Tom Denniss took on an incredible odyssey when he decided that he would circumnavigate the world on foot. On New Year’s Eve in 2011, he began his global marathon from the Sydney Opera House, dodging through the revellers to embark on one of the most impressive physical feats in history. Tom tells of all the people and places he experienced on his journey in his autobiography, The World at my Feet. We asked Tom what kept one foot in front of the other during his circumnavigational slog, and how he broke the record of the fastest run around Earth.
What was the defining moment when you decided that you would commit to circumnavigating the world?
I don’t recall any single moment. It gradually materialised as a concrete idea after I so thoroughly enjoyed a 1000 km run from Melbourne to Sydney in 2009.
Why did you decide to raise money for Oxfam?
I had been donating to Oxfam for years. I also wanted to support an international charity, given the nature of the challenge. These facts, coupled with the reality that Oxfam have a strong history of fund raising through running events, sort of sealed the concept in my mind.
Seeing the photo of you victorious on the steps of the Sydney Opera House is reminiscent of Jessica Watson’s triumph when she finished her nautical journey around the world in 2010. Did you follow her story?
Yes, I took note of Jessica’s journey through the media, though didn’t follow it as closely as some.
What kept one foot falling in front of the other at times when you were on the verge of exhaustion?
I knew that the whole journey was of my doing, so I had no excuses for wanting to quit. When the going got tough, I would remind myself that there are plenty of people in the world doing it even tougher in circumstances that weren’t of their choosing. This put the matter in perspective.
What was the toughest terrain or most dangerous experience you had while running?
The most dangerous occasion was when I almost fell over an ice cliff in the Andes. You can read about this in the very first chapter (the Prologue) of the book. The most arduous time was day after day of running through extreme heat in the summer of 2012 in the US mid west. At times the temperature got up to 60 C on the road.
Which place was the hardest to leave? Was there anywhere that tempted you to stop running so you could explore?
I often wanted to stop for a while to explore a location. Places like the Grand Canyon, the lakes of Minnesota, the music venues of Memphis, the wine region of Argentina, the magic of Prague and Budapest, and so on and so on. However, I knew I needed to keep going. I was never really tempted to stop.
Did you keep a travel diary?
No, but I wrote a daily blog for my web site. This effectively became my diary.
What were the various reactions of people around the world when you explained your quest to them?
Most people were extremely interested, with many expressing amazement. A few, however, were a touch derisive, but these tended to be negative type personalities with a chip on their shoulder.
What’s it like seeing your journey encapsulated in a book?
It’s a new experience for me, but one that I’m enjoying. I’ll enjoy it a lot more if I receive positive feedback from readers.
Did any books inspire you for this mammoth challenge?
No, not really. I just wrote the book as I saw fit. I tried to make it a little different from the average sporting exposé or sporting biography, describing the geography, history, and culture of the regions through which I ran, along with unusual anecdotes relevant to the story.