Running, at Age 72, from England to Nepal

Photo. Rosie Swale-Pope

“In Germany in the forest, I came across a guy lying on the path and it was quite obvious he was dying. He absolutely had nothing and he was crying and unhappy. I didn’t know what to do because I was not in touch with anybody, as my phone wasn’t working … I held him, I held him for about an hour, he was beyond help and he just died in my arms.”

From the border of Serbia, veteran — very veteran — British adventurer Rosie Swale-Pope is recounting her most profound experience thus far on her 10,000km run from Brighton, England to Kathmandu, Nepal.

At 72 years old, when most people have hung up their running shoes for good, or at best manage a slow shuffle round the local park, the loquacious grandmother has embraced another major adventure.

She started last July, pulling food, fuel, stove, sleeping gear, clothing and solar panels to recharge electronics in a special carbon fibre cart that she nicknamed Ice Chick. To minimize weight, she sources fresh fruit and vegetables on the go.

Ice Chick is more than a vessel to transport equipment. It’s also Swale-Pope’s home each night. She parks the cart on any bit of land she can find, except parking lots and private property, and unfurls her sleeping bag inside. Now and then, she spends a night in a hotel to refresh.

Despite the vulnerability that comes with being a single older women on the road, Swale-Pope’s vast travel experience has given her a philosophical outlook on the dangers. “Security comes from being vulnerable and learning how to adapt to it,” she says.

No doubt her ability to adapt developed during her many previous adventures, when she dealt with naked men with guns, a man jumping out of a tree with an axe, raging rivers and -60°C near the Bering Sea, to name a few.

The Ice Chick as personal hotel. Photo: Rosie Swale-Pope

Swale-Pope took up running in her fifties. After losing her husband to prostate cancer, she ran 32,000km through Europe, Russia, Siberia, Alaska, Canada, America, Greenland and Iceland between 2002-7. In 2015, she ran 5,400km from New York to San Francisco. In 1984, she rode solo across Chile on horseback; in 1971, she sailed around the world with her first husband, and in 1983 she sailed solo across the Atlantic in a cutter she found in a cowshed. Whew!

This latest adventure to Nepal originally started as a journey to Berlin to meet her book publishers, but after gentle encouragement from Phase Worldwide — a charity which supports health, education and livelihoods in remote parts of Nepal — she decided to continue onward to Kathmandu. Remarkably, this came less than a year after Swale-Pope broke her hip in December, 2017.

Swale-Pope doesn’t tote many luxuries. For a while, she carried a plant in memory of an old friend who had recently lost a loved one, before gifting it to an old couple she met along the way. Her latest companion is a toy rabbit, but she won’t keep it much longer, “The toy rabbit will go to a kid, as soon as I see a sad kid,” she says.

On the move. Photo: Mateusz Jedrzejewski

Such a journey might seem at the limit of someone who admits that she’s poor athletically and is reaching her twilight years, but she doesn’t see it that way. “What’s the recipe for my energy?” she says. “Partly, I’m lazy  and self-indulgent. I do things for joy because I love them, not to test my limits or to be unhappy. I do it to be happy.” Hinting that it isn’t easy physically, she adds, “My legs have a short memory.”

The journey hasn’t been continuous. She takes breaks to see her children and grandchildren, and she’s even jetted to China to give a paid talk, to help keep her finances afloat, before returning once more to Ice Chick and the hard miles ahead.

“I’m very lucky. I’ve had life after life after life. More than any cat or kitten.” Photo: Mateusz Jedrzejewski

From Berlin, Swale-Pope headed south through the Czech Republic and into Hungary, her current location. Shortly, she will cross the border into Serbia, then down through Bulgaria, Turkey and across the Caspian Sea. From here, onward through the Stans, before visiting less fortunate school children in Kashmir and Nepal, and perhaps even meeting Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan, before finishing in Kathmandu.

Swale-Pope seems to have gained confidence in life from her early hard times. Born in Switzerland, she was orphaned as a child and raised by her grandmother. “I’ve lost many, many people in my life. We were very poor when I was a kid. My grandmother couldn’t walk but she gave me the space of the wide horizons in my mind. All I can tell you is that I’m really happy.”

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About the Author

Ash Routen

Ash Routen

Ash is an outdoor and adventure writer from the UK. He juggles a day job as a public health scientist with a second career in outdoor writing.

His words have featured in national newspapers, international magazines, and various websites. Bylines include Financial Times, Daily Telegraph, Outside Magazine, Rock and Ice, and Red Bull.


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12 Comments on "Running, at Age 72, from England to Nepal"

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Amazing old lady. Very inspiring.

Trango Adventure

Wow, simply amazing, my favourite line “My grandmother couldn’t walk but she gave me the space of the wide horizons in my mind. All I can tell you is that I’m really happy.”


Just don’t have the words on this one–though I think we could leave out “old.” People giving comfort to dying people by holding them; good to know that this act is not foreign to adventuring, to EWeb. It’s the most humane thing a person can do in this world. Thank you for that Swale-Pope, and thanks to Ash and EWeb for introducing her to your community.


Your are always welcome in Nepal and this appreciated your 72 year age.


Wow 😯 go for it Rosie, what an inspiring lady! Be safe 🙏💖
Ps. I found it especially nice to see two pics of my hometown Vienna, the first one is the BURGGARTEN, my favourite park and the other pic is near Vienna university…😁👍

Eddy De Wilde

Thanks Ash for telling us about Rosies run. What a phenomenal undertaking, so courageous! She is an exceptional human being, a leading light to millions of tail chasers and screen starers.

Damien Francois

A whole lotta Rosie…
PS: Tshermoney is dying…

Sublime Trails


Sublime Trails

wow great post

mission summit treks

this is really inspiring post. i love this article


Wow, You are the such a great inspiration for those all over aged travelers.

Bhanu Khatiwada

Unbelievable and just incredible. What a performance by the person who is in the 70s and run such a distance. Salute.