by Cathryn Scott
The She Runs Cardiff book club met online recently for our fifth meeting, this time discussing The Pants of Perspective by Anna McNuff.
Anna is an adventurer, motivational speaker and author – and a huge inspiration to many of our members who love following her on Instagram, listening to the interviews she’s done on podcasts such as RunPod, and reading her column in Women’s Running magazine.
Her book The Pants of Perspective – which charts her 3,000KM running adventure along New Zealand’s Te Araroa Trail – was a natural choice for our book club.
Anna spent 148 days running along the trail, taking in forests, ridge lines, mountain passes, beaches and rivers, with much of this in the wilderness. She would run 30-40KM a day, although sometimes as much as 50KM, often wild camping along the way or staying in the specially-constructed huts along the trail. Anna travelled to New Zealand alone and although parts of her journey were incredibly lonely, the friendships she formed along the way, and the strangers who showed up to support her, or offered her a bed for the night, are a beautiful testament to human nature. Although Anna comes across as a naturally vibrant and positive person, she is also very honest about how tough it was and the mental struggles she dealt with, not to mention the physical injuries too. She writes vividly about what she witnesses and how she’s feeling – it’s very easy to feel like you’re there with her.
Those present at the online book club were full of praise for The Pants of Perspective, with many of us saying it had inspired us to be braver and to think about taking on more challenging adventures.
We loved that the title of the book came from a pair of brightly coloured leggings adorned with pictures of unicorns and robots, which Anna puts on when she’s at one of her lowest points. “It was scientifically impossible to be miserable whilst wearing these pants,” she says in Chapter 13. This lead to us discussing our own items of clothing which fill us with confidence when we wear them, from t-shirts from races we still can’t believe we completed, to hydration vests which make us feel invincible because we look like someone who can take on the long distances, and of course our purple SRC tops which make us feel like we have our tribe cheering us on, even when we’re running alone.
Anna was unable to join us at book club but she did send us an exclusive video answering some of our questions – a huge thank you to Anna for taking the time to record this and for providing such detailed answers. You can watch it in the She Runs Cardiff Facebook group.
The whole book is inspiring but certain passages really stood out to me and I found myself highlighting quite a few quotes along the way – here are some of my favourite words of wisdom from The Pants of Perspective. If you’ve read the book, let us know if any moments stood out to you.
“I reasoned that being afraid to begin things was no way to live my life, and so I thought stuff it.” p15, Ch1
“I reminded myself of what I constantly told other people – that the body has an incredible capacity for change and if you guide it firmly in one direction for long enough it’ll work things out.” p23, ch2
“I guess it just comes down to a choice about how you live your life. I would rather live it completely wetting myself with fear, but doing something worthwhile than staying safe and just bumbling along. That makes you prouder when you get to the end.” p30, ch3
“What if someone announced that it would rain forever from this day forward? Would I sit inside? A life lesson dawned on me: you can’t sit around waiting for the rain to stop. There may never be a ‘good time’ to go, but you just have to and hope the weather clears up.” p107, ch7
“I thought for a moment about what people would think of my decision to leave the trail for a week. I decided that I didn’t care. This was my journey after all. I could spend my whole life chasing the approval of others and I know that I’d not make it to my grave happier than if I simply sought my own approval in how I spent my days.” p148, ch9
“Each time a bizarre thought entered my brain, such as ‘You know you’re not running this much faster than you could walk it, don’t you, Anna?’ I would stop. I would talk to that thought aloud like an insane person, and effectively tell it to bugger off. Or, better still, I would reason with it, I would acknowledge it, and offer another explanation. It was the battle between the cheerleaders and the soldiers of self-doubt once again, and it raged on like a civil war in my mind for the whole afternoon.” p145/6, ch10
“Watching Nikki* walk away, I became acutely aware that she was the perfect example of what this run was about. I often found my journey reflected in the lives of others. It had been a real privilege to watch Nikki today. To observe as she told herself she wasn’t capable of something, to be gently convinced that maybe, just maybe, she could do it, and then to watch her come spinning and grinning out of the other side. It was days like this that filled me right up to the brim.” p340, ch24
*Nikki joined Anna to run ‘a few Ks’, was worried she’d be too slow for Anna, but ended up running 20KM, double her longest-ever run.
“For all the ranting and raving I had done along the way, for all the swearing at orange triangles, talking to poles and cursing the weather, I still adored this trail. It would beat me to a pulp, grind my body to pieces, turn me into a blurring wreck, and yet I truly loved it. The highs, the lows, the companionship it had offered me. The challenges it had laid in my path to allow me the freedom to grow as an individual. I felt very proud to be among the few to have travelled along it, and to have a deep connection with the land it passed through.” p359/360 ch27
“I would have taken that lighthouse [which signified the end of the trail] over all the money in the world at that moment. Because all of the money in the world couldn’t have made me feel the way I did in the hour that followed. Money buys you material things which can be taken away. And no one could take away the way I felt today.” p402, ch30
See Anna McNuff’s website for more information on The Pants Of Perspective, as well as her other books Fifty Shades of the USA, in which Anna cycles 11,000 miles through every state of America, and Llama Drama in which Anna and her friend Faye head off on a 5,500-mile cycling adventure through South America.
The next She Runs Cardiff book club takes place on Wednesday 2nd December at 8pm. We’ll be discussing Your Pace or Mine? by Lisa Jackson and are thrilled that Lisa will be joining us for the discussion. There’s a warm welcome to all our members. More information will be posted in our Facebook group nearer to the time or you can contact us via any of our social media channels if you’d like to know more.