A retired professional athlete has achieved the incredible feat of running 2,620 miles across the UK barefoot.
Anna McNuff ran 2,620 miles – the equivalent of 100 marathons – in approximately five months.
She left the Shetland Isles in June 2019, and yesterday she finished her journey after crossing the finish line in Cannizaro Park, Wimbledon.
Her run took her through Scotland, across the border to Newcastle, and through the Pennines to Yorkshire. She then headed to Liverpool and took a ferry to Belfast, ran the Northern Irish coast, took a ferry back to Wales and travelled through Nottingham before heading towards Bristol.
The last stages of her journey saw her cross over to the Isle of Wight before heading to London via Surrey.
She said: “I’ve had a quiet obsession with minimalist running for a few years now, ever since I read Born to Run [a 2010 non-fiction book about ultra runners, written by Christopher McDougall] and spent time in New Zealand - where many of the kids run around barefoot.
“Feet are quite the complex machine, with over 7,000 nerve endings in each sole and 26 bones in each foot. This adventure is a huge experiment – I’m looking to see if I can coax my feet into doing what they were truly built to do, after a lifetime of being squidged up in shoes.”
While minimal running involves wearing lightweight shoes with reduced cushioning and reduced or no arch support, barefoot running takes this concept one step further.
While she described her journey as “extraordinary”, it was not without its hurdles – including stepping in excrement.
“It’s been a wonderful, weird, difficult and extraordinary five months,” she said. "I have stepped in poo, glass - and even on a dead rabbit. You don’t have to run 100 marathons barefoot to have an adventure.
"But you do have to take that first step out of your comfort zone. I know that if girls can take those first adventurous steps, then they'll see what they are truly capable of,” she added.
McNuff is the daughter of Olympian parents, and has previously competed in rowing professionally, winning a bronze medal while representing Great Britain at the 2007 European Championships.
But she decided to break away from professional sports after sustaining a series of injuries in her twenties – in favour of becoming a full-time adventurer. She has previously cycled through all 50 US states and run the length of New Zealand.
She is also an ambassador for UK Girl Guiding.
She spoke to numerous Girl Guide groups during her run. Her aim is “to show girls and young women that taking risks and doing things that scare them, big or small, can be incredible. And being a girl should not stop you from doing anything.”