Running the length of 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. Just last week a young German lad slipped and narrowly avoided a fatal fall. Granted, many rescues are due to the fact that the individual is a particularly special breed of muppet, and has decided to take on what is a serious alpine pass in a t-shirt, board shorts and flip flops. But others are well-prepared hikers, who find themselves genuinely caught out. 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. Steps I tell you.”
Confessions of an adventurer: The Halfway Mark
“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 is 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
Anna also wrote a book Pants of Perspective about her whole 6-month journey.
Image by tongariro
Well howdy do – I’m Anna, a British born adventurer, motivational speaker, influencer and author. I was recently named by Condé Nast Traveller as one of the 50 most influential travelers of our time, and by the Guardian as one of the top modern female adventurers. I am also proud to be the UK Ambassador for Girl Guiding, and the co-founder of Adventure Queens; the UK’s fastest growing women’s adventure community.
I get my kicks by traveling the world on long, human-powered journeys, and in sharing those journeys with others. When not running up mountains or sleeping in the wild, I encourage others to grab life by the balls (non-scientific term), and speak and write about the importance of adopting a growth mindset (scientific term), in everything we do.