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Ultramarathon man

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Australian man crossing the globe for world record, charity

By Stephen Lega

Tom Denniss's journey of 18,000 miles started with a single step in Sydney, Australia, on New Year's Day. Last week, his route brought him through Marion County.

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Denniss is attempting to break a Guinness World Record for fastest run around the world (which is based on matching the distance around the Equator).

"It just seemed like a great way to see the world and also a great way to raise money for charity," Denniss said.

Throughout his record-breaking journey, Denniss, 51, is trying to raise funds for Oxfam International, an international outreach charity that works to help third world countries become more self-sufficient.

To date, Dennis has run more than 11,300 kilometers and raised more than $10,600 for Oxfam, although he would like to raise $1 per kilometer.

Denniss arrived in Marion County Sept. 5, stayed the night at the Hampton Inn, and set off for Danville Sept. 6.

He is averaging 31 miles per day, something that would have been unlikely for him until a few years ago. For comparison's sake, a marathon is 26.2 miles, and to complete his trip, Denniss will be running the equivalent of 700 marathons in 700 days.

"My average daily distance now I'd never run that far years ago," Denniss said.

Other runners have joined him at different points during his transcontinental run, most recently in Estes Park in Colorado.

Denniss has spent much of his time running by himself, but he does have a traveling companion on his trip, his wife, Carmel. She drives from stop to stop and updates the website (tomsnextstep.com) with photos from throughout their journey.

"I love photography, so I get to do my dream job every day," Carmel said.

Dennis has endured temperatures as hot as 140 degrees (according to two different thermometers) on the paved roads and cold enough to snow on him as he passed through the Rocky Mountains.

"I don't mind the snow. It's much better than the heat," he said.

He was approaching 6,000 miles in the United States when he passed through Marion County last week. The North American leg of his transcontinental run started in San Francisco, wove throughout the U.S. and will end in Boston. From there, Denniss will travel to South America.

Apart from roadkill, Dennis said he hasn't encountered too many animals in the U.S., although he said he did come by a rattlesnake that was coiled to strike in Nebraska.

"Dogs will come out to greet you," Carmel said.

"Or try to scare me away," Denniss said.

They've also found ways to liven up the journey, such as dressing Denniss as Forrest Gump when he ran through Monument Valley.

While he's been on his journey for more than eight months, he estimates he still has another year of running before he returns to where he started, the Opera House in Sydney.

"I should be finished by September next year," Denniss said.

"It's going fast though," Carmel said. "Time flies when you're having fun."

Want to know more?

To learn more about Tom Denniss's attempt to run around the world, visit his website tomsnextstep.com.

On his website, you can see photos of where he has been and see where he'll be going next.

You can also make donations to Oxfam, an international charitable organization, through the website.

To learn more about Oxfam, visit www.oxfam.org.