Where did I prepare…?

The preparation took place all over the world, really and truly…

Looking back, it was an incredible journey… And the goal, the objective, meant that I had to run a lot more than usual, and so I experienced many places in a wonderful way, because my feet got to know them.

And, of course, because the feet were bare, I found that I absorbed the energy of the land in a magical and an amazing way. I have always experienced this anyway, even before I was barefoot – my way of being in places is to run in them, to sit and have coffee – and be there…

I’m not someone who enjoys sightseeing in the traditional way. I rather like running past a church or a cathedral – and maybe dipping in and sitting for a few minutes – or just running past the beautiful palaces. I have been into magnificent historical buildings and museums at different times in my life, but in truth, now, I prefer to be in the energy of the land.

I like to see the vistas. I like to feel that hear the sounds of the people speaking. I like to sit in squares and drink coffee – or sit cozily indoors when it’s raining and cold outside…

And so where did I run?

Where did I head out to run during those thirty eight weeks of preparation? What places – what lands did my feet touch?

England… One of the places was England… When the idea arose within me, I was in Spain but then I came back to England a few times and experienced London where there was verdant grass, big green grassy fields and parkland too.

We were in North London – Winchmore Hill – and there’s a lovely cricket ground there… I absolutely love the feeling off the grass under my feet – totally love it! And there is also nearby a bigger playing fields, nearly two miles all the way around…

The feeling of the grass was magical under my feet… of course there were ‘ouchie’ bits under the trees, with twigs and tussocks of mud – places which are not as comfortable, and thrice on that ground I got stung by a bee! But still the feeling of grass is one of the most delightful…

There was a running track too nearby, which I enjoyed…. I was even given the code so that I could let myself in whenever I wanted, by a groundsman who was there!

I can’t remember it – but there’s a code – Oh no, I wish I could remember it – I wrote it down in my old phone! Never mind there’s a track nearby and I let myself onto it and ran repetitions of a 1000 meters in my bare feet.

In effect my training was a lot of play – because I had set myself the mileage, so I reckoned I just needed to run and enjoy them…

So in England I did just that – a lot on the grass and then out on the roads, and around and about in the parks – Groveland park and Trent Park, and then into Central London too sometimes to run around Hyde park – and my feet got stronger. My body got stronger.

I was also in England in the winter, and it was very cold, very snowy, and pretty rainy too. I got some waterproof socks, but they wore out very quickly…

My feet got very, very cold and I remember once running a ten mile run, and I was not sure whether I would be able to complete it – because my feet were like blocks of ice!

But magically they recovered and I was able to finish the run. Also in that time in London, I took my socks off for awhile and stood in the snow to feel the energy and the sensation under my feet… It was fun to go to England…

Another training ground in England was Richmond Park…

I love that park so much. I first circled it when I was 21 years old… There wasn’t the track to guide us round the edge that is there now, a lovely cinder, gravel track, easy to run on, wide and scrunchy… But not so great for bare feet!

The track is 7 miles long and an excellent route through which to enjoy the park, to see the deer grazing in clusters and huge herds, the rabbits hopping, cyclists whizzing by on the roads close by, other runners circling the same way and the other….

Wild countryside meeting urban….

But this time, because my feet were bare I ran mainly through the centre; vast expanses of green grass greeted me and I revelled in its dewy September dampness – the sun still warm with the after glow of summer…

One day I got lost and asked a woman pushing her baby in a pram, how to find my way out again… She was intrigued by my naked feet, asked me many questions and then said

‘I love shoes, you must think that bad…’

‘No, no, I replied, ‘my message if I have one… is “to thine own self be true” – so that we might experience what we are pulled towards to experience… It is through awareness and experience that we can learn to be fully present and to fully clear to the purity of our own minds… No doctrine can take us there, it is solely our own experience and our own investigation that will lead us to truth; to the experience of our true nature…’

I also was in Almuñecar, which was the place where I was finished my run. So I trained there too for some of the time. I was there in the sunny sun of June… And I was there in October too, where the weather was very lovely and the sea, quite warm. There is a cycle path there which is green and smooth – and a track of sand, and there’s, a rugged path up the side of the cliff… And also a old riverbed that’s dried up and was so painful in my socks. But when I got some Xero sandals in January, then I experienced freedom again.

getting my Xero shoes really opened up the doors for me, because I had been limited – and kept away from rugged tracks because my feet couldn’t take that type of terrain at running pace.

Anadi and I had been here in the mountains in July just as the idea had sprouted – and we walked ten miles in our bare feet across the mountains, but it took four hours and it really was quite ‘ouchie’. So in January, I got some Xero sandals…

And I was so very glad of them, when I travelled to the mountains in February and March… I regularly ran a route of 13 miles, it took a long time as it climbed up high, before winding it’s way down the mountain again…

The weather was so varied in February and March in the mountains; some days bright blue skies with the sun warm… I trained in a vest and shorts and other days the rain and snow swept in and I shivered and froze when I stopped for just a few minutes to record a live video for Facebook….

Another place that was absolutely delightful to train in for this event, was in Conil de la Frontera , which is on the West coast of Spain. There is a beach that is seventeen kilometers long, and it is absolutely my idea of heaven.

The interesting thing is that I had planned during my sabbatical, to be running on beaches all around the world… Because I love to run on beaches. However, this was not to be, as my feet decided, they would like to run across Spain, and after the event, I now understand why…!

But I have to say, that beaches are a place of absolute joy for me. I am somebody who loves the coast. I love to run on the sand. I love the limitlessness of a long beach, where there is no end… On Conil de la Frontera, I completed my longest barefoot run so far, I went up to fifteen miles for the first time, and that was very joyous. It’s, very hot day, I remember.

We were near Medina Sedona which is the birthplace of my Spanish teacher Maricarmen… We went there one day while we were in Conil and we climbed high up to the castle and stood appreciating the glorious vista and then we had our lunch looking out over the town it was very, very beautiful indeed.

So I trained in Almuñécar, the place I would finish and it was for awhile I was training there, up and down the sea front, and up and down the steps to the Cross high up on one of the three big ‘stones’ that are landmarks on that part of the coast – and I also ran up into the hills – I discovered a road that climbs and climbs and climbs – out of Almuñécar, and heads up into the mountains…

I love the coast and it was while I was there that I learned that Laurie Lee on his journey across Spain from the North to the South had spent time in Almuñécar – he had stayed there a while and had written books there too.

I found this quite a magical thing because he has always been my inspiration about exploring Spain on foot – so much so that when I first met Anadi, I gave him a copy of  ‘As I walked out one midsummer morning’ as a gift – there must have been something already within me, that knew about my future journey too, from the North to the South of Spain.

And so in all these places I ran. I just went running.

I saw the year go by… Grovelands park, where I had run when the leaves were green and fresh and verdant, and now here I was when they had fallen to the ground and the trees were bare.

I experienced the changing seasons too in Almuñécar, too, from the July through to October and I was there again in January, and even then, the weather was beautiful and sunny at times, but very cold in the evenings and sometimes there was a lot of rain.

The rain had started to come to Spain and that was for sure.

When I was up to the mountains in October, a huge great tremendous storm came in and I wasn’t one hundred percent well because in the mountains I seem to be affected by the pollen – and because of this, it was very hard to run and so I did what I could and I broke my running sometimes into two times in a day…

I walked quite a lot of it too, and at the weekends I went down to Almuñécar – because I’ve discovered that if I go up to the mountains – really and truly I can only last a week and then my body needs a rest from the altitude, or it needs the sea – so I’ve developed a way of being up there for a few days…

I like to be in the Alpujarras because it’s very very beautiful – and there is something very special about Pitres for me…  And my Spanish teacher Maricarmen lives there, I love to do ‘one on one’ intensive Spanish – and I love the breakfasts sitting and looking over the mountains – but my body is more weak with less energy in it’s field, and so being in the mountains is always more hard for my running….

One day when I was running along the mountain path, four wild boar leap directly in front of me… One two, three, four there they went jump jump, jump jump; and it was very special time because I was very much alone… The preparation was solitary which was somehow part of the whole process for me, to be just be feeling the land under my feet preparing for this pilgrimage

Where else?

I remember I went to Morocco and I ran in Marrakesh and I had to get up very early at 6am to run before the heat of the day – because the heat in Marrakech was reaching very high temperatures.

I was there in August and it was reaching 42degrees during the day, and my feet couldn’t take this heat – my feet couldn’t walk on the land, and even my little shoes, my little beach shoes I had then, were very difficult to walk in… The heat burnt my feet!

So I would get up at six o’clock and run through the streets and I felt very good at that time in the morning and was happily running eight miles, nine and ten miles.

Then we went Essaouira which is on the coast, with a beach, which is seventy kilometers long…

I absolutely love this beach – it’s an interesting land Morocco because it’s very chauvinistic, and the women are very much covered in their dress – it’s a very different land, and so a western woman is a very different creature…

We were staying in the Medina and so each day, I had to walk through the Medina in my shorts and vest in the mornings, and this was an unusual sight because the women are robed… Although there are changes too, freedom for women is emerging; and quite a lot Morrocan women put their thumbs up to me as I was running and I even saw some of them were running in their robes too…

But, it is still the law is that the man has to look after the women and his family, and so although some women are fighting for freedom – some are staying very much with the status quo.

So I would go through the Medina and I was always happy to reach the beach, where somehow it’s very different…

There the Arab ponies are galloping – and the camels were meandering – and many young Arab men were doing their exercises with their incredible agility and strength and flexibility. I found them very inspiring, lots of football was being played on the beach too, many of the players in their bare feet.

I ran many miles on Essaouira beach; the wind is unbelievably difficult there at times – very very ferocious winds but I got used to this and I ran miles in Essaouira – miles and miles… I think I hit one of my highest weeks during my stay there…

Where else did I run?

I went to Gozo, a little island off Malta where Anadi, as a child, used to go on holiday with his family,  it’s a very small island, nine miles by four miles so I was able to practice running across a country!

I did a lot of training there, although the weather was terrible! We had rain and cold and very unusual inclement weather… I think a lot of Europe had inclement weather! But I did do good running and I put my socks on quite a bit because I could run better on the roads, which were quite ‘ouchie’…

So I practiced a lot in my Skinners socks, just so that I could get more miles really and truly… It was good training – but not incredibly good weather!

I had just come from the mountains where I’d had quite a process  – I was not well really, for the whole three weeks that I was there.

I lost my voice, and I couldn’t breathe well; I was very ‘reduced’ and let go of a lot of myself that controlled anything…. And I knew who I was because I was there alone it was a very powerful process for me…

So therefore when I went to Gozo, I had booked in two long treatments with Gerhard, who is an incredible body worker and I was able to build on the inner work I’d done in October in the mountains… Because I recognised that this journey of doing a lot of training was very clearing space for me, especially as I was doing a lot of it alone

Once January 2018 came Anadi needed to be in London because his business needed him to be there…

I needed to be in Spain, because I was learning to speak Spanish – and it felt important that I did my training around the land I was trying to learn the language of…

I wanted to be able to speak with the people as I journeyed barefoot across their land…

As it happened I needed to speak Spanish to speak to the press and to the television and the radio… It was an important thing for me to be there, but also for the both of us to be connected to our own projects, and to commit fully to our own lives.

It has deepened our marriage and our relating…

One place I haven’t mentioned of course is Lanzarote… I did a lot of training in Lanzarote, an island I love very much… A Spanish island – there’s something about Lanzarote that’s very special to me – and I managed to do a lot of training there.

I trained along the beach. I love Famara beach very much; Also I trained across that Volcanic land because I found in my Skinners socks, that I was able to cope with the quite challenging terrain.

I covered many miles there, and I did quite a lot alone which was an important part of my training…

Another part of my training was to include a few races which hadn’t anticipated…

I ended up doing a 5k race in Lanzarote in October, and I ran 21.52 in my socks… This was the first time I’d raced properly as a barefoot being…

I then did a 10k in Valencia in the November, and I ran 44 minutes and 30 seconds – again in my socks.

I was surprised by my form… Then I decided I would run a half marathon in the Christmas time, in December in Lanzarote and I just ran around, to see what happened and I finished in 1 hour 45 minutes…

So then I entered a half marathon in Torremolinos in the February because I thought I could probably run 1.40 – and I ran round in 1.39…

I’m glad I did some races because the essence of my being is a racer!

I love it so much and although I was doing a different journey…

But now, having emerged the other side of Barefoot Across Spain I find the racer in me has returned, with greater freedom and fun in my soul…

And I am light of foot and heart, ready to investigate once more on the racing road….!