Drinking water drives global runners | VailDaily.com

Drinking water drives global runners

Kristin Anderson/Vail DailyBlue Planet Run runner Jason Loutitt, left, hands over a baton to Melissa Moon to continue a global run to raise money for safe drinking water.

VAIL ” Jason Loutitt said he was feeling the altitude, but he certainly wasn’t showing it.

“It’s tough,” he said. “We’re not used to it.”

The thin, tattooed Canadian barely looked like he had broken a sweat just after running 20 miles from Camp Hale into Vail. He paused at Donovan Park before running the last couple of miles in Vail Village.

Running isn’t anything new to Loutitt ” he and 19 teammates have spent the last two months running around the world.

Their effort is called the Blue Planet Run, an attempt to raise money to provide safe drinking water to people around the world.

About 1.1 billion people around the world don’t have access to safe drinking water, and about 6,000 people die every day because they don’t have good water.

The 20 runners are covering 15,200 miles across 16 countries. They will run 24 hours a day for 95 days.

On Monday, they ran through Vail, where Loutitt handed a baton to Melissa Moon, a champion runner from New Zealand.

While some of the runners, including Loutitt and Moon, are competitive, others are not.

“I’m just a regular dude,” said Richard Johnson, another runner on the team.

Johnson, a New Yorker, is a jazz pianist who played with Wynton Marsalis’ Septet for a few years and has played at the Vail Jazz Festival. He took up running only three years ago, and last year ran across the U.S. for a fundraiser. His next step was running across the world.

The non-running time is the hardest part of the trip: driving, waiting, trying to sleep. Johnson listens to music.

“You try to keep yourself occupied,” he said.

The route was planned out in painstaking detail over the last year. The group travels in about 13 cars, and there are doctors along with them every step of the way.

Johnson has had a few light-hearted moments during his journey. In Russia, people were shocked to see a black person.

“People would look over and get in car accidents,” he said. “That happened at least four or five times.”

The run was conceived by Jin Zidell, a retired industrialist from Marin County, Calif. Years of planning have gone into this first run, which is supposed to happen every two years.

“We want to build a movement of people around the world who will donate $30, $40, $50 once a year,” Zidell said.

Their ultimate goal is to provide safe drinking water to 200 million people by 2027. That goal will take billions of dollars, Zidell said.

In Vail, the donations jar was full.

“I think it’s a great idea,” said Shawn McHugh of Vail. “It’s for a good cause. Clean water for everybody.”

Staff Writer Edward Stoner can be reached at 748-2929 or estoner@vaildaily.com.

Go to http://www.blueplanetrun.org.

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