Running the length of New Zealand

Deep breath, here goes…

I’m going to run the length of New Zealand.

There. I said it. On the 15th of January 2015 I’ll set out from Cape Reinga, the very northernmost tip of the North Island and make my way down to Bluff on the Southern tip of the, um, South Island. Just me, my trainers, a backpack, Tina Turner on repeat and 1,800 miles of delicious trail.

The Te Araroa

I’m heavily allergic to running on roads. There’s something about tarmac slap slap slapping away at the souls of my feet that brings me out in a rash. That, and road running seems to make my shins explode in all sorts of unwelcome directions. Trails, on the other hand, reek of adventure. They allow you to rub your gleeful little face in whatever landscape you happen to find yourself passing through. Best of all, trails have the power to transport you to the places that no motorised machine can.

The Te Araroa trail is a relative new kid on the block as far as epic pathways go. It’s not even made National Geographic’s top ten long distance hikes list yet (although I’m sure it won’t be long). Starting with a section called ’90 mile beach’, which, as advertised, is a beach, it then continues on through dense forest, across rising rivers and over mountains, before winding into the Fjords of the South.

The Te Araroa: 1,800 miles from North to South

The Te Araroa: 1,800 miles from North to South

Why New Zealand?

Because they filmed Lord of the Rings there. Okay, not really (but really). I’ve just always wanted to go. And seeing as though adventures should be about exploring places that you’d like to get better acquainted with, it seemed like a good bet. New Zealand is rumoured to be extremely easy on the eye, and should I be found in need of a cultural fix, there’s a hunk of Pacific Island history to top up the well. Plus, did I mention they filmed Lord of the Rings there?

Am I breaking any records?

No siree. Although as far I can work out I’ll be the first woman to run the trail. But really that’s like saying I’m the first person with two a’s and two n’s in my name, to be born on the 18th of October 1984 in Kingston hospital (I’ll await the certificate). This trip isn’t about records or speeds, its about the people and the places. And people and places demand time. I’m doing my best to learn from last years American escapade, and have more freedom to go with the flow. This time around, if someone says to me ‘Hey, Anna (kiwi accent) – fancy spending a day longer here and climbing that mountain / speaking to a bunch of school kids / meeting my 101 year old grandma?”. I want to be able to say: “Yes. I have time. Lead on awesome kiwi person, lead on…

How far will you run in a day?

I’m training to run no more than 20 miles in a day. I know Eddie Izzard ran a marathon a day. I know ultra runners cover more. That’s nice for them. In July I trotted 60 miles in a day, just to see if I could. I can. It hurts and costs you toenails if you’re stupid enough not to cut them before race day. So I do know I could run more. Heck, I could walk more, but I’d like to allow the time to run less. I adore running, for all the simplicity and freedom it offers, and I’d like to keep it that way. I have no doubt that there’s enough Type 2 fun in running 20 miles each day to make for tales of personal discovery and keep me suitably miserable.

How will you carry your worldly possessions?

Carrying all my gear, I may look like this at the end.

Carrying all my gear on my back and shoulders, I may look like this at the end.

On my back. Like a tortoise. Or a snail. I think I prefer a tortoise, they’re a little faster than snails, yet still not as quick as the hare. You, much like my new running coach may shake your head at this. What am I going to do to my knees? My back? My poor hips? Actually I’m more concerned about my shoulders and trapezius muscles. Being an ex-rower I already have knots there so impressive that not even a pneumatic drill would release them. By the end of this I quite suspect that my neck will be as thick as my head. I look forwards to rocking that look when the time comes.

I’m aiming for the pack to weigh 6kgs. It’ll contain a small one man tent, sleeping bag, a spot tracker, a kindle, a phone, solar charger and as little clothing as I can muster. There’s something wonderfully gratifying about travelling with so few possessions and I’m looking forwards to it immensely.


Wow. There’s a header here because I’m actually doing some, which makes a change. Thankfully, unlike the last adventure I’m not working seven days a week in the lead up to this one. So I have some time to prepare my body. I’m also wise enough to know that running is a serious business. Get it wrong and you’re screwed. Get it right and you’re probably still a little screwed, but able to keep going. So I’ve put my faith in a coach who’s got a truckload of experience and am making myself (as he puts it) ‘Bomb proof’ . Yikes.

The important bit

Adventures are all very well and good. They encourage people to pursue dreams, live vicariously, inspire and instill confidence where there may have been an absence of it before. But for me the true value in an adventure always comes in that little bit of summthin’ summthin’ it offers the world.

I’m always on a mission to get kids active and to embrace the outdoors, so I’ll be going into schools again throughout this trip. I want as many mini-people as possible to make the planet their playground, as opposed to just their living room. So if you know any teachers in New Zealand, get in touch and let’s get this classroom party started.

What it's all about, inspiring little minds to do big things

What it’s all about, inspiring little minds to do big things

Am I crazy?

Definitely. Life really is short to be anything but. I only hope this encourages you embrace your inner crazy too.

Why am I so gosh darn excited?

Because this, on a number of different levels, is a challenge. And with a challenge there’s always a strong chance that things can go tits up. Mentally I’m capable. Physically, I’m hoping so. All I know is that I need to start. Once I start, the four months that follow will be an adventure whatever happens. And not really knowing how it’ll unfold is by far the most exciting part.

Following along 

Journeys are always more fun with some virtual companions, so I’d like to cordially invite you all to enroll in the adventure army for this trip. My call to arms is to join me on the journey to the start line and beyond it – say hello on Twitter, or Like up the Facebook page. I can’t promise it’ll be plain sailing, in fact I can guarantee it won’t be, but dear me, either way it’ll be one heck of a ride.

Until next time, all aboard the train to Adventure Town… Woo! Woooo! Chug-a-chug…

16 thoughts on “Running the length of New Zealand

  1. supercyclingman says:

    Man, if my smile just READING this is a fraction of the size of yours when you’re actually DOING it…

    This is going to be AWESOME Anna. Am looking forward to the pics and stories already. In fact, can we just fast-forward to January 2015 NOW!!

  2. Ian Blakemore says:

    Hi, running straight down the centre of New Zealand means your going to miss some beautiful places.
    At Cape Reinga look over to edge to the right of the lighthouse and you will see a little beach which is the most northern in NZ also check out the sea where the Tasman sea meets the Pacific ocean in a boiling pot just offshore.
    Further down the East coast you will miss the Bay of Islands which is a beautiful area to explore and it is so quiet and the people so nice.
    Travelling down the coast is Sullivans Bay where the campsite looks over the sea and you can hear the gentle sea on the shore as you go to sleep, also in this area but on the opposite side of the island is the forrest of giant trees.
    Next you come to Auckland and after that the land opens out onto the planes as you head for Taupo with it’s geothermal power station and inland sea, the town is very nice and plenty of places to stay and eat.
    Travelling further down is the long stretch of road through the desert region that passes the Mount Raupanu to the right and Waiouru army camp on the left, most of the road from here will be a boring slog until Welly unless you divert to the coast.

    I have not done South Island but hope to one day as I would like to visit Milford Sound and Invercargill.

    Good luck on your journey.

    Ian Blakemore

    • Anna McNuff says:

      Ummm I’m making no promises yet, but that part is currently ‘under investigation’ 🙂 – I’d love to make it a completely human powered crossing, if there’s the time and funds to make it happen then I am all over it!!!

  3. Chris George says:

    As a mate of your Dad’s, can I add a fatherly word of caution?
    There is a bit of a drug culture up north and the Coramandel has been noted in the past as having a problem with drug smugglers. When I was last there, I was told of some tourist “disappearances” but nothing I could see on the internet to confirm this. What is true is that there have been drug-related deaths to tourists (e.g. one where a Japanese tourist was chucked off a cliff by a druggie) and flash multiple flash flood deaths so, not wanting to unnecessarily stress what will be a great, great trip (when I read it I was tempted to do the same!), can I add just a little a word of warning to be aware and keep those sensors working should you get any bad vibes about any persons you come across with as well as choosing your camp sites carefully (to be on high ground)! Good luck lass!
    Chris George

  4. Nigel Marx says:

    I live in Canterbury, South Island, NZ, and can help if you need it. Keep my email handy, and this is my number, in NZ. 0275374686. There’s always a bed here for travelers and a school full of kids. I found you via Ted Simon’s Facebook feed. He stayed two nights with me when he was here.

    Good luck and best regards

    Nigel and Lee in Amberley

    • Anna McNuff says:

      Ah Thanks so much Nigel! That’s really kind of you. I’ve made a note of your details and will be in touch once I have a better idea of when I might pass through. Speak soon, Anna

  5. monkeyleader says:

    This is so inspirational … I really look forward to catching up on your journey – hopefully you will have the opportunity to blog as you go … NZ is a beautiful country and to go slow on foot is going to be amazing …

    • Anna McNuff says:

      Hi Frank,
      Thanks for writing to me, and thanks for wishing me well for the rest of the run. Only 800kms to go now – not too long at all. And then I can go back to England and plan the next big adventure. I hope my story has given you some ideas of the countries and places you might like to explore when you’re older.
      Happy Adventuring!

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