Darlington woman's 9,000-mile journey re-tracing historic voyage is complete

The Northern Echo: FINAL CHALLENGE: Susie Stephen running the Ara Mahiva footpath on Easter Island FINAL CHALLENGE: Susie Stephen running the Ara Mahiva footpath on Easter Island

A DETERMINED fundraiser’s epic global challenge to celebrate the 100th anniversary of a landmark voyage has ended in success.

Darlington-born Susie Stephen pledged to retrace the research expedition to Easter Island, made in 1914 by Darlington Quaker Katherine Routledge - the first female archaeologist to study in Polynesia and granddaughter of Darlington railway pioneer Joseph Pease.

Mrs Stephen’s aim for the ‘Running after Routledge’ challenge was to highlight Katherine’s work and also to raise money for systems to improve drinking water on Easter Island.

The 9,000-mile trek started from Darlington in February and Mrs Stephen went on to run the equivalent of a marathon a day to make it to Southampton in 13-days.

Flights to America and Argentina were followed by a gruelling 1,000-mile cycle ride across the Andes from Mendoza in Argentina to Santiago, Chile.

The final stage of the challenge was due to be a marathon run on Easter Island, but at the last minute Mrs Stephen changed her plan and ended up running almost double that length by following a 40-mile trail around the island.

The change of plan was driven by Mrs Stephen’s ongoing research into Katherine Routledge’s expedition in which she detailed an ancient footpath that took in many of the island’s iconic sights.

She explained: “From the beginning of this journey in February I have been retracing routes and connecting places.

“The Ara Mahiva footpath continued along that theme and I felt it was a more fitting tribute to the work of the Mana Expedition and also Katherine Routledge, who traversed the island 100 years ago before any paved roads even existed.”

Mrs Stephen ran the length of the path in nine hours, and was accompanied on much of her journey by a small black dog that emerged from the grounds of a house as she ran past.

She described the scenery as “breathtaking”, adding: “The run for me was probably one of the most memorable I have ever completed.”

Mrs Stephen’s efforts raised £2,500 for Pacific Aid Australia, an NGO that carries out environmentally-focused projects on Easter Island.

And although her physical challenges are now complete, Mrs Stephen, who now lives in Hawaii, plans to come full-circle and return to her Darlington hometown in September.

She is working with arts development group Creative Darlington to put together an exhibition showcasing modern photographs from Easter Island alongside those of the 1914 Mana Expedition.

Workshops and free public talks about the Running after Routledge project will also be held in Darlington venues.

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