In 2016 Laura Maisey took on a huge journey running from Rome all the way to London….solo! To help others looking to take on their own challenge, Laura has put together the ‘Running Adventure Need to Know’ series, covering everything she wishes she’d known before leaving.
There is a lot you’ll need to get ready for an adventure of any kind, but you’ll need pretty similar kit for a short adventure as for a long one. My run from Rome to London took me 68 days and, apart from a few inexplicably stupid things (like never having scissors the whole time or a jumper, until someone gave me one), I was fairly well-prepared. So here goes…
Body and Mind
I was living nine miles from work at the time I was preparing for my run so I got into the habit of walking/running/cycling this distance. I slowly tried to cut out vehicular transport so that I was only considering my legs in order to get places.
This helped me stay focused when things sometimes got difficult on the road. I would simply think, ‘You have to keep going, you have another 20kms to do.’ People were always offering me lifts and it is much easier to say no if you don’t even consider not using your legs.
Your body is stronger than you think it is. It will usually do what you ask of it, within reason, and actually a fair amount beyond that. My best advice is to just try to be as physical as possible before a human-powered journey. Yes, do long runs, run with a backpack to get used to it etc, but also take the stairs instead of the lift, walk instead of getting the bus that few stops, take a walk on your lunchbreak.
Our bodies are designed transportation. It’s only the ease of current public transport systems that make us recoil in horror when we have to use our legs to get to the shops or work.
Obviously, don’t over-train. I’m not talking about training here necessarily, it’s more about conditioning your body to moving more with less rest time and still being fine.
Getting kitted out
With kit, I often posted on social media (our Facebook group is the perfect place!) with questions about what might be best and, because I have lots of outdoorsy friends, usually someone kind had a spare that they were prepared to lend me. I ended up with great kit by total luck!
Here’s what I had and how useful I found each thing.
Sleeping bag – (two season). Perfect for my trip as I started in summer so I wasn’t too hot at night.
Silk liner – turned my sleeping bag into a 3/4 season. A real life-saver when it got cold.
Lightweight inflatable roll matr – So vital when the weather started to get colder as it gets you off the floor and stops the extreme coldness from getting into your bones. That way you can at least get some sleep.
Inflatable pillow – Considered a luxury by some but seriously the difference between sleeping and not-sleeping for me.
Foil blanket – Sometimes it was the only thing retaining my body heat when I started using a bigger tent.
Hooped bivy/tent – Great until the weather changed then condensation started to become a real problem.
Tent – Grabbed in Italy and served its purpose. It was very basic but I’m not really a high-tech gal.
Camping stove – Useful but struggled to find the gas canister needed for the stove I had.
Extra clothes – I probably took more than I needed but on cold nights I was pleased as I just wore everything and that kept me warm enough to sleep.
Phone – Easily the most important thing I had. I used it for maps, contact, booking places to stay, language difficulties, camera, etc.
Guidebooks – The pilgrim route I used had two guidebooks and these were very important in figuring out accommodation and route.
Diary – Next most important thing after the phone! It was important to process my thoughts and record what was happening. This helped me keep on top of my game mentally, especially on difficult days.
Tin mug – This was my receptacle for pretty much all food and drink consumed on my trip.
Blister plasters – I had pretty ferocious blisters during my first week. I’m unsure whether the plasters actually helped but I certainly felt better when I had them on!
Book – Silly extra weight but sometimes I just needed to escape into the world of words.
Tons of socks – When running/walking, you’ll wear through them so quickly, trust me.
Shoes – I took my normal running shoes (Vivobarefoot minimalist shoes) and a pair of trail shoes.
Clothesline – When you get so stinky that you need to wash out your clothes every night, having a line means there’s a better chance they’ll be dry in the morning, instead of having to put damp clothes on on a cold November morning.
Osprey backpack – What you choose to carry your stuff in is really important. I used a 30l women’s running back by Osprey and, while I had my niggles with it, it was essentially an amazing piece of kit. So important to my everyday comfort.
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Laura first went for a run in November 2015 and since then everything has changed. In September 2016, she will be running from Rome to London, a journey of 1249 miles.