5 MINUTES WITH JASPER GOTTERSON
Monday, June 5
This month we meet up with Jasper Gotterson (OR17) who, with three of his best mates Rory, Max and Sean, ran the length of the entire East Coast of the USA, starting in Key West, Florida and finishing at the Canadian border in Vermont. Over 80 days, they completed 80 marathons each (3,360 kilometres in total), running through thirteen US States completely unsupported.
Q: Where did this idea come about?
JG: We had all just finished Uni and were looking at heading into the workforce. Through school and Uni, we all had people close to us that were heavily affected by cancer. Rory’s mum had multiple bouts of cancer. We had a longing to give back to organisations that had helped our families though those tough times and we chose the Cancer Council. We all had European trips planned that were cancelled due to Covid and we hit upon this experience that would give us meaning whilst raising funds for a good cause. It was an amalgamation of a few things.
Q: You chose to run the entire length of the East Coast of the United States. Was it a wise choice?
JG: In hindsight, it couldn’t have worked out better, given the kindness of all the Americans that reached out and offered to help us. More than 50% of the accommodation that we had budgeted for in hotels we spent in private homes with American families. Over 40 nights were covered by people who reached out on Instagram and invited us in to stay.
Q: So, you saw a different America to the one we see and hear on our TV screens in Australia.
JG: It completely ignores the goodness in people and this notion of shared human kindness. We experienced it first-hand it is definitely a very good reflection on America.
Q: The trail. How long until it became very monotonous? Any real scary moments or injuries?
JG: We carried injuries into the trip, so we went at a fairly slow pace for the first week or two. We’d run 10 kilometres and walk one. We had to get into the run. We were fuelled by this intense adrenalin rush though the acclimatisation period in the first 10 days or so, coupled with intense fatigue.
Q: Was it clear that you ran in different States. Did the scenery change? People?
JG: They were all different. Let’s not forget it took us 20 days to get out of Florida. It was tropical and hot. We were getting up at 3.30am each morning and running in the dark to beat the heat. Then we hit Georgia. It was good to get out of Florida. On the last day we stumbled upon a PGA Golf Tournament at Sawgrass and finished up the day on the sidelines having a beer and watching golf. Then up through Virginia on about day 40.
Q: Did any States stick out. Is there a North-South divide?
JG: You can really see the old money in the buildings of the South. We were running along Civil War trails up into Virginia, so you get a pretty good crash course in American History, the Revolution and the Civil War.
Q: Other highlights?
JG: This woman had been following us on Instagram after we met her in Charleston, Carolina. She then asked us to stay at her home in North Carolina. We each had our own rooms and were fed and watered for 2 nights. So generous. It was the universe. We are so much in debt to the people of America and the universe. It will take a lifetime to give it all back!
Q: Final moon-shot moment.
JG: Running through New York we looked up our friend Xavier Eales who lives there. He had us all to stay in his apartment. He said “You guys must come to the Dawn Service tomorrow, its being hosted by the Australian-American Association. You can run your marathon around New York and finish up at the reception where the Service is being held, on Wall Street”. We ended up running our marathon after the Dawn Service and arrived at Cipriani Hall all covered in sweat and followed the VIPs into the reception on the red carpet. A definite highlight.
Q: What was it like reaching Canada?
JG: We actually did it in 79 days. On the last day, we decided to run an 80km ultra-marathon in a day. We had a huge run on donations that day, we raised over $50,000. From kilometre 80 to 85 that day we ran the fastest of the whole trip. We were doing 4:40 splits. We were so keen to get to the finish line. Our friends and family had flown up to Canada to greet us and they were waiting for us at the finish line. The next day we had brain fog due to moving from a strict regime into a much slower routine. Jumping back into normal life means I haven’t had too much time to reflect on the enormity of those 80 days.
Q. Final question. Any learnings for our readers?
JG: As far as sport and challenging yourself, there are a few things you need to have which are beyond physical fitness and an ability. It is a really strong sense of community with the people who are with you in that team or group. You have an undeniable sense of accountability which pushes you further than you would otherwise be able to do on your own. It is also strengthened by a unifying cause. You are held up by a fabric of ‘mateship” that keeps you going. That’s why we named our challenge “Mates vs States” and thank God, mates won!