Running the length of New Zealand – Anna McNuff 

Anna McNuff
January 12, 2015
Bluff, New Zealand
June 8, 2015
Cape Reinga, New Zealand

Anna was never anything like those ‘real’ runners on telly – all spindly limbs, tiny shorts and split times – but when she read about New Zealand’s 3,000-kilometer-long (1,911 miles) Te Araroa Trail, she began to wonder… perhaps being a ‘real’ runner was overrated. Maybe she could just run it anyway? 

Traveling alone through New Zealand’s backcountry for 148 days, she scrambled through forests, along ridge-lines, over mountain passes, along beaches and across swollen rivers. Running up to 52 kilometers in a day, she slept wild most nights and was taken into the homes and hearts of the kiwi people in between. 

“Along the way I visited schools and community groups; speaking to over 4,000 kiwi kids about adventure and the great outdoors and raising funds for The Outward Bound Trust to send youngsters on adventures of their very own,” Anna says.

Anna set off from Bluff in the South and ran up to the North, passed the volcanic landscapes and beautiful turquoise lakes of the Tongariro Alpine Crossing, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, while carrying all her belongings in a 7kg backpack.

“I’ll admit that I was nervous about the Tongariro Crossing,” Anna says.

It was to be the last high point of the trip. The final place where I needed to seriously consider the weather, and be prepared to wait out anything less than a clear and fine day. Each year dozens of tourists are rescued from the crossing.

“There’s no denying that Tongariro deserves a due amount of respect. That said, in comparison to the precarious places I’ve found myself scrambling, sliding and crawling along in the South island – Tongariro was a pussycat. And because I found it to be mostly pussycat-like, I had a whale of a time trotting along its wide and beautifully graded pathway. There were even steps should the trail get too steep.”

“There have been days when I’ve cried within 2km, and then again at 3km, and 4km – for no apparent reason other than I couldn’t not. I have sobbed. I have whimpered. 

I have been lonely. I have clung to the coattails of strangers – wrapped their unfamiliar voices around me like a blanket, and finally felt at ease. I’ve read, and re-read old messages in my phone, just to feel a connection with the world beyond my tent. I’ve collected the footprints in the sands beneath me and imagined their makers alongside me.

I have spoken to my stuffed toy. To the cows, to the sheep and to the birds. 

I have sung at the top of my lungs and stopped to dance like nobody was watching (because they weren’t).  

I have thrown up my breakfast on the side of the trail, wiped my mouth and trundled on. 

I have wondered what I’m doing, why I’m doing it and whether it really matters at all. 

I have beat myself up a thousand times in my head for being weak and I have congratulated myself for being strong. 

Because when the cobwebs cling to the dusty pages of this tale, the hardships will fall away. All I will know is that I have placed myself in a state most fragile, so that I might see the world at its most beautiful, and its people at their most kind. All I will know is that I have played an irreplaceable part in a great adventure, and that I have truly lived.”

I hope it comes across that this run was one of the most incredible decisions I ever made. Until next time adventure army – Thank you again for all the support. What a ride.” 

McNuff out xx

Image by tongariro

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