My Running Life: Anna McNuff

Once upon a time Anna McNu represented Great Britain at rowing. Dogged by injury she retired from the sport in her mid- twenties and began darting around the world in search of endurance challenges. She has now written a book,The Pants of Perspective, about her latest great adventure, a 2,000-mile run across New Zealand.

THE THING I LOVE MOST ABOUT AN ADVENTURE IS THE UNPREDICTABILITY. Although I’ll have a rough idea of the route and the end goal, I don’t know what’s going to happen ve miles down the road.

IN NEW ZEALAND, I WOULD BREAK DOWN MY DAY INTO 10K CHUNKS. In my head, I was only ever running 10K at a time. If I hadn’t, I would’ve freaked myself out – running 2,000 miles is a long, long way. ‘Only 1,991 miles to go, Anna!’ I think I would have cried.

IT ALL STARTED WITH RACE TO THE STONES. It’s 100km and I did it on no training. I’d read [Chris McDougall’s] Born to Run, become fascinated by the Tarahumara Indians and convinced myself I too could run hundreds of miles at a time. I lost eight toenails on the day. It took me 13 and a half hours to complete and I’ve never been in so much pain. The following morning, I wrote an email to myself, beginning with, ‘Dear Anna, never do anything that stupid again.’

MY PARENTS BOTH ROWED FOR GREAT BRITAIN IN THE 1980 OLYMPICS. I rowed for quite a while, too, and that gave me a tough mind-set and a good set of lungs. But rowers are notorious for being quite bad runners: we’re cumbersome and used to sitting on our bums to do exercise.

I LOVE RUNNING IN FANCY DRESS. I’ve done Hadrian’s Wall dressed as a Roman soldier, and the Jurassic Coast dressed as a dinosaur. Next, I really want to run the West Highland Way dressed as a Highland cow. I’m trying to find new ways to learn about Britain while having a bit of fun.

I DON’T OWN A GARMIN. And I’m only on Strava by mistake. I had so much of that kind of thing in rowing – watching numbers on the dial – that, for me, running is not about splits. Rather, I use it as a way to get places.

THE MORE WOMEN WHO GET OUT THERE, THE BETTER. My target audience for the book is incredibly capable women who are just slightly lacking in a bit of self- con dence. I feel like the tide is turning, and more women are doing these kinds of challenges, but we have to keep the momentum up. 

ANNA’S ADVENTURE CHECKLIST

JUST START - Tell some friends, put £20 a week in a bank account – anything that tips you from ‘this is just an idea’ to ‘this is absolutely happening’.

DON’T OVER-PLAN Eighty per cent of your planning will go out the window. Plan to the point where you feel safe, but don’t overdo it.

BELIEVE IN YOURSELF Realise you’re capable of more than you think. We all have survival instincts. Have confidence in yourself. 

 


The Pants of Perspective (Rocket 88, £9.99) is out now. Follow Anna on Instagram and Twitter