Meet the science teacher who went barefoot across Britain

What would make a 37 year old science teacher from Buxton want to travel across Britain barefoot?

Between 27 July and 2 September, Aleks Kashefi, a 37-year-old science teacher from Buxton, ditched his trainers to run from Land’s End to John O’Groats – barefoot.

1) What made you decide to go on this adventure?

Both my mother and my grandfather suffered strokes. Although my mum has fully recovered, my grandfather sadly passed away in November 2013. I wanted to raise money for the Stroke Association because more can be done to reduce the impact of strokes.R

2) How much have you raised?

£11,000 so far. My target was £10,000.

3) Are you an outdoorsy person anyway or did you have to haul yourself off the sofa?

I always enjoyed being outdoors while growing up – be it skateboarding or climbing. I took up running about three years ago. I particularly enjoy trails and mountains.

4) Why did you decide to run barefoot?

I found that I was getting minor injuries, like blisters, after running long distances. After running in minimalist shoes, I wondered what running barefoot would be like. I liked it, so I began to do it more and more. People think my feet get ripped to shreds but there’s not a mark on them. The benefits of going barefoot are that I didn’t get waterlogged feet or blisters; I didn’t have to carry shoes so my back pack was light. The only downsides were a couple of thorns in my feet.

5) What mapping did you use to plan and do the walk?

I used the Ordnance Survey Map Finder app which was excellent and very useful. I downloaded sections at 50k size so I knew where I was going and what I would be going through. I’d plot a route or plan a trail and save it for the next day. It was easy to re-route as and when needed. I averaged about 33 miles a day.

6) What about accommodation?

I carried a tent on my back and camped wild – apart from three days when I stayed at B&Bs and two days when people offered me accommodation.

7) Did you walk alone?

A handful of people came along and met me at points along the way. It was particularly nice to have friends joining me in the evenings.

8) What was the best part of the journey?

Finding out what I was capable of as a person as I’m not an athlete by any means. Also, seeing the country from one end to another was a bit of an eye opener.

9) And the worst part?

On the fifth day I injured the tendon on my right foot. It hurt to walk and I really needed to stop and let it heal. I made the decision to carry on but just did a bit of re-scheduling.

10) Any stand-out memories?

The South West Coast path was incredible. It was like being on another planet. There were old WW2 buildings; abandoned mines; hidden coves and rocky ups and downs. The Offa’s Dyke path between Chepstow and Monmouth had lots of woodland trails. I also liked the Cairngorms – though I wasn’t a fan of its boggy terrain. Scotland is definitely the place to go if you want to see lots of rainbows.

11) What did you miss the most?

I missed salad! After a diet of pork pies, pasties and scratchings, a friend bought me some food of olives, sun-dried tomatoes and salad. It was heaven!

12) What were your essential pieces of kit?

I carried everything I needed in a 20 litre rucksack: A tent; a sleeping bag; a thermotec blanket; cooking stove; titanium kettle; waterproofs; one warm layer and a hat. Plus the maps of course. I’d like to thank Backpackinglight.co.uk and Tailwind Nutrition UK.

13) Did you learn anything about yourself?

Yes - that I’m capable of more when luxuries are taken away from me. I’m more resilient. I’m better at problem solving. I’m more than happy being outdoors in horrendous conditions because I know I’ll survive. I also know this experience has made me want to do more of it.

14) What advice do you have for other people thinking of making a long distance walk?

Don’t set the route in stone – be ready to change it. Don’t be ruled by time. Factor in plenty of time so you can ENJOY it, and if you wanted to stop for a day or two, you can.

If you’re carrying kit which you haven’t used for two or three days, send it home or put it in a bin. You can always buy kit en route.

And don’t stop. Put one foot in front of the other and you’ll get there in the end.

15) What are your favourite things about being outside?

The freedom. Getting away from cars – from civilisation. The sounds are different. The views are different. I feel alive, especially when going off the beaten track and exploring places where someone might not have trodden before.

I’m a scientist, and it’s known that if you spend 10-15 minutes outside each day, you have increased brain function such as better memory and problem-solving. We humans are designed for hardship.

16) What do you like about this country?

Great Britain is all amazing. At times l felt like I was running through a movie set. There’s so much here that people go abroad for.

17) Why do you think some of us are couch potatoes?

Some people are scared. They don’t want to break the habit of being on their backside. They have a fear of failing. When I first started out, I couldn’t run for 30 seconds. I had to go out in the early mornings because I couldn’t face people – I was too self-conscious. Now I say to myself it doesn’t matter because all I’m doing is enjoying the morning and enjoying my surroundings. You have to let go of what other people might think of you.

18) How would you sum your experience up?

Eye opening. Beautiful.

19) What’s your next challenge?

The Bob Graham Round, a fell running challenge in the Lake District. It’s named after Bob Graham who in the 1930s broke the Lakeland Fell record by crossing 42 fells within a 24-hour period.

20) A parting shot?

Get out. Enjoy what’s out there. Push yourself. Challenge your comfort zone – it’s bigger than you think. 

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