Race Around the World for a Cause

Dot Helling, an attorney from Montpelier, Vermont, shares experiences of the Blue Planet Run, which is billed as the first ever round-the-world relay race. Concerns about clean drinking water keep her going. Helling speaks with Scott Simon from San Francisco after a flight from Japan.

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SCOTT SIMON, host:

A couple of months ago, we talked to Dot Helling, an attorney from Montpelier, Vermont, who's running in the Blue Planet Run, which is built as the first-ever around-the-world relay race. We wanted to check back in with Dot Helling who is now in Freemont, California, after arriving on a flight from Japan.

Ms. Helling, thanks very much for being with us.

Ms. DOT HELLING (Attorney, Montpelier, Vermont): It's great to be here, Scott. Thank you.

SIMON: How many miles have you run so far?

Ms. HELLING: Oh, wow. You know, I haven't computed that, but we're just over two-thirds of the way there and the total run is 15,200 miles. So about 10,000 is my guess, and I've done a 20th of those.

SIMON: How many countries have you run through?

Ms. HELLING: We'll be in the U.S. actually in three different times, but we're now in the 15th country of 16. So the only one left is Canada. We've been all through Europe. We've been through Asia. And the Europe piece just involved a myriad of countries. It seemed like almost every hour we are crossing another border.

SIMON: Do you run in place on the airplane when you fly across an ocean?

Ms. HELLING: The teams were split into five sub-teams of four. And so the teams go ahead so that even though we finished running in Japan at 10, we were running in San Francisco by noon.

SIMON: That's a quick flight.

Ms. HELLING: Yes, it was. A blink of an eye.

SIMON: You were born in Japan, right?

Ms. HELLING: I was. I was born in Yokohama.

SIMON: And had you been back?

Ms. HELLING: Just briefly, but it was really exciting. I got to hand off the next to the last sendoff to our runner from Japan, and for me it was really special.

SIMON: Are you looking forward to the run being over?

Ms. HELLING: No, not over. And it was kind of bittersweet coming home because we were so involved in the cultural exchanges that we had over there. They were exciting. And now, we're going to be really busy. We have lots of events in the States, and we hope to gain lots of support for the cause. But it's going to be hard for this to end. I have to go back to the real life, you know.

SIMON: Why choose this particular way of trying to call up attention to the importance of clean drinking water?

Ms. HELLING: Primarily because it is the first of such a magnitude global event, and it gets people wondering why we're doing it. And they're seeing us go through their local villages. People think we're crazy. People think it's exciting. And they do want to know why. And that raises awareness and then, hopefully, we'll raise the support that we need to give safe drinking water to people who need it.

SIMON: Mm-hmm. You've got several thousands of miles to go though, don't you?

Ms. HELLING: We do. We've got to go across the States, skip up into Toronto and then come down by Niagara Falls. And we've got some rugged running. We're going through deserts. We're going up through the mountains, through the Rockies. And I have no reason not to think that we can't do it. We got through Russia. And if we got through Russia, I think we can go anywhere.

SIMON: Dot Helling joining us from Freemont, California. Ms. Helling, get some rest. Nice talking to you.

Ms. HELLING: Oh, thank you, Scott.

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