Elise Downing and her 5,000-mile run around the coastline of Great Britain

WE TALK to Elise Downing about her 5,000-mile run around the coastline of Great Britain to raise money for charities YoungMinds and the Beyond Food Foundation.

Elise Downing

Elise Downing is currently running around the coastline of Great Britain.



ELISE DOWNING had never been overly enthusiastic about running but when a new year’s resolution saw her set herself the challenge of a half marathon she slowly became more passionate about the sport.


The rest is history and and last year saw her set herself the challenge of running around the UK’s coastline, all 5,000 miles of it, to raise money for charities YoungMinds and the Beyond Food Foundation.


We got the chance to talk to Elise about her experiences from the challenge so far and she explained more about her journey into running and some of the people she’s met and experiences she’s had over the last six months.


To donate to the charities benefiting from Elise’s run go to virginmoneygiving.com/runthecoast and to follow her blog visit elisedowning.com.



Have you always been a passionate runner and what made you set yourself the challenge to run the 5,000 miles around the UK coast?

I only started in running in 2013, on the back of a new year’s resolution to run a half marathon. I definitely wouldn’t say I have ever been a passionate runner. I enjoyed getting better at it, being able to run a little further and, very occasionally, a little faster. I liked spending time outdoors and collecting a few medals but, being honest, I was a bit of a lazy runner and never stuck to any training.


Running around the coast of the UK was more about the adventure – about seeing and exploring so much of Great Britain and all the great things that happen and amazing people you meet – than it was about the running. Running just seemed like a good way to get around. Cycling is too fast and I don’t really enjoy walking. That being said though, I have started to REALLY love running, which is just as well! It has been a gradual process but I have started to actively look forward to the run each day, rather than just being excited about where that run is taking me.


Tell us more about the run and what it involves on a day-to-day basis?


 I started in Greenwich, London on November 1 2015. I followed the Thames towards the coast and then starting working my way clockwise around the country. The total distance is about 5,000 miles and I gave myself 10 months to do it. For the first half, I averaged around 15 miles a day when you take into account rest days. For the second half, I’ll be running 20 to 25 miles most days. I have been incredibly lucky in that there are A LOT of nice people around so I didn’t have to pitch my tent over the winter, but from now on I’ll be camping mostly which I am super excited about. I’m carrying all my kit on my back, so that includes one spare set of clean(ish) clothes, waterproof jacket, down jacket, sleeping bag, tent, sleeping mat, iPad, book, hat, toothbrush… and that’s about it.


The daily routine changes literally every single day depending on where I have stayed the night before, where I am and how far I have to run. Generally I get up early, do a bit of admin, run through the day, stop for lots of cake breaks, spend the evening with whoever is very kindly letting me stay with them, then have an early night. It is surprising how much just organising where you’re sleeping, a vague route and eating enough takes up. I thought I would have tonnes of free time but that isn’t the case at all.


Elise Downing

Elise is running to raise funds for charities YoungMinds and the Beyond Food Foundation.


What is the run in aid of and how can our readers get behind and support the cause?


The purposes of the run are twofold I guess. First and foremost, I just wanted to do it. I was in London, plodding along and working an office job for a really great company, but the idea of doing a big physical adventure had always appealed to me. I was happy enough but I wasn’t super, super happy, and so I set out to work out what it was I loved doing! I just wanted to go and explore and do something, really.


I am raising money for two really incredible charities though, so that’s a big motivating factor. The first is Young Minds, who are a children’s mental health charity. The second is Beyond Food, a small charity which helps train people facing homelessness up in the catering/restaurant industry to help them find meaningful employment.


Whereabouts have are you on the run so far and what have been some of the highlights?


I am writing this from Blackpool, meaning that to date I have covered the whole South coast (Kent, Sussex, Hampshire, Dorset, Devon, Cornall, Somerset) plus Wales and now I’m heading North towards Scotland.


This is a cop out but it is so hard to say a highlight because everywhere has been great. I totally fell in love with the South West Coast Path but, blimey, it was tough. Pembrokeshire was great because it was very similar to the SWCP but a lot more manageable. The Llyn Peninsula in North Wales was incredible too and the four days I spent running around that were a real game changer for me. I finally found my running legs there!


What have been the hardest parts so far and what do you do or tell yourself when you feel like quitting or a day doesn’t quite go your way?


It’s funny really because the hardest parts aren’t the bits that have actually been the hardest, physically. I spent months two to five feeling kind of bogged down by this feeling of, ‘will this ever end?’. I just couldn’t imagine ever finding the finish line and that was hard. There were a lot of tears! One rule I implemented was that from any given bad day, I always had to stick it out for another two weeks. If I was still miserable after a fortnight, I could quit. Inevitably, in that time you have a good day, and then the two week clock starts again.


I also play a lot of mind games and bribe myself. Anything you can do to convince yourself to keep putting one foot in front of the other!


Elise Downing

Elise’s journey is unsupported and she carries her kit on her back wherever she goes.


Have you found yourself in any trouble or suffered any injuries?


No major injuries. I hurt my leg a little over Christmas but took a week or so off and it got better. Because I am inherently quite lazy, I have no problem stopping if something hurts, which I think has stopped me getting injured. I won’t push through pain!


Who are some of the people you have met along the way?


I really don’t know where to start when telling you about the people I have met. So many great, great people. Maybe it is because the kind of person willing to put up some lunatic covered in mud is generally pretty awesome, but every time I stay with someone I leave people feeling so inspired. It is easy to underestimate people and forget their lives are equally as intricate and complicated and jam packed as yours, but the more you talk the more you realise that everybody has a story. I just love hearing about the ways people are pursuing the things they love. It was easy for me, I didn’t have any commitments whatsoever holding me back and I love hearing about how people are fitting it all in around jobs and kids and houses.


What have some of the funniest moments been?


Funny moments is a tough one. There have been loads but I’m not sure I can talk about them… One VERY funny moment though was when I was running with a lady called Kerstin and she misjudged a puddle and ended up thigh deep in sewage. So disgusting, so funny, so glad it wasn’t. I also on a very wet day in the depths of Cornwall ended up spending an afternoon eating a cooked breakfast at the back of a post office, which was pretty bizarre.


What can we expect from your blog at www.elisedowning.com and how important to you is it to connect with like-minded people across the internet?


I guess when I’m blogging, what I try to get across is more about how an adventure actually feels, rather than just an itinerary of what has happened. I think that’s what I like reading about more from other people.


I think social media is great for connecting with like-minded people. The internet has its downsides, for sure, but there is such a supportive adventure/running community and engaging with that has been awesome. It’s especially nice to be able to chat to people who actually understand what you’re going through. My friends and family are great, but they mostly haven’t had wet feet for four months straight! Over the past few months a lot of ‘strangers from the internet’ have become real people for me too, as I’ve ran with them and stayed with them, so that’s awesome.


What are your plans for once you complete the challenge and do you have any ideas for other adventures in the near future?


I’m really not sure what lies ahead of this adventure. I have a few things I want to do and explore, but there is nothing set yet. I’m running the Athens marathon in November and then after that I fancy maybe taking my bike somewhere for a few weeks, but making some money somehow will be a bit of a priority as sadly you can’t quite live on enthusiasm alone! I think I will definitely do another big adventure at some point but haven’t had that ‘bazooka!’ idea moment yet.

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