By Dan McClanahan
4 Feb. 2001
If you ask Jean Beliveau what motivated him to mark his 45th birthday by setting off on a foot trip around the world, he'll tell you his purpose is to promote peace and non-violence for the benefit of the children of the world.
It is a fact that the French Canadian has dubbed his project "Marathon-monde pour la Paix sur Terre," or Marathon for Peace on Earth, but there no doubt are other reasons, some of which he'd have trouble expressing in English.
Beliveau has admitted the possibility there's a mid-life crisis behind his trek. And, as fate would have it, he became a grandfather somewhere between West Columbia and Bay City.
Seizing an opportunity to check his e-mail after arriving here Thursday afternoon,
Beliveau learned that his 18-year-old daughter in Montreal had just given birth to his first grandchild.
"It's a great day for me," he said, beaming. "It's a great day for me and for the family."
Beliveau says he had trained for seven months before sharing his plans with wife, Luce, and children, Elisa-Jane and Thomas Eric. Three weeks later, on Aug. 18, he hugged them all and set off walking on a 76-country tour.
At noon the second day, pushing all his belongings in a modified three-wheel stroller, the marathoner crossed the border into the U.S. On the fifth day of his 50,000-mile journey, he was in Keeseville, N.Y. and on day 29, he arrived in Trenton, N.J.
Beliveau said he and blue buggy ("my Winnebago") cover an average of 25 miles a day. He walks from about 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily and spends the night under bridges, in his tent or with families that sometimes offer a bed and shelter.
With his distinctive carriage, sporting flags of Canada and the U.S., Beliveau attracts plenty of attention from the public and, yes, from the media. He has given plenty of interviews and his marathon has been publicized in newspapers all along his path, from New York to Georgia to Alabama and Louisiana.
Beliveau is joined by his wife at predetermined stops along his route. Most recently, Luce joined him for Christmas in New Orleans. Otherwise, she tends to the couple's affairs from their home in Montreal, keeping up with his progress and posting periodic reports and photographic highlights of his trip on their website.
After crossing into Mexico at Brownsville, Beliveau plans to continue south through Central and South America, ending up in Brazil. Resuming his marathon in South Africa, he'll follow a northward route through Europe, Scandinavia, Russia, the Balkans, the middle East, Far East, Indonesia and Australia. From New Zealand, his itinerary takes him back to Canada.
If he follows that itinerary, Beliveau will arrive back in Montreal after having walked 82,135 kilometers.
He'll be nearing age 60. Laurie, the granddaughter he hasn't yet seen, will be a pre-teen. Some of the countries he has visited may even have ceased to exist.
But he'll be able to say that did done something to spread his message of peace - and met his personal challenge.