crossed into Nebraska, he felt like he had returned to civilization.
Suneson uses the internet to book hotels in advance. He relies on a GPS to guide him through towns. While traveling in Colorado, his computer was drenched in the rain and quit working.
"I was at a loss as what I was going to do," he said. But fortunately, it dried out and started working in a couple of days.
Using a hand held GPS unit keeps him from getting lost, although he has to carry a lot of batteries to stay connected.
In his experiences in the United States he believes motel staff are a weak link in the service industry.
On his blog he wrote, "I'm surprised how little service minded the staff at motels in general in the U.S. is. They rattle off by heart the litany they're taught to say about breakfast times and tell me to sign forms in lots of places, etc., but they hardly ever listen to the client, they offer no help and seem to be totally disinterested. Not all, of course, but the greater part I must say after having spent almost 400 hotel nights in this country that otherwise is so service minded."
On the plus side, he says waiters and staff in U.S. restaurants are perhaps the best in the world.
Suneson says technological failures have always been his greatest challenge, but he faces another challenge of any vehicle with wheels – flats.
"You have lots of 'sand things' (sandburs) that cause me to have many flats," he said. So he carries spare tubes and buys tire sealant. He has a hard time finding the correct size tubes. He was able to purchase a larger tube for emergency use from Alive Outside in North Platte.
"Sometimes you can force a larger one in and it will work," he said.
Coast-to-coast running is more of a mental challenge than a physical one, he said. You must have the support of your family and go into the run mentally prepared for whatever comes your way.
Suneson said the feeling of freedom is the greatest thing. He also enjoys telling people what he finds. Each time he writes a blog to share his adventures.
He said only a handful of runners go for a coast-to-coast run. If they don’t meet face-to-face, they communicate by blogs and email.
Currently, Jessica Goldman of New Hampshire is running a week ahead of him.
"She is younger and is trying to sit the woman's record for fastest time," Suneson said. In order to accomplish that she must average 50 miles per day.
"That is an unbelievable amount of miles," he said.
Suneson has been running since 1983.
"I have participated in the Stockholm Marathon many times," he said, with more than 20,000 participants. Even though he likes the United States, he believes Germany has better back roads for walking, jogging or running.
Suneson prides himself on sharing an unofficial world's record for the most coast to coast runs – four. This trip will tie him with another man for that accomplishment.
Runners often use a support vehicle, but Suneson usually goes it alone.
For the first time this year, he used temporary support in Utah because of the distance between towns on his route – more than 100 miles at times.
But he likes the challenge of going it alone.
"There is a greater risk, but I think a support car is cheating," he said. He said it is easier to sit in a support car and let the driver take the runner to motels, but it violates the integrity of the runner's goals.
Suneson is a retired economics journalist. He worked for Stockholm's largest newspaper, the Svenska Dagbladet. The Bulletin asked if he plans to write a book about his adventures.
"Writing news articles is one thing, writing a book demands much more research and note taking. I am not sure I am up to that task," he said.
He and his wife Sophia have been married for 30 years and have five children.
His children are also distance runners. Two of his sons are competing in this year's Stockholm Marathon.
For more about Suneson's run across the country, his daily blog is www.suneson.se