A crowd waited patiently outside Shaftesbury Library on Friday morning to meet an adventurer who is running barefoot across the UK.
Anna McNuff says she enjoys ‘slightly bonkers’ journeys. She is covering the equivalent of 100 marathons before reaching London on 10th November.
Ellie Damon had travelled from Martock with fellow members of the BHAM Runners to meet their hero. Motcombe Running Club crew were also wearing their club tops as they milled around – part of a 30-strong crowd waiting to send Anna on her way from Shaftesbury.
“I’ve come here to join Anna on her crazy adventure across the UK,” said Ellie. “We’re all having massive fun. She’s doing it for the Guides and she’s running with the AA, who sponsor her. She’s an amazing lady.”
Then Anna came running around the corner, heading from Angel Lane car park, to massive applause. “Here she is, with the pink hair,” exclaimed Ellie excitedly.
“There are loads of you,” shouted Anna, with clear delight. She had actually arrived in Shaftesbury from Yeovil on Thursday night and had arranged to spend the night as a guest of Clare Robertson of Salisbury Street. Anna is the sister-in-law of Clare’s daughter.
She finished Thursday’s leg of her round-Britain run with an ascent of Gold Hill. “I had to do it,” said Anna.
She has been on an incredible journey so far. “I started on the Shetland Islands on 2nd June. I have run about 1,830 miles. I have another month to go and finish in London,” explained Anna. “I’m doing it for Girl Guiding. I am talking to young women all the way along, trying to show them that girls can do adventures and they are a bit stronger than we realise.”
Anna wasn’t able to arrange a talk in Shaftesbury although she had intended to. Her nearest speaking engagements have been in Yeovil and she will also speak in Poole. But she says that Shaftesbury has been one of the highlights so far. “I’ve never been here before. If you saw the video I took, there were a lot of comments like ‘Shaftesbury’s lovely’. I am sad I am only going to be here for one night. I love all the villages surrounding Shaftesbury as well. You do live at the top of a very big hill though. I didn’t know that,” she smiled.
There was a good turnout in our hilltop town, but I asked Anna whether she has felt alone at times on her solo barefoot running challenge. “It’s lonely in that nobody else can do the work for you. It gets very exhausting and I’m pretty tired at this point. I am five months in. I am ready to be done but you just have to keep going.”
Anna became interested in minimalist and barefoot running after spending time in New Zealand, where many children are accustomed to playing without shoes or trainers. On her website she writes that part of her adventure is seeing whether she can coax her feet into doing what they were truly built to do, instead of a lifetime of being squished up in shoes.
I had to ask how her feet were. “They are like panther’s paws,” she said. “They are all right actually. I had expected them to be a bit hairy and look like Hobbit feet, but they have not got hairy yet. They are okay,” she said, adding, “I have had a few issues along the way but nothing too dramatic. They have coped really well. That’s the human body for you, isn’t it?”