The Greatest Endurance Athlete Ever?
Might Serge Roetheli, born in Switzerland in 1955, truly be the greatest endurance athlete in the history of mankind? Serge’s accomplishments as a runner, climber, rower, boxer, bicyclist, and machete wielder become even more amazing when one studies the breadth and depth of his experiences and the conditions under which he achieved them. He had no major sponsors for his awe-inspiring endurance achievements and received exceedingly little publicity.
Serge considers running the distance of the circumference of the world his greatest feat. In early 2011, he also rowed across the Atlantic Ocean in a canoe. A summary of his key endurance feats are delineated as follows:
SERGE’S RUNNING FEATS:
RAN THE WORLD–SERGE’S GREATEST FEAT
Serge completed his “World Tour” by running the distance of the circumference of the world. He ran the World Tour to prove his endurance ability and to raise awareness of the plight of children in Third World countries. Serge ran 25,422 miles in 1,910 days or an average of a marathon every other day for 63 consecutive months. His wife, Nicole, was his only companion and they completed all tasks (purchasing supplies, motorcycle repairs, cooking, etc) themselves. Nicole rode a motorcycle pulling a small trailer with all their worldly possessions and they slept in a pup tent along whatever road they were traversing for over 1,200 of those nights. Serge drank 6 tons of Coca Cola on this trip, wore out 64 pairs of shoes, and 122 pairs of socks. He and Nicole endured extreme heat (≥ 118 ̊F), cold (≤ -18 ̊F), humidity (often near 100%) as well as serious cases of malaria, a hit-and-run driver, a snake bite to the eye, not to mention language barriers, border crossing difficulties, and many cultural complexities. Serge has stated that while running the Sahara Desert was difficult and challenging, it was much easier than running in the extreme heat and humidity of Southeast Asia. They also ran through the edges of four hurricanes in the Southeastern United States.
RAN THE PAN AMERICAN HIGHWAY, THE LONGEST HIGHWAY IN THE WORLD
The 14,984 mile run, “The American Challenge”, stretched from the southern tip of Argentina (Ushuaia/Tierra del Fuego) to Fairbanks, Alaska. Serge, with his wife Nicole riding at his side on a small motorcycle, ran for 35 months, averaging fourteen miles per day (just over half a marathon per day); and this was simply their “warm-up event” for their World Tour. They began this adventure in January, 1995, and finished the run in Fairbanks, Alaska in the heart of winter (December, 1997) with a temperature of -24 ̊F!
Sahara Desert: ran 1,500 miles with daytime temperatures often 118ºF or above and a total absence of shade. (2000)
Atacama Desert: ran over 1,600 miles south to north in the driest desert on earth outside of Antarctica sometimes running for days without seeing anything alive (plant or animal) other than his wife and himself.
Death Valley: ran 4 marathons in 4 days, north to south; covering over 100 miles in temperatures of 113 to 122 ̊F. (1986).
THE GRAND CANYON
Serge ran the Grand Canyon with 5,200 feet (roughly a mile) of descent from the rim to the Colorado River and then 5,200 feet of elevation back to the rim, running the entire distance of 28.4 miles of steep terrain in a single day. (1986)
Serge ran from Gibraltar to Cape North, Norway (the northernmost point in Norway), mostly in winter. It took Serge a total of 219 days to run 6,500, miles or an average of 29.7 miles per day (averaging more than a marathon per day for seven months) over the entire trip. (1989 – 1990)
In what he refers to as the NIKE LONG RUN, Serge ran Italy from south to north (Palermo to Milano). He completed 1,100 miles in 41 days, again averaging just over a marathon per day. (1999)
RAN TRAIL CONNECTING MAJOR MOUNTAIN PASSES OF THE SWISS ALPS
In 24 days, Serge ran more than 750 miles, traversing all 12 major passes in the Swiss Alps. In 1992, in less than 18 hours, Serge covered 44 miles of mountain trails with over 20,000 feet of ascent / descent, running a route that connects 6 Swiss high mountain cabins.
RAN TRAIL CONNECTING SIX SWISS HIGH MOUNTAIN CABINS
Serge ran more than 60 miles of trail connecting six Swiss mountain tops with 20,500 feet of ascent and descent in 16 hours and 30 minutes, averaging 3.64 miles per hour. (1993)
RAN TRAIL CONNECTING FIVE MOUNTAIN TOPS OF THE SWISS ALPS
In 19 hours and 55 minutes, Serge ran a trail of more than 80 miles that connects five major mountain-tops in the Swiss Alps, descending and climbing 20,500 feet, (3.9 miles) while averaging 4 miles per hour. (1994)
RAN THE ANNAPURNA CIRCLE
In Nepal, Serge ran a 150-mile route through the Himalayan Mountains in just seven days, on an average of 0.8 of a marathon per day. Running the Annapurna Circle meant continually going up and down mountains, with the highest point being the Thorong La Pass at 17,589 feet. (2002)
SERGE’S CLIMBING FEATS:
CLIMBED THE HIGHEST PEAKS OF FOUR CONTINENTS
North America: Mt. McKinley at 20,320 feet
South America: Mt. Aconcagua at 22,841 feet, where he solo-climbed from a base camp at 13,975 feet to the summit and back down in 7 hours and 12 minutes
Africa: Mt. Kilimanjaro at 19,341 feet
Europe: Mt. Blanc at 15,782 feet
OTHER CLIMBING EXPERIENCES INCLUDE:
Europe: Climbed to the top of the Matterhorn (14,690 feet) more than 40 times and solo-climbed more than 30 of the major mountains in the Swiss Alps.
Serge has led groups to the peak of Mt. Blanc more than 40 times and once solo-climbed the treacherous Peuterey Ridge of Mt. Blanc.
Canada: Scaled the 2,600-foot wall of the Lotus Flower Tower in the Northwest Territories of Canada in two days of rock climbing. (1999)
Nepal: Led an expedition of customers to the top of 18,470 foot Tent Peak. (2002)
Ecuador: Led nine customers to the top of five volcanic mountains, including Mt. Chimborazo, the highest mountain in Ecuador at 20,500 feet, and Mt. Cotopaxi at 19,165 feet. (2010)
SERGE’S ROWING FEATS:
ROWED THE NAHANNI RIVER
Serge kayaked 260 miles of the super-treacherous white water of the Nahanni River in the Northwest Territory of Canada. (September, 1999)
ROWED THE ATLANTIC OCEAN
Serge’s most recent feat
Serge Roetheli and Ole Elmer of Vancouver launched their 22’x 5’ canoe from the Canary Islands on February 7, 2011, and rowed nearly 3,500 miles on the open Atlantic Ocean to reach Barbados on April 7, 2011. Rather than requiring the projected 100 days to complete this canoe trip, they arrived in Barbados almost 40 days earlier than projected. Serge & Ole took turns rowing (continuously) for 63 days. This team averaged 58 miles per day rowing on the open Atlantic Ocean.
SERGE’S BOXING FEATS:
Serge is a six-time Swiss National Boxing Champion. He also earned a spot on the 1976 Swiss Olympic Team; however, because of financial misconduct made public about a Swiss boxing executive, just a few days prior to the team’s scheduled departure for Montreal, the entire Swiss boxing team was precluded from making the trip and participating in the Olympic competition. Serge maintains this is the biggest frustration in his life, and he had no impact or control over this outcome.
SERGE’S BICYCLING FEATS:
This 11,200-mile sight-seeing and endurance trip covered nine months. Starting in Montreal, Serge experienced the wonders and beauty of the North American continent as he zigzagged towards the west coast of the USA. Having arrived at the coast, he turned east and rode a zigzag route to Florida. (1978)
MACHETEEING THE DARIEN GAP
Serge’s most dangerous feat
In 12 days, Serge macheteed his way across 100 miles of the super-treacherous and dense jungle knows as the Darien Gap (known as the “Most Dangerous ‘Road’ in the World”). The Darien Gap is infested with irate guerrilla fighters, drug traffickers, kidnappers, and a host of dangerous animals. Serge’s strategy: see no one, and be seen by no one–seems to have worked. (1996)
SERGE, THE HUMANITARIAN
Serge has helped many people through humanitarian deeds. Serge and Nicole dedicated their World Tour to raising the awareness for the struggles of children in Third World countries, visiting many orphanages, prisons, and hospitals. Through their efforts, Serge and Nicole raised about $250,000 on the World Tour and have now raised over $420,000 for these impoverished children. They also financially supported the schooling of a number of street children in Colombia, whom they met on the American Challenge. They accompanied Dr. Ron Zamber and his medical team of International Vision Quest to Costa Rica, where they assisted with eye care and surgery for children and needy adults. Serge is an associate of The Roetheli Lil’ Red Foundation which has completed construction (with the in-country assistance of Food for the Poor) of four villages in Guyana (for a sum total of 287 homes, four community/worship centers, four schools with computers, four water systems, four stores, and several micro enterprises). The Foundation also supports pet therapy for elder care facilities, assists with entrepreneur programs, and produces inspirational movies, books, and stories.
So, is there a greater endurance athlete than Serge Roetheli? If you believe there is a greater endurance athlete than Serge in the history of mankind, please submit the name of the person along with his/her achievements and the conditions under which these endurance feats were completed by e-mailing this information to: Joe@lilredfoundation.org
Dr. Joseph Roetheli and his sister, Agnes Roetheli Gaertner, authored this document which was reviewed by Serge Roetheli. Joe and Agnes are distant relatives of Serge. The Roetheli Lil’ Red Foundation, with input from Joe and Agnes (Temecula, California), is producing a documentary film of Serge and Nicole’s World Tour – the 25,000 Mile Love Story. Agnes and her friend, Josiane Karlsson, have translated two of Serge and Nicole’s books from French to English and two more books are being written; all four books are slated for publication in 2012. Unfortunately, Serge and Nicole are no longer married, a price they paid for the world tour. For more information on Serge, visit his website: www.roetheli.net, or to learn more or purchase books about Serge and Nicole, visit www.lilredfoundation.org and www.the25000milelovestory.com.