In 2021, Dani Blackie set the first record for a supported solo run of the entire Trail, clocking the FKT (fastest known time) for a female. The 630 miles took her just 18 days, 14 hours, 46 minutes, and 46 seconds to complete – a huge feat of endurance. Dani shares her experience of the challenging run and reflects back on how it has inspired her next challenge – running the FKT (fastest known time) of the Welsh Coast Trail – 870 miles!
I wanted to do something monumental to raise money for men’s health charity ‘Movember’ and The journey across the whole of the 630 miles of the trail in one go, was an intrepid adventure for me. The challenge encompassed nineteen heart-warming sunrises on the path, each signifying the start of a new day of (trails and) trials and tribulations, each different to the last but also the same, each a day packed full of what I love to do more than anything else, before the sun descended nineteen times into the skyline, itself creating very different navigational challenges to every day.
The highlights of the path included: seeing basking sharks in Porthcurno when I wished I were basking along with them, sighting seals at Godrevy, the rugged beauty of north Devon in its entirety – possibly the hardest part of the trail for me, the Jurassic forest in Seaton, which I know well but never fails to disappoint, the endless, breath-taking views, (which luckily is not a literal metaphor or they’d have taken away all the breath I needed to take while putting one foot in front of another), sunshine and hail, ferries and beaches, and most of all, my friends popping unexpectedly in random locations.
Low points were made up of bringing up the contents of my stomach after a hard 57 miles to Croyde bay, the wind beating me up on the Lizard, some bolshy Cornish bovines on a cliff edge, swollen feet, painful ankles, smelling like a badger’s ass (most of the way), calorie deficit (most of the way), a few navigational hiccups at Hartland Quay (the less said the better) and extreme surf FOMO most days. On balance, this was one of the best experiences of my life, I had the most amazing three weeks and wouldn’t have missed it for the world.
Sitting here now in my garden writing this, listening to the dawn chorus, nursing a luke-warm cup of tea and enjoying the crisp morning air in my lungs. It’s not hard to feel the nostalgia of my time on the SWCP. Appreciating the similarities of my ultra-running life on the trail with my work life as perfusionist at makes me reflect on how having just peeled off a load of sweaty PPE after being up all night with emergency operations isn’t all that different to peeling off a load of sweaty lycra and soggy, mud-caked trainers at the end of a gruelling wind-battered day on a particularly rocky and technical stretch of the South West Coast Path (not always the hottest look but totally worth the effort).
Geo Tracks were sponsoring me in the form of a GPS tracker, which meant my friends, family and online community were able to track my progress in real time. This was a safe way of being locatable at all times and was quite a fun way of getting everyone involved in the challenge. Lockdown had just lifted and it was a perfect forum of bringing people back together, particularly in the running community.
I was raising money for two amazing charities: The Save Me Trust and South West Coast Path Association (SWCPA). The Save Me Trust is an animal welfare organisation that proactively protects wildlife through campaigning, lobbying and changing laws. They focus on tackling issues such as climate change, the increasing human population, habitat destruction and pollution. Key campaigns involve amending the hunting bill to ensure illegal hunting cannot continue, opposing the badger cull and renovating ancient woodlands.
The SWCPA is a charity that protects and improves the 630 miles of the SWCP to ensure everyone has the access and ability to enjoy the trail. Both charities work tirelessly to preserve the natural world around us. It was a privilege to represent and support their causes during the challenge.
My journey across the SWCP was challenging but a rich experience full of all the best things in life: alone time with the natural world, stunning vistas, pushing personal physical limits, deep human connections and the amazing community spirit that surrounds the South West (made better by the delicious ice cream and Cornish pastie stops).
I truly encourage others to get out and embrace mother nature’s playground and enjoy the beauty of the trail.
An FKT attempt may not be everyone’s cup of tea but the path offers a different experience for all, waiting to be unearthed in whatever form, with each season bringing a new dimension. There are enough different types of terrain to suit most needs: beaches, cliff tops, forests, meadows and mud baths!
Photo: Dani at the Finish Line!
Have fun out there and happy adventuring! And if you want to continue to live my adventures from the safety of your armchair, check out my next challenge, which will be the FKT along the whole of the Welsh Coast Trail, all 870 miles of it.
Thank you Dani!
On top of her amazing athletic performance, Dani also successfully fundraised over £400 for the future of the Trail, which is a brilliant contribution to our work.
If you feel inspired by Dani’s story, or would like to do some fundraising for the South West Coast Path Association check out our Fundraising Inspiration Guide.