Meet Laura Maisey!
Laura is a Brit who originally wasn’t big on exercise but then fell in love with running – particularly running that involved long distances. She has just returned home to London after running 1,249 miles all the way from Rome along the Via Francigena pilgrim’s route to raise funds and awareness for brain cancer.
Here, Laura talks inspiration, advice and what she would have with her on a desert island.
What was the impetus behind the idea to run from Rome to London?
Since my first run, 14 November 2014, I have been surrounded by people for whom adventure is ingrained into who they are – a girl who ran the length of New Zealand, a man who cycled to India, a girl who cycled across Australia, and a man who is currently scooting 1000 miles across Japan. Once those sort of people become your hub, it’s not long until you start wondering if you can do something like that too. So, in that crowd, my idea to use my newfound running skills to explore the world seemed fairly normal, and they were a great supportive network for helping me get the idea off the ground.
I have always loved Italy and usually visit once a year. I loved the idea of being able to spend a much longer period of time there, getting to know the slow way by foot. I also love the Italian language; it is such a pleasure to speak. It has a musicality about it that makes it beautiful to listen to and I thought that throwing myself in at the deep end, alone and dependent upon the local people in each place to help me, would help improve my Italian.
Once I had decided to do the run, I found out that the son of a running friend, Dave, had brain cancer and that Dave was spending a lot of time in the Ronald McDonald House in Manchester. We talked and realised we could raise some awareness and funds for the fantastic work they do. So that became a secondary motivation to do the run, especially on days when I felt exhausted and had no self-motivation anymore. I could think of Dave and his son and persuade my feet to go a few miles further.
Before setting out on your adventure what were your doubts/fears/concerns and how did you overcome these?
A lot of my concerns were physical. For example, I didn’t want to get injured in a place where I wouldn’t be found but I think that no matter how many spot trackers or phones with GPS you have, that concern is one that only goes when you begin and realise that it’s all pretty safe. I was worried about being able to communicate my needs to other people so I stepped up my game with learning Italian, although, I must say, I dropped the ball with the French but I muddled through alright in the end. I was also worried about where I’d stay but I had a tent with me and once I began, I realised that a lot of accommodation is provided along the route I used and wild camping really is fine, it’s just a bit uncomfortable if you’ve chosen your bit of forest floor unwisely (I did this often!).
“I’m a lot more open now to the things life may offer and accepting of the fact that tomorrow I may end up taking a direction that today I can’t even imagine”
What is the main thing you have learnt (about life or yourself) from this experience?
The main thing I’ve learned is how affected we are by our experiences and by the people we meet. And, in a way, it’s led me to an understanding that we can never really know who we are as we can never predict what or who we will encounter. Some very definite ideas I had about things I did and didn’t want in life, I’m now a lot more relaxed about. They may or may not happen but I will let the wind blow me where it will. I’m a lot more open now to the things life may offer and accepting of the fact that tomorrow I may end up taking a direction that today I can’t even imagine.
What would be your dream adventure and why – and why haven’t you done it yet?
I would love to live in Italy, somewhere on the pilgrim route I followed (a small medieval town called Pontremoli springs to mind), in a little old house that I will make pilgrim-friendly. They can come for food or to top up their water or I will have rooms where they can stay overnight. And I haven’t done it yet for a few reasons – mainly financial (it’s quite an undertaking to think seriously about buying a house in another country and my Italian needs to improve vastly before I’m at a stage where I can reasonably discuss purchasing a property!), family (I have a two year old nephew who is my favourite human to have ever existed and I need to get my head around the idea of seeing him less), nerves (leaving the very lovely life I lead will be a big wrench).
What is the best advice you have ever been given?
Ooh, that’s a difficult one. The first two things I thought of were a quote I read in ultrarunner Scott Jurek’s book – “Sometimes you just do things” – and something that adventurer Dave Cornthwaite said a while back – “Adventure makes us rich”. There is also a fantastic quote that I love – something along the lines of: you never regret doing a thing, you only regret NOT doing it.
If you were stuck on a desert island, what three thing would you have with you and why?
One or all of Elena Ferrante’s books, as she has a way of articulating the human experience that would keep my brain active and stimulated while I waited for rescue. My glasses, as my long-distance vision is rubbish without them and I’d want to be able to see planes and things. A diary, as I have an overwhelming compulsion to record with words significant things that happen to me.