On 16 February 2017, Alex Kashefi went where no man had done it before and completed an unsupported ultra run across Europe. Over the course of 196 days, Alex (or Barefoot as we know him) ran from Nordkapp, the northernmost point in Norway, to Tarifa in Spain, a mere 6 miles from Africa and 6189 km to the point where it meets the Mediterranean Sea. Atlantic Ocean.
Alex was our first Ultra Runner on PledgeSports and his crowdfunding campaign raised a whopping £4,448 – see for yourself!
Watching Alex progress through this incredible challenge over the past few months has been an adventure in itself. He has provided mass entertainment with his hilarious updates, pictures and famous operatic scenarios!
Alex navigated the winter weather, Spanish snowfall, and the many rivers and mountains of rural Europe. He took the bare minimum in terms of luggage with a sleeping bag, waterproof, and a pair of running sandals, among a few things to his name.
To celebrate his historic achievement, we met the great man himself and learned about his experience driving Europe from north to south. Enjoy it! (question in red)
You have gone through a seriously extreme challenge that must have been extremely demanding on the body. What was its effect physically?
The body just got stronger than what it was doing. With so little food needed to run the distances, I would have quickly finished the days when navigation was straightforward. I have gained about 2-3kg and am a bit curious as to what effect it has on my normal walking.
How did you feel when you reached Tarifa?
A bit strange because I had to wait an extra day to reach Punta de Tarifa. Being on the last piece of European land, where two continents and two oceans meet, it was a bit awkward to stand there. I really didn’t feel like I actually did anything. There was certainly a feeling of sadness of joy as it had all happened.
You have been on the road for 196 days. How did you overcome loneliness?
Loneliness is a product of need. If I didn’t need anything, I was as self-sufficient as I could be and generally knew where to find food, water, etc.
I didn’t feel lonely. You really have little time to admit it if you’re focusing on completely new terrains and routes from the AB every day that you’ve never seen before.
Has it made you mentally stronger and more resilient?
Absolutely. I’m going through quite a bit of mental fatigue and if I wasn’t learning along the way, I really shouldn’t have been doing it in the first place.
How do you fill the void after achieving something amazing like this?
You use it as a stepping stone to other things. I had some ideas on more projects before I left and it kind of made those ideas more real.
You have covered over 6,189 km through Europe! Which was your favorite place?
mountains. Doesn’t matter where. The landscape of Europe is similar to the extended or elongated versions of the UK. I spent a few nights in the village of Moclin, thanks to Ultra Trail Spain.
Which country do you find most hospitable/least hospitable?
Everyone was really hospitable like each other. Can’t say one was better than the other. It was only France that I didn’t really meet more than one person, and it was my friend from Runexplorer who came over Christmas Eve to do some filming.
Where were some strange places where you slept?
Disable toilets under a footbridge, abandoned hotels, abandoned factory offices. The thing is, they didn’t look as weird as they were necessary.
What was your biggest craving while running?
Water in Spain. So much so that I drank too many half-empty bottles found on the side of the road or trail.
When you were in the middle and you were feeling hungry, what kind of stuff did you eat?
Jambolan. There wasn’t much I could eat. I always had some coconut oil or salami or pork scratchers (once I got to Spain and it was available).
What was the weirdest thought you had while running?
I do not know! Anything relevant to what I was doing was normally forgotten a few minutes later.
What’s your next challenge?
Can’t say right now, but for 2017 there are some that need more planning.
Would you ever consider pursuing a career in opera?
Has anyone commented on your outrageous sandalwood tan lines?!
(laughs) No, but he said “you’re seriously brown”.
Finally, would you look at something differently in the past few months?
No. I’ve learned a lot and I finished without any major injuries or health problems, so there’s no need to think about that kind of thing.
Want to read some more stories on running? here you go!
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