On bad days, British man running around the world gets chased

MEXICO CITY - Robert Garside is running around the world. On bad days, people chase him.

The Briton trying to become the first person to run the length of the Earth's seven continents has encountered a few bumps in the road, so to speak. He's outrun thieves in Mexico and Panama, dodged bullets in Russia and was jailed in China for running in restricted areas.

But he's also found love in Venezuela, and is looking forward to running with hundreds of fans in the United States - his next destination.

''I don't like being alone,'' he said. ''I run alone a lot.''

Garside, known as ''The Runningman,'' plans to spend five years running 42,000 miles. He left London on Dec. 7, 1996, and has covered Australia, Asia, Europe and South America.

Stopping to rest for a few days in Mexico City, the 33-year-old former police officer described being robbed a few miles outside Acapulco. As he approached the town, three men - at least one with a gun - tried to surround him.

''I couldn't believe it,'' he said. ''I thought, 'Oh, no. Not again.' ''

He sprinted into traffic and got away - a trick he learned in Panama when two men began running alongside him and tried unsuccessfully to rip off his backpack.

At first, he though the two were trying to join him.

''I thought, 'They must be wanting to run with me,' '' he said.

Despite the setbacks, Garside is upbeat, largely because his Venezuelan girlfriend - he calls her ''The Running Woman'' - is joining him in Mexico City.

The two met in Venezuela while Garside was updating his Web page at an Internet cafe. Endrina Perez, 24, visited Garside during several of his stops in Central America, but plans to start running with him in Mexico City.

Garside said Perez isn't a ''hard-core runner'' but the two plan to run across the United States together, entering near Mexicali, 95 miles east of Tijuana, in a little more than two weeks.

From the border they will head to San Diego, where they expect to join several running enthusiasts who have been following Garside's trip on his Web site. The anticipated extra company has been compared to the runners who joined the main character in the movie ''Forrest Gump'' as he ran across the United States.

Garside, who didn't see the movie until after he planned his trip, said he doesn't mind the comparison. The former psychology student sees his trip as an odyssey, and he hopes others will learn the lesson he says he has: Life is more than work and running is more than just exercise.

On Friday, however, he was taking a break and hanging out in a downtown Mexico City hotel. And he was waiting for Perez.

''I'm getting the girlfriend and the money, and I'm going to run for the border,'' he said.


On the Net:

Garside's site, http://www.runningman.org/


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