Q&A with Megan Al-Ghailani - running 1000 miles across the UK
Megan is currently running 1000 miles across the UK, from John O’Groats to Land’s End, alone and unsupported in support of the charity, School In A Bag.
We were lucky enough to catch up with Megan the day before she left to find out more about her 40-day adventure...
It is difficult to imagine what 40 days of running across the UK looks like! Could you please outline your route for us?
I will start at John O’Groats and travel down along the east coast to Inverness where I will have my first rest day.
I will then travel across the Cairngorms to Edinburgh.
From there I will journey down to Kielder, through the North Pennines and the Yorkshire Dales.
I will curve round Manchester (coming home for another rest day) and travel through the Peak District down to Loughborough and Rugby, where I will spend my final rest day celebrating my 23rd birthday.
From Rugby I will run over to the start of the Cotswold Way, make my way down to Bath and then down towards where the charity is based in Yeovil.
I will finally make my way to the coast and follow the South West Coastal Path all the way to Land’s End.
How many miles will you cover each day?
Every day will be different. My shortest day will be 15 miles and my longest day will be around 35 miles. I will wake up at sunrise every day and I will keep moving until I arrive at my home for the night, stopping to eat, stretch and talk of course!
What is the charity, School In A Bag, and why did you choose it?
A few years ago, I visited a school situated in the heart of the Mathare slum in Nairobi. The school consisted of metal shacks, open sewage and hundreds of eager children ready to learn. I was utterly shocked by the conditions, but equally shocked by how grateful the children were, despite how little they had. I wanted to raise money for a charity which shared my passion for education, a charity that believed that education is a basic human right that we are all entitled to.
When I decided that I would take up this challenge of running 1000 miles across the UK, I remembered meeting a kind man named Luke during my climb of Ben Nevis. Luke and his volunteers were raising money for a charity named School In A Bag. He explained that the aim of the charity is to provide a school bag packed with tools and utensils to poor, orphaned and disaster-affected children, enabling them to have an education. Our conversation remained solidly in my mind for months and I just instinctively knew that I wanted to do something to help that School In A Bag.
What has your training looked like in the lead up to this?
It is hard to train for something like this; there’s not exactly a training plan set out for this sort of challenge. I’ve just been trying to run as much as I can as well as incorporating in some strength work. Over the past 2 years, I have built up my running from 10km distances to marathon distances; I recently completed the Manchester marathon in April.
This is going to be a mental challenge just as much as a physical challenge, so I have also committed time to train my mind, especially to remain positive. Every night, I will say positive affirmations to myself and I’ll remind myself that I am capable to achieve anything I put my mind to. I truly believe that the physical body is pretty much capable of anything, as long as your mind remains strong.
What will you be carrying in your bag and how much will it all weigh?
My aim has always been to keep my backpack as light as possible. However, to get the lightest equipment can be quite expensive and my other aim has been to keep it as cheap as possible.
My kit list is as follows:
- emergency bivvy bag
- sleeping bag
- running poncho
- JetBoil + gas canister
- 2 litre water bladder
- SPOT Gen 3 device (tracker and SOS for emergencies)
- First Aid kit (including KT tape, arnicare, deepfreeze and support bands)
- basic toiletries
- electronics including phone, spare phone, camera, GoPro, Garmin watch, powerbank and chargers
- 3 charity tops (2 to run in, 1 for rest days)
- Kalenji running leggings for when it’s cold and wet
- Karimor running shorts
- Shock Absorber Ultimate Run sports bra
- New Balance Quick Dry knickers
- 1000 mile socks (best socks in the world)
- compression socks
- compression calve sleeves
- base layer, fleece, down coat
- PJ bottoms and top
- A book (still undecided on what book, this is a big decision!)
- head torch
That is pretty much everything (not including my food of course). However, I haven’t weighed my bag yet. When I had my camping equipment in it, it was roughly 15kg (heavy breathing), but I have skimmed it all down and it’s somewhere under 10kg now.
What will you be eating?
So I will have to consume around 5000 calories a day - I eat a lot of food already but that is a lot of calories!
I will have a massive bowl of porridge every morning with a spoon of Pulsin Protein Powder and some fruit.
My snacks will consist of nuts, seeds, soreen, rasins, jaffa cakes, cereal bars, fresh fruit, squeezable yoghurts and anything else I can get my hands on really!
My lunch will be something I can cook using my jetboil; probably pasta, beans, noodles, oats, lentils or rice.
My evening meal will consist of plenty of vegetables, protein and carbs.
I just want to make sure I eat plenty and consistently whilst making sure my body is getting all of the vitamins and nutrients it needs.
What is one thing that you are weirdly worried about?
Being alone, even though I know I will never truly be alone; I will be constantly passing strangers and nature will always keep me company.
Even still, I will miss my boyfriend, my dogs, my family and friends so much...but I know that they’re only ever a phone call away!
What do you think will be the most challenging aspect?
I think the first few days will be tough because they’ll be a test to see what goes wrong or right and what needs to be changed.
Sometimes I can be hopeless at navigating myself, so I am definitely bound to get lost at some point.
I also think there will be a lot of challenges which I won’t be aware of at this moment but as long as I keep my mind strong and positive then I can power through it all (hopefully).
What are you most excited about?
I am so excited to see so many parts of the UK that I haven’t seen before. I am excited to see the sea, to run through valleys and along mountains, to travel past rolling hills and through forests. I am excited to meet so many new faces, to hear their stories, to learn about their experiences. I am excited for all the runners that will hopefully join me along the way; I can be a lady Forrest Gump!
I’m excited to see how I transform physically and mentally; to see the differences in myself between the start and the end.
I am especially excited to see Brendan (my boyfriend) throughout the trip and especially to have him with me at the end.
I’m also going to pick up two tiny pebbles at John O’ Groats and carry them with me for the whole journey.
When I get to Land’s End, I’m going to throw one pebble in the sea and take one home.
I’m excited to put that pebble on my bookshelf and think ‘I did that’.
Megan left for her 40-day run on Tuesday 5 June 2018.
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