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Staff writer

Marathoners, masochists and aspiring globe-trotters, eat your hearts out — but hold the Forrest Gump jokes.

An adventurer to some, a being of questionable sanity to others, one thing is certain: Robert Garside is one tenacious biped.

And a well-traveled one too. A self-proclaimed “running man,” the 31-year-old Briton is attempting to break the world record for distance running and become the first person to run around the world. Currently he is in Tokyo for a pit stop before continuing on to Kagoshima Prefecture, and ultimately across Australia, the Americas and Africa.

Nearly a third of the way through the five-continent, 54,000-km journey that began in London in December 1996, Garside has taken the scenic route via the Kremlin and the Taj Mahal, over the Himalayas and through China.

Garside, formerly a psychology student, jewelry salesman and waiter at the Empire State Building, says his motivation is not complex. “I like seeing the world and the different cultures. I want to see new things and expand my mind. It is a very simple idea. Everything else is just a consequence.”

And the consequences have proved eventful. Robbed in Pakistan, arrested in China and shot at in Russia, the congenial Garside is ostensibly none the worse for wear.

Compared with the harsh conditions experienced elsewhere — including extreme temperatures, dead pigs and camels rotting on the roadside and prisoners being tortured — Japan is a dream, Garside said. “Japan is easy. It’s a long country, but it’s easy.”

Garside logs about 60 km a day and travels light, sporting only a 7-kg waist pack. But while his gear may be light, the burden of proof is heavy. Much of the running man’s baggage — including a JVC portable video camera, a Canon 35mm camera and pen and paper — are necessary to prove to the Guinness Book of Records that he has in fact trotted the globe. Every hour or so he stops to record his surroundings, visit local police stations, gather receipts or otherwise meticulously maintain records of his progress.

Maintaining records is one thing, but breaking them is another. Garside is on the verge of a new world distance record, estimating he will break the 18,000-km record in Kyushu or Australia.

The global run and shift to a life of locomotion have changed Garside in more ways than one. While it has broadened his worldview and honed his geography skills, it has severely dented his pocketbook — he has poured more than $40,000 into the endeavor — and damaged his love life. “I had a girlfriend when I left. She lasted as far as Pakistan,” Garside said.

While in Tokyo, Garside is searching for sponsors and organizing his records from the first third of his journey while frequenting Greenpeace’s office. Greenpeace is supplying him with logistical support, and Garside is hoping to help the organization raise 2 million pounds by 2000, when he hopes to complete the global loop in London, he said.

He will resume his run Monday morning from Nihonbashi, hoping to reach Kagoshima within 25 days.

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