Mario Krömer jogged through every public street in Stade and Buxtehude. The 44-year-old has been severely disabled for half his life due to a chronic illness. With his running project “Every Single Street” he wants to encourage others.

Without exception, he knows all the streets of his hometown of Stade and his birthplace of Buxtehude. Mario Krömer jogged through each one at least once. “Every Single Street” is the name of his running project, which he started in 2020. There are also supporters of this challenge in other cities around the world. But for Krömer, the runs are something special: The 43-year-old wants to encourage other people.

He was 21 when he was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis. Alongside Crohn’s disease, this is the most common chronic inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). According to the Heidelberg University Hospital, around 6 out of 100,000 people fall ill with it every year in Germany. During a flare-up, those affected suffer from frequent diarrhea, cramping pain and total exhaustion. “My energy level is then felt at ten percent,” says Krömer. He calls colitis ulcerosa an “invisible disease”. Nobody can tell from looking at him that he is severely disabled because of her. “You often appear healthy on the outside, but you are not. A chronic illness is a constant companion.”

In the past, the flare-ups put Krömer out of action for up to two years. He had to give up his education as a teacher. After working in retail for several years, he now lives on citizen income. “Hardly any company wants to hire severely disabled people because of the special protection against dismissal,” he says.

But the man from Lower Saxony is not bitter about it. On the contrary. He leads a happy life, he says. Sport has contributed to this: He started running at the age of 35. If he doesn’t have an episode, he hardly notices his illness. He looked for goals, took part in running events. “I’m really into breaking personal bests,” he says. But he always noticed: “You’re never done with it.” Once one mark has been reached, the next has already been set. “In the meantime, you’re missing out on so much around it,” he says today.

Eventually, Krömer heard about the Every Single Street project. On the Internet he saw that ultra runner Rickey Gates had run every single street in San Francisco. He also wanted to do that in his hometown of Stade. The fact that he had bought a running watch for his previous jogging laps, which had already recorded every route covered, played into his hands. Nevertheless, he was still missing many of the 671 roads.

He set himself daily routes of 10 to 35 kilometers. “I wrote down the route on a foldable piece of paper. I walked through the streets with that in my hand,” reports Krömer. It took him a year to tick off Stade – except for one street in an industrial area. It was closed to him with a barrier and porter. Only when he called the managing director of the local company did he get the green light. The security chief himself drove the car alongside him as he walked down the street to support him. “That was really cool,” says Krömer.

In the fall of 2021, he began blogging and social media about his runs and illness. “300,000 people nationwide have ulcerative colitis. That’s really a lot, but hardly anyone knows the disease.” He wants to change that with his projects. “Running is freedom and passion and gives me a center even when I’m sick, which never falters despite some setbacks,” he writes in his blog. That’s why he continued to Stade.

He got to know his native town of Buxtehude with 495 streets relatively quickly. “I planned everything exactly so that I didn’t have to run anything twice,” he says. Every street, no matter how small, is on his plan. He completed Buxtehude after 77 days at the end of 2022 – the fact that he hadn’t had a boost for a year made things easier.

When it comes to the question of whether sport can even have a positive effect on the course of IBD, research is still in its infancy. There are only specific recommendations for meditative exercise therapies such as yoga, says a spokeswoman for the German Crohn’s Disease / Ulcerative Colitis Association. “Basically, the recommendation for those affected is to choose the movement according to their own needs and according to their own resilience,” she says. For some even high-performance sports are possible.

Mario Krömer has already considered his next project: Sylt. He has friends there and has already run laps. “Maybe I’ll start in October – or earlier,” says the 43-year-old. “I want to show that even a chronic illness shouldn’t stop you from making the most of your time.”

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