I Ran 1000 Miles Solo Across the UK – Here Are 14 Things I Learned Along the Way

Almost two years ago, I ran the length of the UK without support. It was an epic adventure. Here are 14 personal reflections and takeaways from the trip.

In the summer of 2022, I ran just over 1000 miles solo across the United Kingdom. I started at John O’Groats, mainland Scotland’s northernmost point, and finished in Land’s End, Cornwall – England’s southwestern tip.

I carried everything on my back, from spare clothes and cooking equipment to food, water, and the tent I slept in each night. In total, it took me 66 days, including roughly 10 rest days.

My adventure pales in comparison to someone like Russ Cook, who just finished his mammoth run across Africa! But I still came away with precious memories and a few valuable life lessons. Here are 14 of them.

1. People Are Kinder Than You Think

Photo Credit: Danny Newman.

My biggest takeaway from the entire run was that most people are good. I encountered so much kindness from total strangers across the country that it was impossible not to feel a sense of restored hope in humanity.

I was doing the run for charity and wore a shirt promoting the cause. More than once, people stopped me and forced money into my hands. One lovely guy brought me cake. Others gave me cold cans of coke or beers when I got to my campsite. One couple offered to host me in their house.

It felt like almost every day, I’d meet somebody who wanted to help in some way. In a world where everything seems so polarized, it was beautifully reassuring to see and experience so much goodness.

2. The Night Is Darkest Just Before the Dawn

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One of the weird things I noticed was that my worst days were often followed by my best. It was uncanny. Everything could be against me. I could be exhausted, demoralized, sore, and at my wit’s end with the giant hills and awful weather. But then, the next day, everything would change.

The wind would be behind me, the sun would shine, I’d find a totally unexpected pub or coffee shop serving delicious food, and so on. It became a source of hope. If I had a bad day, I’d tell myself it was a downpayment for a fantastic tomorrow.

3. The Joy of Simple Pleasures

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This trip made me realize once again how little in life you really need to be happy. A warm meal in the evening. A cold beer after a hot day. A hot shower before bed. A flat place to pitch your tent. Somewhere to sleep that you feel safe…These things don’t cost much money, but they made all the difference.

4. Sometimes, the Universe has Your Back

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About midway through my trip, my backpack broke. It was too heavy, and the left shoulder strap ripped right off at the bottom. With all the weight now on one shoulder, it instantly became unusable. Even worse, it was a Sunday, when shops tend to close in the UK.

I tried fixing it a few times with no success and was about to give up for the day when I received the biggest stroke of luck of my entire trip. I looked up from my reverie and, what do you know, there was an independent tailor’s shop advertising clothing repair.

It’s probably the only one I’ve ever seen – on a Sunday, right where I was standing, in a random part of a city I’d never visited before. Inside was a man busy at work. I went in, explained the situation, and he agreed to help. He also told me he doesn’t normally work Sundays, but he was there catching up on jobs he needed to finish.

He spent thirty minutes fixing my backpack and charged me ten bucks for the trouble. It was a blessing that enabled me to keep running and a great reminder that things can work out even when everything seems lost.

5. Purpose Makes a Huge Difference

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For two months I had one big goal: get to Land’s End. Day to day, I had a smaller one: get to the next campsite. Hour to hour, it broke down even further: get to town X for a coffee, a certain park to eat lunch, or a pub to refill my water bottles.

In this way, I found myself working toward one goal or another throughout the whole trip, and I loved it. It drove me and gave my days more meaning. Without that sense of purpose, I think I would have felt far more overwhelmed by the endeavor.

6. The United Kingdom Is Stunning

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I’ve spent a large chunk of the last decade on the move, but I’ve always traveled to other places instead of exploring the UK, where I’m from.

This trip was the first time I really got to see my home country, and it blew me away. From the Scottish Highlands to the north of England, down through the intricate network of canals, and finally into the southwest – every phase of the journey took me through incredible landscapes. It made me feel far more connected to Britain, proud to call it home, and eager to explore more.

7. No Man Is an Island

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I spent two months almost entirely by myself. Days went by when I didn’t speak to anyone. I cooked, ate, ran, and slept alone. I did have my phone, which was a lifeline for staying in contact with home, and I bumped into people from time to time, but I was solo for the most part.

I wanted it that way. I thought it would help me learn about myself, which it did. Yet it says something that some of my favorite memories of the trip are from when I had loved ones around – like when my dad visited, or a few weeks later when I saw my parents and girlfriend in the Lake District, or at the finish line, where they met me to say congratulations.

It makes me wonder if there’s much point in having adventures and making memories if you have no one to share them with…

8. Family Is Everything

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One of the highlights of the entire trip was when my dad drove to Scotland from Essex (southeast England) to spend a week basically shadowing my run. We’d meet up once or twice along the route, then camp together in the evenings, sharing dinners, having a beer or two, and talking.

When he left, I spent the first hour of that day with tears in my eyes, devastated that he was no longer there but desperately grateful for the experience we’d shared. Family is everything.

9. Being Outside Is Good for Your Soul

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One of the joys of this experience was being outside in the fresh air so much and for so long, running through forests, across fields, and next to rivers and lakes. It sure beats staring at a computer all day long, which is how I spend most of my days at the moment…

There’s plenty of research that shows being in nature is fantastic for your physical and mental health. My run confirmed it for me. Exercise, fresh air, and beautiful views make your soul sing.

10. Step by Step, You Get There

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1000 miles is a long way, and breaking it down into smaller chunks became crucial. I didn’t have 980 miles left on day two. I had three miles to go before I took my first break, then another seven before lunch, then two more before the town I could grab a coffee at, before a final dash to the campsite. Then I’d eat, sleep, and repeat.   

Before you know it, you’ve done 100 miles, then 300, then 750. “Step by step” became my mantra.

11. It’s Easy to Wish Your Life Away

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I’d trained for this run for months. I was passing through some of the UK’s most beautiful landscapes. And I had no idea if I’d do anything like it again.

Yet, almost every hour of every day, I found myself willing the miles to disappear and bemoaning how far there was to go. It was a constant battle to savor the moment and treasure the journey instead of wishing it away.

It became a balancing act: focus on the goal enough for it to motivate me without pulling me too far away from the present.

12. You Meet Yourself in the Hard Times

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I spent day two running into a vicious headwind. It was unrelenting, and after eight hours or so of fighting it, I found myself screaming and cursing aloud. I felt like that wind was driving me mad.

By the end of day three, my Achilles tendons were so swollen and my left knee so sore that I limped into camp and had a tantrum in my tent. I questioned what I was doing and wondered if I had the grit to stick it out.

Moments like those held a mirror up to my face – and I didn’t always like what I saw. You meet yourself in the hard times, which is exactly what you need to become a better, stronger, more self-aware person.

13. Our Bodies Are Amazing

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I only started running a few years ago – mainly because my girlfriend’s a runner, and she was making me feel lazy. My technique is still rubbish. I plod along at a snail’s pace and am so wooden I look like a stick man.

However, in the last month of my run, I was clocking over 150 miles a week while carrying a heavy backpack. Day in and day out, I’d cover over 20 miles, with my longest stint crossing the 30-mile mark. I’m not trying to brag (people go far further far faster than I did). I was just genuinely surprised at what my body could do. It gave me a sense of possibility. What else am I capable of?

14. You’re Capable of More

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Ultimately, this run made me realize how often I hold myself back. It’s like I’m driving a car with six gears and only ever go to fourth. There’s untapped potential and room for improvement.

Where else am I limiting my potential? What other stories do I tell myself about myself that simply aren’t true? What more can I achieve, and what other adventures can I have? They seem like good questions to ask in pursuit of a fulfilling life.


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Author: Danny Newman

Title: Writer and Content Creator

Expertise: Travel, Digital Nomadry, Outdoors, Blogging

Danny Newman is a writer, content creator, and digital nomad from the UK. He founded the travel and lifestyle blog What’s Danny Doing, a popular resource for people seeking more adventure, self-discovery, and purpose. A nationally syndicated writer, Danny’s work features in dozens of online publications, including MSN.com and news sites across the US.