Anadi interviews me about the preparation to run Barefoot Across Spain… No 1

Anadi interviews me about the preparation to run Barefoot Across Spain… No 1

Anadi: I’d like to introduce Julia Chi taylor, who has just run barefoot across Spain….

We are doing a series of videos about the experience. The first one is looking at the preparation for running  Barefoot Across Spain, the second one explores at the physical challenges and the third one investigates the mental, emotional and spiritual aspects of the her journey.

To start with, would it be a good idea to describe a bit about how you came to be running Barefoot Across Spain?

Julia: Yes, it was an interesting process! It was May 2017 – I took a sabbatical from working, and I had this idea that I was going to be vlogging and blogging and jogging (running) – I had an idea that I was going to run all around the world on beaches barefoot….

Anyway, it seems that my feet had other ideas, because in July, I was in Almuñécar, which is where the run across Spain ended…. And the idea came to run the whole length of Spain. The idea arose because I had looked on youtube and saw that a lady – I hope I get her name right. But it’s, I think it’s Lynn Allbut – and she had run across Wales in her bare feet… I watched the video and I really enjoyed it, and I was inspired…

I thought that perhaps l could run barefoot across Spain… Then I said it to you, and you said, ‘Oh, yes, great idea…!’ On the moment that it spoken, it was done! I see that with an idea – it comes into your being, and then you say it to somebody; and  then I wrote down to Maggie and Jack who are friends of ours in Spain up in the Alpujarras, who know Spain very well and Maggie had supported a Zen running camp that I had to run. She had done all the administration for planning…

And so I wrote it down… I texted her, and said… ‘Were I to decide to run barefoot across Spain, would you be interested in a role of support?’ Her immediate response was ‘yes’; and then the idea was born…

Anadi: once he was born it never never reversed right ? Okay, so once once the idea was in motion you followed it through ?

Julia: Yes, absolutely…

Anadi: So obviously you recognised, being the runner that you are and with the experience of running that you’ve had – that you needed to prepare for this one thousand and seventy five kilometres… So there was the preparation for running the distance, because first of all you planned out how you were going to run it – and then obviously you had to plan out how to prepare to run it –  so can you tell us a bit about that?

Julia: Well, perhaps I should first say to anyone who is watching, that the preparation had actually begun ten months previously, in that I was on Famara beach in Lanzarote… I’d seen the surfers running on the beach, warming up for their surfing, without shoes on. I thought ‘I wonder?’… Because my essence is about running barefoot. It had begun as a child, I loved best running barefoot, and even into my teenage years, I ran barefoot on a grass track… It was something that was within me and onwards from then – I’ve always run in very very light shoes… All through my international running career, which was through the late seventies, all the eighties and early nineties –  I was always ran in the lightest of shoes…

then about ten years ago, I was inspired by reading Chris McDougal’s book ‘Born to run’, the book is about the Tarahumara tribe who who don’t wear shoes or some of them strap on rubber from tyres to protect their feet… So I had been wanting to be barefoot again, for a while, but I just hadn’t done it slowly enough – I had tried two time, but I had got injured in the process…

So this time, ten months before deciding to run across Spain, I had taken ‘running barefoot’ very very slowly. I really prepared my feet; so by the time the idea for Barefoot Across Spain arose, my feet were already very, very very prepared to run without trainers… I had already reached being able to run a reasonable mileage of forty miles in a week without shoes on at all – my feet were strong and they were very ready… I’ve trained for marathons all my life, and I know that for endurance really, the essence and most important thing, is to run a lot! I realised that as my feet – well my feet and my body had managed forty miles, that I was ready to train.

They had done it almost by themselves… I thought that forty miles was probably good mileage to start with, because as a marathon runner in the past, I ran very high mileage… I ran weeks and weeks of seventy, eighty, ninety miles a week… But I thought that now I was barefoot, and I haven’t done big mileage for probably five or six years – that I would aim for forty miles a week, and I think one of the key things was that didn’t try to do too much.

I then proceeded to run twenty whole weeks on an average of forty miles each week…

Anadi: And that was all barefoot?

Julia: Yes, it was all barefoot – but if it was cold (sometimes I had come back to England!)  I put on Skinners socks, which really helped me, or if it was particularly rough ground… But essentially the movement with them is the same as being barefoot… I didn’t own shoes, all I had was Skinner’s sock and sometimes waterproof walking socks…

Initially I did twenty weeks with the absolute average of 40 miles..  I’m a very practised endurance runner and I ran purely mileage – I didn’t really do anything fast…  Then I did another eighteen weeks where I upped the mileage and I averaged fifty four miles a week –  some of those weeks I was hitting sixty something miles… 67 was my biggest week, so I never ran really big mileage – given that the event was in fact seven weeks with an average of eighty four miles a week…

I never approached anything like that!  All I did was once, was five days in a row of 25k day in my bare feet. Just to practise one section, of what I was going to do. I knew then that I was fit enough.

Anadi: So obviously, as an experienced runner, you knew in your body, that you could build up to running eighty to ninety miles in a week, but your feet? Preparing your feet to be able to run on a multitude of surfaces. I mean, how did you build your feet up to be able to do that?

Julia: Well, in didn’t in some ways! I mean interestingly, after having done the event, my feet of the strongest they’ve bean… I think I said to you at one point that I felt that this barefoot journey has really only just begun, essentially it needs years and years on end, and I’m not sure that my feet would ever get strong enough to cope with really, really rocky ground or anything, and as I said, some of the barefoot  Tarahumara tribe themselves will put rubber on the bottom of that feet…Of course there are tribes that never worn shoes at all, so their feet will be very strong…

When Maggie and Jack planned the route, they had asked me what I thought I could do in a day… I pulled 25k out of a hat – because it was about sixteen miles each day, and I felt that if  I had shoes on, I would probably have picked twenty five miles, or the marathon distance or something around that. But as I didn’t have shoes on, I pulled 16 miles out of the hat, at a time when I don’t think I’d even run sixteen miles once barefoot!

So at first, every week I tried to do one twelve or  fifteen mile run, just one long run a week. Then I did the section of five days of 25k a day, and I thought, ‘Okay, I can do one, therefore, I can do it…’  Because it was eight sections of five days, with one day off every five days…. Really for my feet… I didn’t really think my body needed the recovery, but maybe it did too! But I felt my feet would need a day off every five days…

So I did 25k a day for five days, then I had a day off – I did that eight times, and then there was three days at the end, when on the 3rd day, I ran into Almuñécar…

You asked me about my feet… I did everything I could to prepare them, in that basically I ran mainly on the road, to go through Spain… I couldn’t go off road, because I knew my feet couldn’t cope… I just did what I could; I  recognised when I was going into the event that my feet were likely to be challenged, and I realised this, because when I practised the five days of 25k  I got they rained on for two of the 5 days, and my feet got soft – of course – and then they got rubbed by the road – and they broke down a bit…

So I thought… ‘This is going to be a challenge, but I’ve done this practise – I’m doing it, I’m going to continue, I will cope with what happens as it happens…’  And this is the whole point of a challenge, that it is in effect harder than you think you can do – so that’s the whole pointed of a challenge!

Anadi: Of course absolutely… You talk about the challenges of your feet, so you mentioned your feet got wet and then, obviously being softer on the ground, I can see that being a challenge… Other challenges, what other challenges did you have?

Julia: I was aware that if the roads were really, really ‘ouchie’, then I would have to walk. I knew that, and I was prepared for that. I knew that there was the possibility of things getting in my feet, but I guessed that I would just deal with that again if it happened… Because I have had glass and thorns in my feet, it happens – but I have always got them out… The body pushes them up and they come to the surface.

Anadi : Yes, they come out, I guess you didn’t know there would be snow?

Julia: I was told in the first few days that might be snow…. So I was aware that my preparation also was one at a level of really practicing what I what I teach. Because I work – as you know – in people’s lives, and I teach that the more we are able to feel absolutely every single thing that occurs, the more able we are to be completely present in each moment,and so to stay in each moment and be better able to live this life, and to let it unfold…

So some of the preparation was that that I was broadcasting quite regularly a live video on Facebook, and I was writing too. I was essentially saying that I was preparing for a pilgrimage, and that I was going to be tested to stay absolutely present – to stay in the step, to feel everything…

The soles of the feet is such a metaphor because they definitely feel everything, and to absolutely be in this life, we must to feel everything that is occurring for us. It’s a very important thing for us to be able to process being present and being therefor fully in relationship with one another. So that was what I was preparing for, and I was also inviting others to join me so that was some of the preparation was to rally enthusiasm and support for the event;  so I was doing press interviews, particularly in Spain…. Another my preparations was learning Spanish; because there was a lot of interest on the radio and television. I even went to a press conference in Granada before I set off where they didn’t speak any English, so it was quite a challenge…!

I was raising money for the Friends of Sussex Hospices in the UK and for Fundación Cudeca, a hospice in Malaga. The hospices were a very relevant charity for me because their philosophy is about living fully, and about asking the people who are dying… What matters to you…? Not what’s the matter with you…? And my life’s work has been in people’s lives, and is about really listening to our inner voice – and really connecting with what matters to us…

So, I think my preparation was multi levelled…

Anadi: Absolutely – so it wasn’t only the physical, and it wasn’t only getting your feet strong enough; there was the actual preparation off organising the event, and there was the emotional preparation – and there was the mental preparation – and then there was also with the press to deal with! And I’m sure they loved you… So it was been quite an adventure even in just the preparation… It seems that the preparation has been an adventure before the adventure.

Julia: Yes the preparation was huge, and of course I must again mention again Jack and Maggie and their part in the preparation, because they planned the route, and  they actually went away on a holiday and looked at some of it – a bit of a working holiday! While they were there they checked out some of the routes, and they changed their mind because the roads were too busy… They spent hours and hours pouring over google maps and looking at the roads – planning the route that was going to go from Suances on the north coast of Spain, right the way three past Madrid and finishing in Almuñécar on the south coast…

They were rigorous in their preparation of the route and also places to stay… A lot of the time we were in very rural Spain, and the longest we stayed in one place was for three days… Maggie booked our hotels and apartments the whole way, because I was publicising and  broadcasting this journey to the world- and a lot of people were coming out to stay for three days, five days, two weeks, five weeks… Whatever time that they chose. Maggie was liaising with them and organising where the best airport for them to fly to was – so there was that preparation too! Before we set off, Maggie and I would have ‘board meetings’ together over breakfast!

Anadi: So on the surface, people see Julia running through Spain but don’t realise actually the preparation is more than just your preparation there is the preparation of the actual route and where you’re going to stay on route, what parts of the route work do they need to be adjusted… So much to think about…

Julia: There was, it was huge, and it was fabulous and because I was publicising it – all the people who were coming out, were also preparing because some of them were saying ‘Right – I must get fit!’… Because they hadn’t necessarily all of them being running so much, and they wanted to be fit enough! So the challenge was also raising everybody else’s levels of fitness. Very exciting!

Anadi: And of course you’ve kept a log of everything and pulled it all together in BarefootAcrossSpain.com – your website, so if people want to look at the whole journey, there it is – and there are videos and blogs of your preparation on the journey – and of everything.

Julia: Yes, but the internet wasn’t very good as we travelled, so I just kept notes of each day, but they were very much notes. However on the ‘Barefoot Across Spain’ website there are lots of videos, lots of photos, it is now quite a comprehensive website, but the blogs are bit short!

I must also of course mention Kathy who is the chair off Friends of Sussex Hospices, because she was also rallying the troops as well very using her own PR section of the charity – and she was gathering enthusiasm and support – putting me on instagram and all sorts of things – to let everybody know… Also Esther of Cudeca, was getting me interviews on the radio – and Angela Rowland who has a charity called the Rowland family Foundation which she runs with two daughters Pru and Ruby pledged to double every penny I raised, which was fabulous! It meant obviously every ten euros or ten pounds that someone donated was immediately twenty…

So there was this body of people gathering together, and it was very much a metaphor for life – representing the journey from birth to death – and how that can be hard at times –  but we’re all in it and we can support one another, join together, but do our own thing…

I also want to say Tony Richards who is married to my oldest friend Wends… Tony really got on board and he set his own fundraising page up… So he got very keen and came out with me for two weeks, which was fabulous.

Anadi: Absolutely so the preparation was multifold, multi-leveled…

Julia: Yes, it became real, a real journey of relationship… Of life, love, challenge… So the preparation was huge…. It was a ten month preparation.

 
   

Welcome to my Barefoot Across Spain Podcasts

   

The Preparation


   

The Physical Challenges Along The Way


   

The Emotional, Mental And Spiritual Aspects Of The Challenge

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