Anna McNuff, 34, has taken on the ‘brutal’ challenge of running the equivalent of 100 marathons across Britain barefoot.
The BarefootBritain adventure is 2,620 miles and is estimated to take five months to complete. The motivation is to inspire girls to become more adventurous and ditch self-doubt.
McNuff is no stranger to extreme challenges previously the British adventurer has run the length of New-Zealand and cycled 11,000 miles through North America.
As an ambassador of Girlguiding UK, McNuff wanted to make regular stops to Girl Guide groups across the country to speak with them. Since, the start of the challenge she has already visited thirty groups across the UK.
She said: “I knew I wanted to do another run and I wanted to talk to girls about challenges and pushing themselves. If I do a run in trainers, I am not being honest that I am pushing myself enough. So, the thought of running barefoot across the country just did not leave me alone.”
In order to intensively train for the event, the former GB rower had to complete a gruelling 18-month process. Despite being physically fit, it was vital that she shed all protection to toughen up her feet for all different types of terrain.
McNuff worked alongside the founder of The Running Lab, Christian Poole, where she trained by changing her running style to adapt to being barefoot. Throughout the training period, she had to wear minimalist trainers.
As part of the training journey, McNuff completed the London Marathon barefoot. It was there she learnt that running without any support increases the impact significantly, and therefore putting additional pressure on both the hips and knees.
She said: “Before the challenge, I felt full of anxiety, once I had signed myself up I started having crippling self doubt. You are trying to deal with so many unknowns. I started running in trainers and then socks, before going barefoot over a period of 18 months. When I started the challenge in June, I was around 50 miles a week, but now, I am able to complete 22 miles a day.”
With 7,000 nerve endings and 26 bones in the feet, the runner is testing new limits of endurance she has never witnessed before.
Starting in the Shetland islands and finishing in London. The route will meander through small villages, across moors and along beaches. The run will cross over A-roads and cobbled country-lanes. The route will include parts of Ireland, Jersey, Guernsey, Isle of Man and Isle of Wight.
On average, each marathon so far has roughly taken around six hours to finish. However, this is entirely dependent on whether McNuff is struggling over gravel or flying across flat grassland. The global adventurer has completed 1,070 miles so far, and is currently in North West.
She said: “You have to set the challenge at a point where you feel terrified and excited. But you still start it anyway. I think the biggest thing is the uncertainty and doubt and when people take on a challenge they can quickly feel very alone.”
“For me cities are way harder than anything. In the country there is way less cars and man made items. As I approach the city there is a lot of cars and people and glass and grit and debris.”
Prior to the challenge, McNuff suffered with knee problems and used trigger point therapy as a form of muscle relief.
“I started the run with pain under the arch of my foot, but I have always started adventures with an injury. I think that is what the brain does, puts all your fear into an injury. But it disappeared pretty quickly.”
The run has currently been halted due to an injury on McNuff's foot, a cut on the right foot just under the toe pad. She noticed the excruciating pain whilst stood giving a talk. She knew an infection had occured.
“I can deal with a lot of pain, but because I have built up so many layers on my feet, it was like the infection went through multiple layers of skin.”
Despite the infection, the extreme runner is back on track to be running within the next week to complete the remaining miles to London on this ‘brutal, beautiful and surprising’ challenge.