Barefoot BritainA 90-marathon barefoot run to encourage young women to reach for the impossible
MY LATEST ADVENTURE
What did I do?
In 2019, I ran 2,352 miles (the distance of 90 marathons) through Britain – completely barefoot.
Starting in the Shetland Islands and ending five months later in London, I weaved my way along rugged coastlines, through small villages, across moors, along beaches, over farmland and even pitter-pattered down the odd picturesque A-road too.
There were many mishaps and disasters along the way, but helping to keep me going through the tough times was a mission to deliver motivational talks to over 1,700 young women. I was also was joined by over 2,500 local runners during 148 days on the road and somehow the kind British public passed my kit bag along like a giant baton while I ran.
It was a story that reached over 100 million people through international media and without a doubt the toughest and yet most amazing journey of my life.
“I had no idea if it was possible. Perhaps it was the most ridiculous idea I’d ever had. There was no telling what would happen to my body and where I would stumble upon my limit”
Why On Earth?
I believe that there’s more magic in all of us than we’ll ever know.
Adventures are my personal way of unlocking that magic. So I knew that I needed to stand on that start line of this journey and feel 50% terrified and 50% excited. There had to be chance of failure. Because when you feel that way, something truly awesome is about to happen.
As always, the barefoot run was a huge experiment – one that I shared as openly as possible with youngsters and adults all the way through. The story was shared widely on local, national and international media, culminating in an interview on BBC Breakfast.
“Adventures are about a quest for growth. I figured that if I was going to stand in front of young girls around the UK and encourage them take on challenges that they believe to be just beyond their reach – then I had to be on that journey too.”
WATCH THE VIDEO SERIES
The whole Barefoot Britain shebang is documented in 25 mini-episodes on YouTube. Click below to select an episode to start with, grab the popcorn (perhaps even a box of tissues) and enjoy.
“Was I terrified? Yes. Was I excited. Yes, that too. Was I wondering if I’d gone one step too far this time? Absolutely. Which is exactly why I knew that it was the right challenge to take on.”
I’d have a lot of questions if I were you too. Here’s some I’ve pre-empted….
Did you run a barefoot marathon every day?
The overall distance was equivalent to 90 barefoot marathons, but (in a bid to inject some realism into the equation) I started steady and built up my daily mileage. So sometimes I ran a marathon in a day and sometimes I ran less. Roughly I averaged out at around 21 miles per day on days when I was running.
Where did you sleep?
All the way along, I was taken in and looked after by the kind people of the UK. Strangers-turned-friends offered to host me, feed me (wash me!) and helped to pass my main bag (called Barry) along from one place to the next. I got to know the people of the UK as well as I did the landscape.
How fast did you run?
I’d say each marathon took me me around 6 hours to complete. On beautiful flat grass or baby smooth tarmac I could crack out a four-hour marathon, but if I hit gravel and was tired (which was often) then it was far slower. I tended to run at what’s called ‘adventure pace’ which made it open for people of all abilities to join in. And I also liked stopping for tea and cake… jus saying….
Did you have any injuries?
LOADS. I picked up dozens of tiny little nicks and scrapes on my feet – I got used to those, but there was one show stopper at 1,000 miles in to the run. That left me off my feet for two weeks and on antibiotics. It was a terrifying time. That said, in over 2,300 miles I’d say one show-stopping injury is great going. Well done the human body.
Were you raising money?
I am terrible at fundraising. I’ve fundraised in the past, but I feel there are better ways for me to give. I make a living as a motivational speaker and author so I decided to give back through stories and talks and raise awareness for Girlguiding instead – they’re always in need of volunteers.
If even one girl feels empowered to take on her own challenge off the back of my tales of derring do, then it was all worth it. The run reached over 100 million people in the media, so I feel it was mission accomplished for Girlguiding. Happy days.
Are you writing a book about this?
Hells-to-the-YES. Adventure. Write. Adventure. Repeat. That’s what I do. Scroll to the bottom of the page and sign up to my mailing list to make sure you’re among the first to know when that book gets released into the big bad world.
How did you prepare to run 90 barefoot marathons?
I’m not sure anyone is prepared to run 90 barefoot marathons – that would be madness – but I was as ready as I could be. I’ve been running in minimalist trainers for four years now, and in the 18 months leading up to the run I transitioned steadily from those to run in just thin socks, then totally barefoot. Even then – it was still a beast of a challenge and some terrains (gravel!) were hell on earth. But my feet were strong like panther paws by the end.
Did you think it was possible?
I did. But I also knew that there was a HUGE chance of failure. In the end I set out to run the distance of 100 marathons and fell short of that, covering 90 instead. The way I see it, I shot for the stars and landed on the moon.
What on earth does you mother think?
She thinks I’m bonkers. But then again she’s bonkers too and she raised me to believe in what is possible, rather than focus on what isn’t. Therefore, really – this is all her doing.