Ultrarunner Nears the End of 24,000 km Journey Across the Americas

A Chinese ultrarunner named Bai Bin is nearing the end of an epic undertaking that has seen him run the length of North and South America, covering more than 24,000 km (14,912 miles) in the process. He is expected to reach the finish line in Tuktoyaktuk in northern Canada today, completing a journey that has taken him more than 400 days to complete, crossing through 13 countries in the process.

Bai Bin’s journey started last year and when he set out it was billed as a “pole to pole” run. Early PR indicated that he would travel from the South Pole to the North Pole on foot, although that was incredibly deceiving. The starting place for the expedition was China’s Great Wall Antarctic Station, which he visited back on March 1, 2018. But that station is located on the Antarctic Peninsula, a long way from the South Pole. From what I can tell, it was just a courtesy visit to, with very little running taking place.

After that, he flew back to Chile and started the actual run at the southernmost point of the South American continent. From there, he jogged north, averaging roughly 60 km (37 miles) over eight hours each day. The route took him across the Andes and even northward into the Darien Gap, widely considered one of the most dangerous places in the world. Eventually, he passed into North America too and just kept going. Now, he’s reaching the end of the journey at long last, although once again he isn’t getting anywhere close to the North Pole either.

Bai Bin has had a support team assisting him along the way, cooking food and providing water throughout the journey. Running for eight hours day in and day out doesn’t leave much time to prepare your own meals and it is a constant battle to take in enough calories as well. Still, he has persevered through extreme weather, lonely days on the road, and even getting kidnapped while crossing through Mexico. Armed gunmen grabbed him from the street and took him to a hotel, where he tried to explain to them that he didn’t have much money for a ransom. Eventually he was able to convince them to let him go and they even gave him a couple of bottles of water for his trouble.

All of that is a distant memory today as he closes in on the end. Something tells me he’ll find the folks in Canada much more accommodating.

Kraig Becker