British athlete, Julia Chi Taylor has achieved her goal. She arrived in Almuñécar last Saturday, on her 59th birthday, after running 1,000 kilometres barefoot across Spain.
Julia started her epic journey in the town of Suances in Cantabria on 23 March and ran down through the centre of the country.
“I think I more or less followed the route that planes take when they fly to England,” she says. She was running to raise money for Cudeca and for the Friends of Sussex Hospices charity in England.
The runner was joined by friends and well-wishers in Almuñécar, who had organised a birthday party, complete with banner and cake, for her arrival. Julia says that the idea to run barefoot across Spain “just formed” and “that was it”; she knew she had to do it. She explains that for her running barefoot is just as natural as “walking to the shop to get the newspaper in the mornings”.
Julia was joined by other runners who had heard about her journey along the way and says that she was rarely alone. Over the 43 days that she was running she averaged 25 kilometres per day and had a rest day every five.
“The rest was mainly for my feet which took quite a pounding,” she explains.
Julia laughs as she points out that she managed to choose “probably the wettest weather Spain has ever had”, referring to the unusually high rainfall that the whole country experienced during March and April. She says that running barefoot in the rain is harder than running when it is dry and the weather conditions, which included snow in some parts of Spain, made the challenge “much more difficult” than she had anticipated.
Julia is a marathon runner and her first international race was in Manresa, Spain, in 1979 when she was 19. She went on to represent the UK in races and marathons until 1993, winning the 1985 Dublin City Marathon and obtaining her best time at the 1986 London Marathon with 2 hours 36 minutes and 31 seconds when she finished in seventh position, which in turn got her selected for the Commonwealth Games.
Julia was born in West Africa to “colonialist parents” and moved back to England when she was four. She explains that she has loved Spain ever since she came for that first race in 1979, so much so that she now spends more time here than in the UK as she is learning Spanish. “I want to speak Spanish as fluently as I do English,” she admits.
Julia divides her time in Spain between the villages of the Alpujarra and coastal Almuñécar in Granada province. “I am really drawn to Almuñécar,” says the runner.
Running and Zen
Cancer hospice charity Cudeca is close to Julia's heart as she lost her own mother to the disease 42 years ago. “When my mother died I was just 16 years old and she was the most important person in my life,” she says, adding, “My mother understood my passion for running.”
After losing her mother Julia sought refuge in the world of running and Zen philosophy; rigorous self-control, meditation and insight into Buddhism, particularly for the benefit of others. And this is something that she has used throughout her life. She explains that for her running is always a journey. Julia kept a blog of this latest journey at www.solesjourney.com.
She says that she will be spending some time now in the Granada Alpujarra for a well-earned rest but she will be keeping her mind active by continuing with Spanish classes while she is there.