Interview with Josephine Anselin – Running Across Scotland
- Jakarta, Indonesia
Before we dive into asking you all about your amazing adventure (running across Scotland!), please can you tell us a bit about yourself and your running background – when and why did you start running?
When I was 17 my dad asked me if I wanted to run a marathon with him. I had never taken part in a road race before but I had run a few cross-country races at school and I was swimming a lot at the time so I figured I would manage 26.2 miles. I really didn’t have a clue about marathon running (I signed up less than a month before the race, my longest run prior to the marathon was about 15km and I ate a protein bar and McDonald French fries during the race) but I was so excited about running a marathon. I ended up absolutely loving the race. A few months later (after giving my massive marathon induced blisters time to heal) I joined a cross-country team. I have been hooked on running ever since.
Tell us a bit about your adventure across Scotland
Last spring I went on a mini running adventure across Scotland. I ran 121km along the Great Glen Way from Fort William on the West Coast to Inverness on the East Coast. It was a great way to disconnect from the busy-ness of life for a few days. I spent three days running through some spectacular Scottish Highland scenery, along lochs and canals, on beautiful forest trails and through small typical highland villages. The landscape was stunning. I really think Scotland is one of the most beautiful countries in the world.
What attracted you to the idea of running across Scotland?
I don’t know why but I really love coast-to-coast journeys. There is something super satisfying about crossing a mass of land under human power. I love the feeling of achievement you get when spotting the ocean again at the end of the journey. The decision to go on this trip was a bit of a last minute decision and I did not have a massive amount of time available so since I lived in Scotland at the time running across Scotland seemed like the perfect option.
How did you select your route? Did you plan for particular trails or landmarks?
I decided to take the easy option and follow the Great Glen Way route rather than making up my own route from scratch. The Great Glen Way route is well marked and I had a rough idea of which lochs and villages I should be hitting during the day. I also took a map with me but I only looked at it once or twice.
You did your trip self-supported. How did you plan the logistics?
The logistics were actually pretty straightforward given the short duration of the trip. I also decided to stay in hostels instead of camping wild to reduce the amount of kit I needed. So in terms of logistics planning prior to the trip all I did was to buy a map, look up hostels along the route, figure out roughly where I would stay each night, where I would be able to resupply on food/water along the way and figure out how much food and water I needed to take with me on day 1.
What did you pack? Was there anything you missed or took and didn’t need?
I really tried to keep my gear to a minimum because running with a heavy backpack is not much fun (you end up “shuffling” rather than running).
This is what I took with me for the wet and cold weather:
- waterproof trousers
- waterproof jacket
Those items are usually a must in Scotland but by chance, I picked the three sunniest days of the year for this trip so I never used any of them.
And clothes for the evening consisted of:
- a pair of leggings
- compression recovery socks
- long-sleeve top
The route is very well marked so I didn’t end up using the GPS.
- toothbrush + toothpaste
- mini hairbrush
- tiger balm (tiger balm fixes everything!)
- headlamp – [We highly recommend the Petzl Reactik + headtorch]
- survival blanket (you never know)
- compass + map
- journal + pen
- water bottle
- spiky massage ball
Were there any surprises along the way?
I had not run long distances for a few weeks prior to the trip because of an injury so I was not sure how my body would react. But the kilometres just flew by without any pains or aches. I think I was enjoying the views so much that the running bit didn’t feel like an effort at all. The other surprise was the weather: sunshine for three days. That doesn’t happen very often in Scotland 😉
What bit of kit were you most thankful to have with you?
My spiky massage ball! I take it on all my multi-day running or cycling trips. It’s great for loosening up muscles (I tend to get tight glutes when I run with a backpack) in the evening and it takes up almost no space in my backpack.
What were the highlights for you?
One highlight for me was the portion of the route which runs along Loch Ness. I took the “High Route” option, which means you have to run up a few steep climbs but you get rewarded with stunning views over the Loch. Another highlight was arriving at Urquhart Castle after a +50km day. I had wanted to visit this castle for a while and it was just so cool to get there by running. The tourists who got there in their touring bus looked at me a bit strangely (ok I have to admit I was wearing my running gear and I was sweaty with muddy legs) but I didn’t mind too much. I also really loved having dinner in a “boat pub” on the first night.
What was the toughest thing about your adventure and what did you learn from it?
The toughest thing was to arrive in Inverness, realising that it was already over 😉
We love that you were able to have this great 3-day adventure so close to home. What advice would you give to someone thinking about doing something similar?
I often hear people saying that they would love to go on an adventure but that they can’t do it because they don’t have enough time. But in reality, you don’t necessarily have to fly halfway around the world or take a sabbatical to have a great adventure. With a little bit of creativity, you can fit some pretty awesome adventures into a long weekend. In terms of advice, I would say don’t over-think it. Procrastination won’t get you outside. Just pick an area near where you live that you want to explore, figure out a route (or to make it easier use an existing official trail), get it into your calendar (now you are committed!), pack your bag and go. If you are looking for inspiration on adventures that can be fit into a weekend or even an evening I recommend the book “Micro Adventures” by Alastair Humphreys.
What challenges / races / adventures are you planning for the coming year?
I have recently moved to Indonesia so I am planning on taking part in lots of local trail running races across the country this year. I find that running races are such a great way to explore new areas and also get to know new people. I did one last month in the jungle in West Java and it was awesome (apart from the heat, I have never sweated as much in my life!). I am also planning a few coast-to-coast island-crossing adventures in Indonesia. The first one will probably be a cycle touring trip across Java.
What’s your favorite running/adventure book?
I love reading running/adventure books so much! If I had to pick a single one I would say “The Road to Sparta” by Dean Karnazes. I really like how this book combines ancient Greek history and running. My favourite quote from the book is a paragraph on balance that I very much agree with:
“People speak of finding balance. To me, that’s a misplaced ambition. If you have balance you do everything okay. But to excel at your craft, you need obsessive unbridled fanaticism. Not only does excellence require such commitment, it demands it. A life worth living is frenetic, disjointed, breakneck, and quite fantastic.”
Finally, what do you get up to when you’re not running or adventuring?
Studying (I recently decided to go back to school to study Sports Management), writing, reading non-fiction, practising yoga, swimming in the ocean and of course planning the next adventure 😉
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Thank you, Josephine, for giving us so many amazing tips for planning and running mini adventures. It’s very inspiring to think you can just go out and plan a mini adventure like this at a moments notice. And now you’ve got us wanting to visit Scotland again! Maybe we’ll enter the Ring of Steall Skyrace 🙂