What: Fastpacking 7000km across Europe. From Tarifa Spain, mainland Europes most southerly point, to Cape Nordkyn Norway, mainland Europes most northerly point. The equivalent of 165 marathons.
Where: Traveling through; Spain, France, Germany, Denmark, Sweden, Finland and Norway.
How: Running, off-road as much as possible, carrying just the essentials on my back to be self-sufficient. (Tent, stove etc)
Who: Just little old me, solo and unsupported.
When: Starting on the 12th of January, I aim to finish in approx 7 months, which equates to covering 1000km a month.
For: The ‘Free To Run’ charity, who use the power of sport and adventure to change lives.
What is Fastpacking: “Put simply, fastpacking is the hybrid of running, hiking and ultralight backpacking. It’s a multi-day running trip carrying the bare essentials. Underpinning the activity is the principle of ‘fast and light’ – taking only what you need to stay safe and happy, and nothing more. This allows you to travel further and faster in a day compared with hiking, by running whenever the terrain allows it.”
Follow along with the interactive map below
How the idea came about…
I really wanted the next adventure to be a ‘journey style’ that was new to me, something that would continue to push me out of my comfort zone. I decided on running.
The remote, wild and untamed mountains of Norway had been high-up on my dream destination list for a long time, so running the length of the country quickly became the plan. I then thought well if I’m running that far, then surely it makes sense to just keep on running right the way across Europe. A Forest Gump moment maybe!
With a little bit of research, I found that going South to North would suit me best from a weather point of view. Plus it means I will be heading towards my dream destination which will help with motivation during the inevitable low points.
“It’s impossible” says pride
“It’s risky” says experience
“It’s pointless” says reason
“Give it a try” whispers your heart
I will be carrying a backpack filled with my cooking and camping equipment so that I can be self-sufficient. The bag is bulkier and a little heavier than I would have hoped, but this is due to starting the journey through the winter months… and I feel the cold!! A big pack will make running pretty slow and difficult, particularly early on whilst my body is still adapting to its new daily life, so maybe ‘Shuffling North’ would be a more appropriate name.
I love exploring new places and have a naturally curious and adventurous personality, however, I am also very goal driven. I have a NEED to challenge myself, to push my boundaries and to find out what I’m made of. I therefore, want to travel as fast as my little legs will carry me (okay so my legs aren’t actually that little at nearly 6ft tall). I have a set myself a target of covering a minimum of 1000km a month, as I’m not really a runner I have no idea if this is a realistic target for me, but there is only one way to find out!
Throughout the journey, I will be predominantly solo. A few friends have offered to join me to offer their comradery, but other than that it’s just me.
My chosen route is predominantly along trails. You could definitely choose a quicker and more direct route north if you run along the road networks. However, that didn’t really appeal, I think running through the countryside will be more enjoyable. All the fresh air, the quiet, the calm, the green spaces, must be good for the soul.
Two of the bridges from Denmark to Sweden will not allow me to cross on foot as they are motorways. So I have chosen a route which takes the two shortest ferry crossings possible (a total of 19km). I have decided that I will then run an additional 19km loop once I am in Sweden to make up for this. I don’t have to, this isn’t a race or a record attempt which has rules, but doing this extra loop just sits well with me. I will then know I have done the best I can to travel the full distance on foot. Of course, it goes without saying, that if the Danish authorities would like to change their minds and allow me to run along the hard shoulder of both the motorway bridges of Oresund and Storebaelt then that would be amazing!!
The only other option to take no ferries at all involved going via Russia and Finland. However, this means I would miss almost ALL of Norway! I contemplated it briefly, but concluded that it was a ridiculous idea, the entire point of this trip was Norway. For a journey of this length, it is so important to do what you are passionate about because it is the passion and fire in your belly that you can draw upon when times are hard. So I’m sticking to my original plan because my heart lies in Norway.
I am proud to be representing the charity Free To Run and am looking forward to the possibility of working with the charity on the ground after I have finished my journey.
I wouldn’t be who I am without sport and adventure. In fact, I can’t imagine a life without them. They have taught me everything I know about myself and pretty much everything I know about the world. Far more than my years in education ever did.
Of course, I am so very fortunate that I am physically fit and able to run, cycle and explore. However, I perhaps forget that I should be even more appreciative that society in the part of the world I was born, says I am free to run, cycle and explore. In fact, we are told to, for both physical and mental health benefits.
We don’t live in a perfect world and there are still large parts of it where women and girls don’t have the opportunity to participate in any form of sport due to widespread discrimination, traditional cultural beliefs, and restrictive gender norms. In areas of conflict, violence and insecurity further constrain their ability to engage in public life and their access to sport and physical activity is non-existent.
Free to Run uses adventure sports to support women and girls living in these areas, developing them into community leaders. Providing them with the tools to succeed and support them to transfer those successes to their everyday lives because they can and will be a force for positive change.
They work to create a safe and supportive environment where women and girls can engage in sporting activities. They help to create sustainable sports clubs, including organizing outdoor sports camps and running events. Where possible, they develop opportunities for women and men to participate in sporting events together.
If you would like to support Free To Run and are in a position to donate please use the donate button below. It could be a donation of any amount, but maybe a starting point could be £7/€7 – the equivalent of just £1/€1 for every 1000km I hope to cover. This money will go to providing SAFE transportation to areas safe for running and training, buying culturally appropriate running clothes, race entry fees, through to providing Program Officers who lead coaching and training practices for the Free to Run sports teams.
If you are not in the position to donate, then perhaps you could you tell your friends and colleges about the charities great work, as it is just a tiny charity trying to make a massive difference.
A big thank you for your continued support