Neerlandia pastor runs around the equator
Only set goal when he realized he was close to it
After nearly 35 years of running, Ralph Pontier has achieved a significant milestone — running the distance of the circumference of the Earth around the equator.
Pontier, pastor at the Emmanuel Reformed Church in Neerlandia, started running in 1977 when he was first starting out in the ministry, as a way to keep in shape in what is a fairly sedentary occupation.
“It was just a desire to stay fit, since my occupation doesn’t involve any other physical exercise,” he said. “I didn’t want to become out of shape or obese like I saw many of my older colleagues in 1977.”
Since then, he has maintained a steady regime of running. In 1979 he started keeping track of the distances he had run, and as he kept at it he realized he had reached some substantial distances.
Only about a year ago, he was looking at how far he’s run, and realized he was getting close to 24,901.4 miles (40,075 kilometres), which is equal to the Earth’s circumference around the equator.
“I thought I’d make a goal of it,” he said. “I haven’t been working on this for 33 years.”
On April 23, while on a vacation in Mexico, Pontier finally broke achieved that goal while running on a beach in Mazatlan.
“It was not a milestone I had set for my life,” he said. “It was just something to work towards. Now I have to find something else to work towards.”
While running the equivalent of the circumference of the Earth is not an insignificant achievement, Pontier said compared to many other runners, it’s not that long a distance.
In addition, he said he never started running, or decided to talk about the distance he’s run, for the recognition.
“I want to encourage people to have a healthy and active lifestyle,” he said. “If I can do it, so can you.”
In the years Pontier has been running, he has visited many places all over the globe, never missing a chance to hit the trail. Although he didn’t say he makes these trips exclusively to run – many have been business trips where he found some free time – he does take an overall view of his international runs.
“It’s just nice to be out in nature,” he said. “It’s a good stress reliever, and it always feels good when you stop.”
Some of the places he has run include all but two of the United States, Cyprus and Egypt.
While he does run for himself and for pleasure, Pontier has added some competition to his running in the past.
After a few false starts, in 2006, he ran in his first – and so far only – marathon.
He was all ready to run in a marathon in 1993 in Iowa, he said, but nature decided to rain on his parade — literally. Two days before the race was set to go off, race volunteers postponed it because of massive flooding. The finish line was underwater, and the race officials were too busy filling sandbags to protect their houses.
Between 1993 and 2006, he said he had two other marathons he was preparing for, but due to injuries he sustained, they went on without him.
One positive Pontier has found from all his running besides the benefits to his health is what it allows him to do at home.
“I married a good cook, and it’s nice to be able to eat all her good cooking without having to worry about gaining a lot of weight,” he said.
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