Barefoot and Stupid

By Aleks Kashefi

My lungs burn, my muscles scream at me to stop and I feel like I’m fighting with gravity and the ground with each step. BEEP!

That’s my signal to stop. I double over, feeling sick, out of breath and head spinning from the exertion. “How on Earth am I going to do another 7 of these??”

Truth is, I’d jogged… I hate this term! I’d ran for no more than 30s and I was already feeling like death! “Why on Earth would anyone do this for fun?”

Fast forward....

I’ve handed in my notice at a secure and well paid job, I’ve reduced my belongings to the bare minimum and am training hard to set a world first by becoming the first person to run the length of Europe in one effort, travelling 4,750 miles self-supported in under 6 months. More than that, I am a barefoot (minimalist) runner, so I will be covering the 4,750 miles either in bare feet or in minimalist running sandals! So is it possible to do all this after starting running, less than 4 year ago, using a couch to 5k app on a mobile phone??

At 34 years of ageI was unfit, I was overweightwith an ever growing waistline andthe world I’d created for myself and the dreams I’d nurtured were falling apart around me and although I didn’t know it at the time, I was taking slow and deliberate step into the pit of depression. With my normality crumbling around me, I turnedto running to get me out of a hole. It started with a free couch to 5km app and early mornings of death. Then it seemed logical to get the 10km version of the app. This quickly became a half marathon and then marathon app, moving me to longer stints of running. And throughout the whole process finding out more and more about barefoot or minimalist running.

Then came the next step... just run barefoot! Weirdly, it actually worked and I’ve not really gone back, running at most with some thin sandals strapped to my feet. This minimalist and e icient philosophy has followed me through skateboarding and climbing, and a er a dabble with some ultra running, I decided to extend the ideas to running the length of the country barefoot, carrying everything I thought I needed to complete the 1,200 mile route self-supported. Turns out, I was going to love it despite getting severe Achilles tendinitis early on, breaking a toe and getting food poisoning near the end of the run. Thirty-eight days later I’d finished, having seen some incredible parts of the country and le wondering what on Earth I coulddo next.

Through a chance conversation, I learnt about a trail called the E1, which runs from the top of Norway, through Europe and ends in Rome, with plans of extending the route to Palermo in Sicily. This now seemed like the next logical step.

Now, with 3 months to go before I start at Nordkap, in Norway, kit testing is being done, training is underway and sponsors are taking an interest. So, at the age of 37,I’m heading for the biggest challenge of my life! Running over 4,750 miles along the length of Europe, the E1 Euro Trail snakes from Nordkap in Norway through six countries to Siracusain Sicily.Passing through the Norwegian and Swedish fjords, the Swiss Alps and nally the Italian Apennines carrying the minimal kit I need to complete the journey self-supported, and claim the position of being the first person to complete the E1 trail route in one single effort.To achieve this I will be covering on average a distance of 30 – 40 miles with around 8kg of kit on my back, finding food where I can, wild camping the length of Europe and having to cross the Swiss Alps and the Apennine of Italy in winter!

Alongside my personal challenge and to encourage ordinary people that they can achieve extraordinary things, the aim is also to raise over £50,000 for Stroke Association, UK Mountain Rescue and Thomas Theyer Foundation, starting and beginning to share the adventure starting on the 3rd of August.

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