Ultrarunner and Missouri Navy veteran to attempt a run around the world to raise veteran suicide awareness

BENTON, Mo. – After the pandemic cut short his first attempt, Missourian and Navy veteran Dustin Johnson is planning a second run around the world to raise awareness for veteran suicides. 

Johnson, 27, ran cross country in high school and for his Navy command while in the military, but said he never expected an attempt to run across the world. But after losing everything in a house fire –  and his best friend to suicide – Johnson attempted suicide himself. 

While in recovery, Johnson’s mentor, ultrarunner and multi-record holder Tony Magnan of Ireland, told Johnson he should consider an ultrarun across the world to spread awareness for other veterans who may be dealing with the same hardships. Thus, the plan was born for his first attempt. 

In 2019, the veteran suicide rate was 31.6 per 100,000 people, almost double the rate of 16.8 per 100,000 among non-veteran U.S. adults, according to the 2021 National Veteran Suicide Prevention Report by the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs.

Johnson set out on a solo world run in 2019, but had to wrap things up early due to Australian wildfires and the onset of the pandemic. Loading up for his second attempt to spread awareness of suicide among veterans, Johnson also is looking to break a few world records this time around. 

Johnson will begin his run on March 27 at VFW Post #3174 in the Southeast Missouri town of Sikeston, and plans to end up in the exact same place in about a year. 

The veteran plans to cover four continents and log 17,000 miles on his adventure. As long as everything stays on schedule and he returns in March 2023, Johnson could become the youngest and fastest person to ever complete the “circumnavigation of Earth on foot,” as the adventure is often referred to. 

Here are the guidelines for completing the treacherous feat, as outlined by the World Runners Association:

  • Run a minimum of 16,300 miles.
  • Run a minimum of 3,000 miles on four different continents.
  • Travel in an eastward movement around the world.
  • Runner must cross all global lines of longitude.
  • Cover all antipodal points on opposite sides of the globe (Madrid, Spain and Auckland, Australia). 

In contrast to his first attempt, Johnson will not embark on the upcoming journey alone, as 55-year-old Tulsa, Oklahoma resident Brian Hoover will join him. Hoover has accomplished large feats of his own, including paddling down the entire Mississippi River. He will be cycling alongside Johnson while carrying the team’s gear. 

Their planned route goes from Sikeston to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, where they will board a plane to Lima, Peru, to start their trek across South America. The duo will then fly to Lisbon, Portugal, to begin their European leg of the trip through Paris, Brussels and Berlin. 

The pair will fly from Europe or Africa to Perth, Australia, then on to Invercargill, New Zealand, to run the coast of Auckland. To finish the trip, the two will fly to Anchorage, Alaska, and make their way down to Tulsa before eventually arriving back in Sikeston.

The two plan to avoid the Russia/Ukraine region due to the war and fly to Africa instead, but Johnson said it will be a gamble either way as Africa is a notoriously dangerous region to travel on foot. But then again, soda cans were thrown at him from moving vehicles during his run from Missouri to Florida.

Johnson says his scariest encounter during the first attempt was when he was about to cross into Spain at 2 a.m. and was met by two men with AK-47s who forced him into the back of a truck. The two took him deep into a forest, stole some of his gear and left him for dead.

Out of the various dangers he faced, Johnson says he only had to present his military boot knife once in South America when a crazed man wielding an ax handle ran at him while also swinging a roll of coins. He was also pushed into an alley, patted down and robbed on a different occasion.

Johnson and Hoover hope to cover 50 miles a day during their journey. Total costs between flights, gear, food and other necessities are estimated to be $40,000 or more.

Although the ultrarunner has since lost his left eye due to an unrelated incident, Johnson said he’s ready to make things right and fully complete the journey this time. 

“I was one continent short of getting the world record, but it’s OK. I get to try again.”

Those interested in following Johnson and Hoover’s world adventure can join the “Dustin Johnson’s World Record Run” page on Facebook or follow on Instagram at @runningforvets. 

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