Anna McNuff has run the equivalent of 90 marathons in her quest to run the length of Britain barefoot. McNuff’s journey began in June in the upper reaches of Scotland (the Shetland Isles, to be specific) and ended in London in unicorn tights earlier today. Along the way, McNuff gave speeches to Girl Guides and other groups on the power of pushing yourself to achieve difficult things, and depended on the kindness of inspired strangers to cook her some dinner, put her up for the night and transport her luggage from one location to the next.
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🙌🏻THAT’S IT! I’ve finished the adventure of a lifetime. A total of 2,352 MILES (equivalent to 90 marathons) from The Shetland Islands 🏴 to London, in my bare feet. It’s been an emotional journey, and crikey on a crumpet – what a finish! . A moooassive thanks 🙏🏻💕 to everyone who came out to join in today – to wave banners, throw snacks at me and encase me in a tornado of wonderment 🌪 💫 Although I didn’t make the full 100 marathon distance in the end, I feel like I shot for the stars and landed on the moon. 🌓 And I very much like the moon. . The past 6 months seem like a bizarre dream. I know better than to try to process it all at once – that will take much wistful looking out of windows, a few long walks and some (imaginary) beard stroking. For now, all I can say is that I am overcome with pride for this amazing country. . The kindness shown by Brits has been off-the-scale-redunkulous. 🇬🇧🦄 From those who opened their homes to me for a night or two 🏡 helped transport Barry Buttercup (my bag) 👊🏻 and the 2,000+ brightly clad runners who shared miles by my side. 🏃🏼♀️You all lent me your sparkle, when I had (often) lost my own. . 🇬🇧 BRITAIN ROCKS 🇬🇧 . I’ve been blown away by the beauty of our forests 🌳 clifftops, rivers, lakes, dales, moors and beaches. I’ve danced over smashed car mirrors, cut myself on glass, and squelched through every kind of poo imaginable 💩(and there are many more types than I had imagined). I’ve even stood in a dead rabbit. But I wouldn’t change a second of it… . 👧🏻GIRLGUIDING A GO-GO👧🏻 . …Because it allowed me the space and time to share adventure stories with over 1,700 @girlguiding youngsters. And if even one of them finds it within themselves to take on a new challenge or head off on an adventure because a crazy lady with bare feet and pink hair👩🎤once told them it was possible – then it’ll be mission accomplished. . 💪🏻BAREFOOT BRITAIN STATS💪🏻 . Miles run: 2,352 Calories burned: 495,000 Runners signed up to join me: 2,392 Days on the road: 168 Nights hosted: 124 Towns & cities visited: 143 Girl guides spoken to: 1,700 Major Injuries: 2 Milkshakes consumed: 200+ . #ReadyForANYTHING @theaa_careers
In all, McNuff visited 143 towns and cities, and more than 2,000 runners joined her along the journey at various times and for various distances. “I’ve been blown away by the beauty of our forests 🌳 clifftops, rivers, lakes, dales, moors and beaches,” McNuff said in her final #BarefootBritain Instagram post. “I’ve danced over smashed car mirrors, cut myself on glass, and squelched through every kind of poo imaginable 💩(and there are many more types than I had imagined). I’ve even stood in a dead rabbit. But I wouldn’t change a second of it…
“…Because it allowed me the space and time to share adventure stories with over 1,700 @girlguiding youngsters. And if even one of them finds it within themselves to take on a new challenge or head off on an adventure because a crazy lady with bare feet and pink hair👩🎤once told them it was possible–then it’ll be mission accomplished.”
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OVER 2,200 MILES RUN IN BARE FEET! 🦶🏻🇬🇧💪🏻 🏃🏼♀️ And I can’t quite Adam n’ Eve it. When I look at the #BarefootBritain route on the @zerosixzeromap (link in my @annamcnuff bio) and the wiggliest of wiggly lines from the Shetland Islands 🏴 to the outskirts of Lanndan town 🏴 – it doesn’t quite feel like I’m looking at me. With one week of running left – it’s surreal. . The budding mathematicians among you 🤓 💡 will be starting to think that it’s going to be a tall order to make the full 2,620 mile (100 marathon) distance by next week – and you’re not wrong. . With a foot infection 😩, a calf injury 🥴 and a tasty bout of tonsilitis 🤒 – I lost some miles. I could have made the choice to carry on into December 🎄 and chase any lost distance, but I decided that whatever I’ve managed to run by next Sunday Nov 17th – that’ll be enough. 🙏🏻 . This run was always really about talking to as many young @girlguiding members as possible and having told stories to almost 2,000 girls – I’ve stayed true to that 💕👧🏻👩🏻🦰👩🏽🦱👱🏼♀️🧕🏽👩🏻💕 . I’m ready to get back to my family, back to @adventureman 💏 – I’m ready to be done. Although not just yet… . As a cherry on the challenge-cake, this last week (Inspired by Adam the ultrarunning Doctor 👨⚕️ who helped heal my foot) I’ll be taking to the tracks around london. 💪🏻💥 Running 5 x track marathons and hooking up with local running clubs for chats & story sharing. . 5 x Track marathons?! Am I mad? Possibly. But I’m actually REALLY BLOOMIN EXCITED about them! No surface worries, no backpack to carry… and I can start to begin to process the barefoot madness of the past 6 months as I go round and round and round (and round?) like the wheels on a bus 🚌 . I’ll be back on the roads & trails for the final stage from Kingston to Wimbledon next Sunday 17th. Hope to see you there. 🙌🏻🦶🏻🇬🇧 . #ReadyForANYTHING @theaa_careers
In the end, McNuff didn’t reach her original goal of 100 marathons, but after sustaining several injuries and infections, she decided she would end her journey today regardless of how far she had run.
In early November, for the first time, McNuff showed she might not be superhuman after all, admitting to exhaustion, brain fog and lack of motivation to keep going. But she did keep going.
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I’M EXHAUSTED. 🤤 I’ve been doing my best to keep you all updated on the continued barefoot shenanigans over the past week, but in scrolling back through the posts I realised that I’d left out one rather crucial insight. And that’s the fact that I am absolutely, clinging-on-by-the-skin-of-my-feet exhausted. . A few days ago I went to order a jacket potato 🥔 😋 in a cafe at lunchtime, only – I couldn’t remember the words for ‘jacket potato’. Although I’ve had a HUGE amount of help from #BarefootBritain logistics Queen @abbypopps – the constant organising of @girlguiding talks, public running stages, route planning and the daily run grind over 5 months has ground the cogs in my brain to a halt 🧠 ⚠️ It is lost in a deep fog. I am tired of making decisions. Tired of thinking anything at all, in fact. I would quite like to just sit still and stare into space and think of nothing. . To add a lil summin summin extra – all this wet weather has made the soles of my feet softer than they were last month. And the cold means that they’re more sensitive. 🥶 Which makes barefootin’ harder than it was a few weeks back. Not ideal when you’ve got mush for brains and little energy in reserve to override new challenges. . Usually, on a rest day from running, I will be sat at my laptop for hours – catching up on run admin & planning ahead. On this week’s day off I… drifted in and out of sleep on the sofa at the home of @adventurequeenmother .I watched 4 Disney movies, ate cheese on toast and didn’t leave the house. 😴 Needless to say, I crashed. Big time. Only Aladdin & Mary Poppins could save me. . As is the case with any challenge, I know these are the hard yards. I accept that. 🙏🏻💕 I’m game for the fight, but I’m weary. I can now see the finish and with that comes a maelstrom of emotion. I can imagine how I’ll feel when I can FINALLY stop running. 🥳 I can imagine what it’ll be like to run in SHOES. 😁 I can *almost* feel those things already. But I’m not there yet. . Two weeks to go… just two little weeks. . #ReadyForANYTHING @theaa_careers
In spite of the setbacks, McNuff maintained an almost impossibly cheerful disposition and social media presence. So if you need some cheering up, you could do worse than to peruse her website or watch her TED-X Talk.
A bonus for Canadians: McNuff has a Canadian connection. In the late fall of 2017 and winter of 2018 she accompanied her partner, British ultrarunner Jamie McDonald, on a cross-Canada tour to promote the book he wrote about his unassisted cross-Canada run in 2014. They travelled in a Dodge Caravan. (McDonald set a new 7-day treadmill record (833 kilometres) in Gloucester, UK in May.)
Stay tuned for our in-depth interview with McNuff, coming up on November 19.