April 27, 2021

The Call to Adventure Podcast - Episode 17 - Elise Downing

Elise had run one marathon dressed as a crayola crayon. So the next obvious challenge was a lap around the UK, right?
Podcast Guest
Elise Downing

Elise Downing was sat in her London grad job office, miserable with the corporate grind, when the idea of running around the UK first came to her. In 2015 the spent 10 months running a lap of the UK, gradually building up her mileage to running 30-40 miles a day and for the most part staying with friends or strangers.

It was a trip that would teach her the power and presence of kindness in the UK, the joy of long distance adventures and that the hardest step is simply committing to it in the first place. Elise’s book, Coasting, is a touching, witty and inspiring account of her travels and why every person, however ordinary they think they are, is capable of adventure.

Elise’s book is available to buy from Waterstones, Amazon, Blackwell's and most other book retailers.

Show Notes

  • How’s everyone doing?
  • Quickfire questions
  • Cake and sport: the ultimate combo
  • Paddleboarding or wild swimming?
  • Tent or Camper Van?
  • The beauty of Pembrokeshire
  • Favourite Beach
  • 5000 mile run adventure around the coast - a deep dive
  • The saga of the purple crayola crayon?
  • Preparation for the run
  • How was the day to day on the run?
  • Why do a long coastal run?
  • How did Elise commit to a 5000 mile run?
  • London adventures
  • Was there anything surprising on the run?
  • How was sleeping on the adventure?
  • Meeting new people
  • Hospitality
  • Social media support and positivity
  • Book - Coasting: Running Around the Coast of Britain by Elise Downing
  • Experience of writing a book
  • Adventure book writing advice
  • Publishing advices

Full Transcript

George Beesley  0:13

Hey, it's George and welcome to the call to adventure podcast. We are on a mission to help create happier people and a healthier planet. So let's get after it.

Hello, and welcome to another episode of the call to adventure podcast with me George Beesley and my partner in crime co host, Becca heaps. I hope you're all well listeners and watchers, we getting loads of you out on lots of different trips. Lots of dates are sold out, but there's some that still have availability. So if you want to join us on Trip then head over to call to adventure.uk That's called to adventure.uk. But now on to today's pod with Elise Downing. Elise is best known for running 5000 miles around the coast of Great Britain whilst carrying all her cat on her back. Completing the journey back in 2016 saw her become first woman and youngest person ever to public challenge. She later wrote a book called Kosta all about the experience, which I'm looking forward to digging into at least is a north face UK ambassador, public speaker and prolific cake lover. So this is going to be a goodie. But before we dig in, Becca, how are things?

Becka Heaps  1:22

I'm good, thank you so much. And how are you things all right, your end?

George Beesley  1:26

All good up my end. Thank you. So

Becka Heaps  1:29

lots of people on tentshare are renting out their tents. And so if you want to make some money from your tent, you should get pop it onto the tent to website and if you'd like to go campaign but don't want to invest in buying a big old purchase, then why don't you rent a tent from a potential website from someone local to you spreading the wealth creating a sharing caring camping community. How's that

George Beesley  1:51

George? That's what we love. And nobody buying tents throw them throwing them away. So very environmentally friendly. So yeah, head over to tentshare is that floats your boat? Right then? So Elise, we're going to kick off with a quick fire listen to questions. Okay. Becca is going to kick off with question number one.

Becka Heaps  2:12

What is your favorite type of cake?

Elise Downing  2:15

Oh, I really like like a citrusy polenta cake. That would be my favorite. Or I like chocolate cake as well.

Becka Heaps  2:24

Chocolate Guinness cake. That's good. That's strong. And can you make them

Elise Downing  2:28

yeah, I'd like to bring home all right a baker. I'm not I'm not good at like the aesthetics. I can't do the neat icing or anything but I can do the making something that tastes nice. Hopefully

Becka Heaps  2:38

I saw that you on your website. You you basically ate cake all the way around. On your adventure. Yeah,

Elise Downing  2:45

too much. You could say. Not necessarily the best sports nutrition but

Becka Heaps  2:50

never too much never too much.

George Beesley  2:52

This used to be a theme of runners eating cake. Carla Molinaro is also an avid cake lover. So I think maybe that's the secret. It's actually not loads of training. It's just eating loads of cake. So I'm going to give that a go and see if it helps my running.

Elise Downing  3:07

When you just said there was this trend. Carla was the first person that sprang to mind. love eating for seeds.

George Beesley  3:15

Yeah. Infamous cake eater. Question number two.

Becka Heaps  3:20

So out of the two. Do you prefer paddleboarding or wild swimming while swimming?

Elise Downing  3:26

Mainly because I do significantly more of it. Ed I've been paddleboarding once in my life and I was whipping multiple times a week so maybe if I did more paddleboarding it'd be higher up there but definitely swimming. And do you river swim or sea swim? Mostly river just because I live near the river but I prefer the sea so if I'm near the sea I'll get it but I live there's a river 15 minute cycle from my house so that's my normal spot. Nice.

George Beesley  3:54

Awesome sounds lovely. Are you in Bristol now? My right and thinking?

Elise Downing  3:59

Yeah, exactly. I'm impressed that there's a spot on the Avon Yeah, but 15 minutes cycle away that's our normal normal go to spot although a whole boiled egg floated past as the other day so

George Beesley  4:13

something so disturbing about that. It's worse than it should be just a boil

Elise Downing  4:18

there. Yeah, it was kind of just a bit creepy.

Becka Heaps  4:22

Yeah, that's horrible.

George Beesley  4:24

I actually saw on the news today an amazing spot in Hackney for where they do loads of outdoor swimming and it just looked awesome but really close to London and just loads of great outdoor swimming people can do it like year round and yeah, so I'm going to have to give that a go so if you're in London on try some wild swimming check out something that's going on in Hackney

Elise Downing  4:45

just walk around Hackney look, yes. Yeah,

George Beesley  4:48

I'll switch where the water is when you get there and you'll and you'll find keep an

Becka Heaps  4:51

eye out for George in his swimming trunks.

Elise Downing  4:54

Looking lost

George Beesley  4:55

my flips on my COVID getting off Yeah, okay question three tent or camper van

Elise Downing  5:06

I would have said 10 Just because I actually can't drive. But then a few weeks ago I went my friend and I went camping and everybody else had a van and we were just really inferior to them. So maybe van but more realistically tent.

Becka Heaps  5:19

Good. That's a good answer. But also if you're in a van, you can't sleep under your 5 million star canopy can you

Elise Downing  5:26

well exactly and like this there's less places you can like drive a van to then you can walk tend to like you can't run with a van on your back. So

Becka Heaps  5:36

Exactly, exactly. I'm just I'm just speaking up for the tent people here and unfortunately aired from camp to can't be here. Otherwise he would be extolling the virtues of camper van driving me,

Elise Downing  5:47

I think depends on the weather for me. If it's like chucking it down with rain, then I'm going to vote van. If it's nice weather then about 10

Becka Heaps  5:55

Wow, we gotta know what about the rain on the canvas

Elise Downing  5:58

ever getting better? How I never think being soggy.

Becka Heaps  6:02

Oh, that never happened.

Elise Downing  6:06

It's always

Becka Heaps  6:09

it's like

George Beesley  6:11

the weather is good now. So we're gonna say camping and knowing how good British weather is. I'm sure it's going to stay like this for a long long time. So

Elise Downing  6:18

if I was going tonight I'd camp

Becka Heaps  6:20

Yeah, yeah, definitely. be lovely. Tonight. I'm going this weekend. Can't wait. Nice. Oh, yeah.

George Beesley  6:25

We're off to Norfolk.

Becka Heaps  6:27

Good old Norfolk.

George Beesley  6:28

North Norfolk digital. Nice. Sounds good. For top beach for Norfolk.

Becka Heaps  6:34

I'd probably go see pooling, it's massive, is an absolutely beautiful campus like they're called walnut tree farm. And you can literally park up there and then you camp there. You don't need to get back into your car because you can walk to the coast is about a 10 minute walk from the campsite to the coast. And it's clear, there's no one else there. Apart from a colony of seals. Absolutely beautiful.

Elise Downing  6:59

That sounds great.

George Beesley  7:00

Very cool.

Becka Heaps  7:01

It's so nice. But this time I'm going to Wardley Hill campsite. I've not been there before, but it's supposed to be really eco friendly and all the good things about campsite solar showers and all that. So I'm really looking forward to going to have a look at that place this weekend.

George Beesley  7:14

Awesome. That sounds good. I've actually just done an article on the 20 best beaches in the UK. So go and check that out. few goodies ever been to barafundle Bay in Pembrokeshire.

Elise Downing  7:25

The whole of Pembrokeshire is just great. Yeah.

George Beesley  7:28

It's awesome, isn't it? My dad's from there used to spend our summers when we were little kiddies going up there and it's it's awesome. Although I think I'd like to go back now. Now that I'm a bit more adventurous and outdoorsy and do more of the kind of climbing and stand up paddleboarding and all that good stuff.

Elise Downing  7:44

I really want to go to Pembrokeshire. I think it's late, or early May when all the puffins are on the little islands off of it. And that sounds great. But every single year I forget about it until it's literally mid May. And I might have missed the puffins again, and it put it in my calendar for next year.

Becka Heaps  8:01

That sounds awesome. I'd love to do that. Yeah, I used to go to St. Davids with the children when they were little. It's just beautiful. Is it called white sand beach there. Yeah, the

Elise Downing  8:10

little islands are called they're like Skomer and something else. And yeah, they've got the puffins on and all these migrating birds and it just sounds magical. Yeah,

Becka Heaps  8:20

I love the sound of that. Next year, I'm going to put it in my diary right now.

Elise Downing  8:24

Yeah, put it in for February like book a trip to Pembrokeshire in May.

George Beesley  8:30

Poppins in May, and this year is the year of the UK right as well. So it's good that we're all just kind of thinking about like how awesome the UK can be and we've got some amazing spots. So in fact, I'm going to change the next question which was what was your favourite country other than UK to what's your favorite beach? Or what's your favorite place in the UK? You've seen a few of them now

Elise Downing  8:52

Yeah, specific beach. I find that really hurt mostly because I can't remember the names of any I can like picture them in my mind. I really like the stretch of coasts that it's like on near this North Devon Cornwall border around kind of Heartland point and then that section of the southwest coast path is just like super rugged it's quite remote is not normally many people around and I just think that strategy is great it's a bit of a pain to get to because why don't always get maybe go there as much as like the south coast of Devon but yeah, there's that definite North Devon Cornwall coast is just great. But I also think the whole South West Coast path is just fantastic. I think it's like our national treasure but that 630 miles so I'm not sure I can claim that that's one place probably cheating a little bit.

George Beesley  9:41

I haven't done that but I would really like to one of the call to adventure writers believe is doing part of it right now, which is really cool. So she's gonna write an article and a how to like kind of best places to go and all that good stuff. So yeah, I'm pumped to give that a go. Hopefully, get a bit of it in before the end of the year. So the end of the summer

Elise Downing  10:01

is a good one to do in sections. And the southwest coast path website is such a good route, like they've got so many, like helpful guides on the sections and got a distance calculator. It's really well signposted. I feel like it's a good place to go. If you've got I don't know, maybe I'm like super confident with like going up in the mountains by themselves. So it's like really well resourced. And there's quite conceptions that you can get to while public transport. I think it's great. And there's loads of other places where the coasts beautiful, there's not necessarily like a coast path right on it. So you have to go down a track to get to the sea, whereas the southwest coast path is pretty much like cut into the cliffs the whole way round. is just beautiful.

George Beesley  10:38

Awesome. sounds so cool.

Becka Heaps  10:40

Yeah, it does. It sounds amazing. I don't have to have a look at that as well. Now. I've got a whole list of things to do next year.

George Beesley  10:47

This is someone's ahead of us.

Elise Downing  10:48

We'll be able to go abroad next year. And now we don't want to because

Becka Heaps  10:53

Yeah, well, I think I mean, who who can be bothered to get on a plane these days. I mean, it was a pain Anyway, before Corona and COVID. And now there's that extra layer of hassle. Getting onto a plane. I just think the staycation is here to stay. Yeah. Great. Yeah.

George Beesley  11:08

So many good spots here. So yeah, let's all get out exploring seeing what's in our backyard. Okeydoke. So let's hold it there with quick fire and kick this baby off. So I was trying to think at least I think I first heard about you, I think back in like, maybe 2015 I was at yesterday. And I can't remember you were just going to do your run, or you just finished your run. You did have some cake around with a slight blue I think. So remember,

Elise Downing  11:38

that would have been when I got back in 2016. And I yeah, I did a talk and Jed who I'd stayed with in Scotland, maybe this incredible cake that was like the whole British Isles. She's amazing cake. But then when I was on stage holding it, people just kept bringing cakes up. And I was like this is the best the most overwhelming moment of my life. There's a really funny picture where I'm just like holding a cake everywhere. So yeah, that was 1016

Becka Heaps  12:05

Sounds like a dream speaking. I'm going to do this and it's never happened

Elise Downing  12:09

again. I think that was the first talk I gave and I thought this will happen at the end of everyone. It's never happened again. But it was a magical moment while it lasted.

George Beesley  12:17

It's as magical public speaking is great. People just come and give you a cake. Like halfway through. That must be how it

Elise Downing  12:23

always was very popular that night because I had so much cake to offer FIFA forget deciding, like can have a slice. What have you got? I was like, I've got everything? Yeah, I remember that.

George Beesley  12:37

Yeah, so your, your big adventure was your 5000 mile run round coasts of the GB. So how did you like first come up with the idea?

Elise Downing  12:47

Yeah, so as literally it was March 2015. And I'd kind of finished university in the spring beforehand, I'd moved to London. I was doing a graduate job. And it was all very cliched, but I just remember sitting at my desk thinking I can't sit here for another 50 years looking at this computer screen. And all my friends seemed really kind of excited about like their, like new lives. And I was like, This is terrible. I was a bit miserable. And I lived in a flat that was really expensive. And our neighbors just just have arguments all night. And it was just sort of immeasurable, but I didn't really Yeah, I just thought well, that's fine. This is just what it is. I'll just do this a job like this very just as working for a startup. And then I was actually looking at the map one day to see if we could deliver something to a customer. And I was looking at the British show it was and it just popped into my mind almost like fully formed. It wasn't like I really wanted to go on a adventure and I had a shortlist of ideas. Yeah, it just kind of popped fully formed for mine. And I was Oh, I wonder if anyone's been around coast before. And I didn't necessarily think running I sort of walked and cycled and it turned out people had walked and cycled and sailed around. Well, I did a bit of research. Nobody had really ran it before. And I really wasn't much of a runner at the time. I'd been running for two years I've done one disasters marathon which I was tell the story but I was dressed as a Crayola crayon. And I was a cry for like eight miles of this marathon. It was awful. I hadn't done the training it was the mill to kids marathon sorry Milton Keynes, but it was really boring. And small child care could mean cope with the crying crayon. And that was pretty much the extent of my running CV. But for some reason when this idea popped into my mind, I was like I can have a go at that. And I think it's because I was following along online as other people kind of done Everest base camp Trek the year before through that started like reading because blogs he did adventure II stuff and following other people and I was just kind of starting to learn about the world of people doing these huge, crazy human powered adventures. People like Dave Cosway who started yesterday go and find people I think I just saw they do these things. So maybe I could But I was like totally misguided. Some of the people are following what people are animate nuff who is who was running banks in New Zealand at the time and she's, she was amazing. She was so supportive but she is an X GB rower and the daughter of two Olympians. And I was I think she started from a different starting point than I am. I later realized, I didn't know that and ignorance was bliss. So yeah, that's where the idea came from. Very cool.

Becka Heaps  15:22

I love that. I have one question to ask you about your your marathon. Yeah. What color was the crayon?

Elise Downing  15:29

Purple? Purple. Yeah, I still got the costume somewhere and actually the fastest women's marathon so an item of stationery there isn't a specific current crayon one. Isn't that fast? Like I think I could do it when racerback properly I think I'm going to try and get the Guinness World Record for an item of stationery cuz I feel like it was just nicely come full circle. Yeah, you

Becka Heaps  15:51

got to turn that we got to turn that crying crayon around. Yeah.

Elise Downing  15:55

Yeah. It seems pretty common at the time was but it seemed pretty doable. So yeah, that's my next mission.

Becka Heaps  16:01

Excellent. I look forward to

George Beesley  16:04

following with bated breath. I want to see the training sessions in the purple Crayola crayon. Just like quick off the blocks.

Elise Downing  16:13

Yeah. That was quite cute. But like, Yeah, little hat. Yeah. So yeah, that was my running career started. I made my dad do that. It was also his first marathon and he was dressed as a fairy. So we were quite the gang.

George Beesley  16:29

When you say there's not one specifically for stationery, right, who's the fastest now? stapler, ruler?

Becka Heaps  16:36


Elise Downing  16:37

Yeah, I don't know. I'll research that. Get that to you. Yeah,

George Beesley  16:40

we'll have to, we'll have to have a look. I really want to pick a world record like that. That's doable. Just something fun that, like a bit weird. But it's something that you can actually do. Yeah, cuz some of

Elise Downing  16:51

them are really, like really rapid. These world records. I guess it just depends who's done them before, because, but my brother is trying to get the fastest postman at the moment because he is a postman. But you have to carry like a satchel full of posts with that. So it's actually quite difficult.

Becka Heaps  17:10

I wonder some, some friends of mine got into the Guinness Book of World Records for the smallest disco ever. And it was called the miniscule of sound. In Brisbane, in Japan, it's it's basically like four tiles on the floor for flashing tiles on the floor, and then a DJ up high. And you can fit about six people in there or something like that. The Middle

Elise Downing  17:35

School is a great site for that.

Becka Heaps  17:39

And it was back in the 90s Right.

George Beesley  17:44

I wonder we get we're gonna have to catch plan where we should all we'll have to set a Guinness world record by this time next year. Because I was watching there's a climber who I like called Magnus, MIT Berg, and he breaks all of these world records like every week, but he's just a kind of freakish athlete. And so they'll do like the world's longest hang of two bars or like the two hands or like one hand or like a front lever. And I'll say yeah, this this looks pretty good. And then look what's on his hand was like five minutes or something. Like that doesn't sound like that long. And then I tried it and like one minute and two seconds. I was like, five minutes a long time. Really long time. So I think we should we should come up we should have to plan and then revert back in the year.

Becka Heaps  18:30

Yeah. I'm already thinking how many people can fit in Abelton?

Elise Downing  18:37

Well, I did a how many people you could fit in one of those tent TP you know the teepee tent thing. Yeah. We with yesterday will camp out actually we did who how we broke some sort of record for ham people you could get in one of those. It was hot in the middle. I could say it was horrendous experience. Wow.

Becka Heaps  18:58

This is quite a competition out there already. Go for that. Yeah. All right. All right. We're on

Elise Downing  19:08

just my crayon costume.

George Beesley  19:11

How many crayons? Can you fit in a teepee tent. So at least you mentioned that you hadn't really done like that was kind of your running experience your your Crayola escapade. But did you do any actual training for this for the run?

Elise Downing  19:29

No. So I Yeah, it was like March that I decided to do this thing. I didn't realize how inexperienced I was. Because I guess compared to some of my friends, they thought that they had run a marathon and maybe like a pretty experienced runner. In fact, it took a really long time and I cried the whole way round. It's relevant. And I just didn't know about all these like ridiculous amazing ultra runners and all the kind of things people were doing really so yeah, I think I just didn't realize quite how little I knew. And yeah, as much So I decided to do this thing I decided to set off in November. So gave me kind of just over six months, and I had all these grand plans of doing loads of training. And I entered a 100 kilometer race in September with a friend, with the idea being I trained for that. And then that kind of built me up to some pretty decent mileage. And it'd be good to get going, the training just didn't happen for literally no reason the funnels useless like, week by week would slip by, and I just still wouldn't have been for a run. And we went and did this race, it was a terrible race that it was just really bad, the organized, every single person got lost the finish line wasn't up when the winners got there. It was terrible race. But I dropped out crying. And this is within my running career, I cropped up, dropped out crying in a graveyard at the marathon point. So if you struggled on for about another 10 miles, but didn't do a lot better. And yeah, that was about the extent of it, really. But I kind of feel like, because I had such a long time to do this thing. Like if you're obviously doing a race for a day or a week that you obviously really have to hit the ground running. Whereas I 10 months to kind of build up my mileage, I didn't really have any time pressures. So I did just train on the job in the end. And I think if I'd been for many runs, like with the backpack, and I just don't know, I think I would have just thought this is too hard. There's absolutely no way I can do it. I won't even try. So in some ways, I really do think ignorance was bliss. But yeah, did not do what training but then my mileage at the beginning was pretty low. So I really was kind of building up. It's not like I started doing 30 miles a day, a lot of time beginning I was doing 10 miles, sometimes bit less. So yeah, the short answer to that is no.

George Beesley  21:47

And what was the actual like day to day experience, like you are obviously not working, all you've got to do is just run around. And that's just such a unique experience that you don't really get to have as an adult. So what was your like day to day, like what we doing? And how did it kind of feel just to have the freedom to run around?

Elise Downing  22:09

Yeah, so I think it definitely kind of changed a bit over the course of the whole thing, because I started in November. And like I said, a lot of it wasn't doing crazy distances by any means at that point, simply because I couldn't. And you actually end up what the main thing I learned about doing adventure that is a lot of time to kill, like there was a lot of quite boring bits. But my mum always jokes that she just got so many phone calls from me when I was trying to like kill time in various places in bad weather. And I'd always I took her like pacing the aisles of supermarkets because it was indoors. And you could spend a lot of time in there about about anyone thinking you're up to anything. So I'd find my mother like list everything on the supermarket shelves, and she would actually hung up on me to do the washing up because she said it was so boring. So there's a lot of time to care, like more than you would think. I think people think you're on a big adventure. And they're like, expect you to be like doing all these exciting things all the time. But that wasn't really the case. And I found the winter and it was really bad weather. And especially because on the south coast of England, it was quite built up. Like it wasn't really like you could just put attend to book three o'clock in the afternoon. Quite difficult. And then when it got kind of several months in and I've kind of made it up to the Scottish Highlands, there's a lot more geared up for being on an adventure. And by that point, I was doing kind of 2030 miles. Most days, I was really filling the days with actually running, then it all felt like it almost made a lot more sense. Like, I'd get up in the morning, I packed my tent up, I'd start running, I'd run all day, I finish in the way that I kind of expected it to whereas at the beginning, it was definitely kind of almost quite slow. To get off the ground. I think

Becka Heaps  23:43

I've got a question I'd like to ask you, you've told us about to marathon and then 100k Run, there's a little bit of a theme running, how comes you stuck to doing the long coastal run. And and didn't give up on that.

Elise Downing  24:02

I think when you think about say running out of country and having the headline title, that it sounds like a really, really long way because it is a long way. But it's almost like the day to day is actually almost quite manageable. And I think it has to be otherwise if you burnt yourself to grant and grant every single day you wouldn't make it through 10 months of something. And I think I did almost like train on the job in the way that they tell you to train to run like I started off doing really low mileage I increase that quite slowly. My pace was like really low intensity. It wasn't like running really hard every day. And so the actual physical of what I was doing every day was not it wasn't easy, but it wasn't like going out and trying to run 50 miles every day in a way that I guess trying to do a marathon or like it took me about four months of doing that every day till I made it to do an actual marathon distance in one day. And I think it's just like quite a different experience. Almost Yeah. trying to like really kill yourself in one day? And also, yeah, the reason I hadn't finished that was because I just haven't. Well, I did finish, but there is no so often it's because I just hadn't done the training. And I guess I'd have no choice but to move because it was all I'm doing every day. When I, my friend Sophie, who I did the failed 100k was when I dropped out of that I think it was her boyfriend was like this doesn't really like bode very well does it if you can't be bothered to train for this. Like, why? How would you think you're going to do this like, huge trip? And I was like, That is a really good point. So yeah, it's a good question.

Becka Heaps  25:38

Yes. So what how did you commit? You plans to have that 10? week, months off work? So did you give up work?

Elise Downing  25:46

Yeah, I quit my job. I had like, well, I worked up until the point I left, obviously, I'm in a tiny room in a house share at the end of the tube line, save some money. And I think I think the remain reason that seemed like a good thing to do was, I knew that I didn't want to be doing what I was doing. But the thought of like, quitting my job and moving out of my flat to go away for like, a month or two months just felt almost a bit ridiculous. It was like, Well, I can't give a favorite thing. Whereas giving everything to go for 10 months, I don't know felt a bit more plausible, in a weird kind of way. So yeah, I'd quit work for 10 months. And yet, I'd saved up for money from moving house that when adventure grant and got a sponsorship from the company I work for, I think it did start to get closer to it. And I was like, I have bitten off way more than I can chew here. This is absolutely ridiculous. But by this point, I'd kind of told quite a lot of people about it. And also, I'd met. So it's hard to go into stuff with the S tribe. And whereas my friends and family who actually knew me were like, well, this is ridiculous, you can't do this. This is so out of character. I started meeting these people who don't other like similar kind of adventures, and a lot of them had quite similar stories of just like it being quite out of the blue. So when I told them I was going to do this thing, I kind of expect, expect them sort of almost heckle me and be like, You can't do this. They were like, No, this is amazing. And they were so encouraging, like they've caught fate lent me as 10. And I'm enough sat down with me and like made all these spreadsheets with men, and that kind of code for us. But I'm gonna have to at least give it a go now. And then when I was actually doing the thing, I mean, there were so many words, I wanted to quit every single day. But I just, I just tried to think about it as like one more day, I was like, go for one more run, I think you just have to not think about whole 10 months. But a lot of the reason I didn't quit is just because I think I would have thought was quite embarrassing. I was like, announced I'm gonna go do this thing after at least give it a go.

Becka Heaps  27:40

Yeah, peer pressure,

Elise Downing  27:42

literally, I knew I never would have written it down.

Becka Heaps  27:47

I love it. I think that's great as well. And I think also when you find new people who don't know you, you can be that person that you that you want to be or that you haven't been pigeon holed into because of the way that you know people other people know you and have known you growing up and, and know knew going to school and all of that. So it allows you to become well, another layer of yourself, isn't it on top on top of what you already were. So that's great, isn't it? I like that, that, that you went and met new people? And they were like, Yeah, of course you can do it. Why wouldn't you? Yeah, like

Elise Downing  28:21

really agree. I think it's quite good. You can also try something else on for size. And nobody knows it's out of character. So like, so obviously, I wasn't lying to them about what a good runner it was. I think I was pretty honest with them about my lack of experience. That's right, you can go and have a go. And I think in the same way that I now think the same. I'm like, you don't need to be the best on the start line. Like there's a cuss word ago and she somebody said the lie they were talking about something pretty different, but that you don't need to be like when you're setting out something you don't need to be good enough to do the whole 10 years of it. You just need to do the first day. And I think that's so true. Like I couldn't run 5000 miles the day I set off I could render 17 to Dartford and then like so on and so on. But yeah, I think meeting those other people that were really supportive was like, really fundamental to it. Yeah.

Becka Heaps  29:10

Great. That's so interesting. I

George Beesley  29:11

love that makes a massive difference, doesn't it like having that peer group around you and getting that new chance to embrace the new side of you. So big shout out to Dave Anna and all the crew. They are They're awesome. They're really really cool. It's great place. I think London is just this incredible breeding ground for people who want to go and do weird adventures like you get there and then you kind of think like yes, so got a good job. Move to the Capitol things are going to be awesome and then you get there and realize that probably possibly for a lot of people not what they expected that certainly happened with me and a lot of people that I know who who did the same thing and ended up finding out about yes tribe or another group or whoever. And then you can find that there's like a completely different side of life. You can make it adventurous even you don't have to To quit your job, but you can do and you realize that there's like these people who are doing these weird and wonderful and wacky things that make life exciting again, it makes things feel adventurous. And it really like puts a new kind of lens on your life and you realize, yeah, like, yeah, I could go and do this. There's, I think one of the big things is realizing that those people who do that kind of stuff are just normal people, when you meet them, and we meet them in person. And most people have the same story, right? Almost everybody who we talked to, there are a few people who are just like absolute machines. But most of the time, they're just like normal people like us. And then they have an idea. And then they tell everyone, they don't want to back out. And then people, few people say like, yeah, you can do it. And then you do it. And then you realize, oh, yeah, this is very doable. Just breaking it down.

Elise Downing  30:43

Yeah, I think we're not having to quit your job. So he's like, really important. I also like, a bit odd, because obviously, that is exactly what I did do. But equally, I feel like that summer before I went on the road, I met the canopy from the ash tribe, and I'm still working full time, really long hours at startup. And yeah, I was going about three or four nights a week going and like being in the woods somewhere with them. And my colleagues would all laugh because I come to work the next day a bit stronger in my hair and go for them roll mat and but I have like certain ages. I'm a while in London while working full time. And I think this and now that I'm really passionate, I think you can do so much of this stuff in like the weekends after work in your annual leave. And till six months ago, ever since I finished the road, I'd worked kind of nine to five full time for a company. And I feel like you can do a lot of stuff in your free time around that. And it doesn't have to be this big quit your job moment.

George Beesley  31:37

Yeah, we call it five to nine plug I'm sure lots of other people do as well. Like talking, whether it's friends here, or the guys that call to adventure. What can we do with the other hours that we're not working? And I used to love going in, after a midweek campout with the yes drive and then go into my job in finance and get a suit on and look like proper. And then But then people would like see that you just see you coming in on like the bike in the morning, just completely disheveled. And then have a shower, and come back out and like what are you doing? Like where have you been? I've been in the woods on a busy night come out. And it was awesome. Yeah. And a lot of people think it's very weird, but it's it is it is great. It's really cool. So yeah, I think you you don't have to quit your job to have a good adventure. There's lots of good, good options out there. On your run. Was there anything that really surprised you?

Elise Downing  32:27

Yeah, I think the main thing was, so when I set off, I expected that I would camp the hallway because I knew that I couldn't afford to do and if it like I couldn't, there was no way I could afford to do it if I was paying stay faces all the time. And also, it just seemed like that's what you did on an adventure like just yet just think about part of going on an adventure. But I didn't like camping with my family as a kid. And that summer, I've done quite a lot of kind of going on midweek campouts with the Astra. But I'd never ever wild camped by myself. And it was obviously the middle of winter. Like I said I was in quite especially along the south coast, quite a lot of places are quite built, like not necessarily ideal for just flinging attentive in the way more remote places are. And I think I just had in my head that I would set off on this adventure, I'd take the first step. And I would just suddenly become a different person who was happy to put my tent up in any ditch and I was really adventurous and brave. And always that didn't happen. I was exactly the same person as before I set off. And but before I started, a few different people had said to me that I'd be blown away by how kind, welcoming people were. And I was like, That won't happen in the UK, that sort of thing that happens like somewhere exotic. And I set off and through a bit of a combination of like friends of friends. And then that turned into friends of friends of friends. And then people had read my blog, local running clubs and kind of b&b and hostel owners. I ended up not pitching my tent at all the first five months because people just let me stay with them for so long. And it was like mind blowing how kinds of work I would turn up covered head to toe in mud and then then open the door. They're like lovely clean home and they're cream carpet sloppier. Oh, no, you're gonna hate me. But it was just such a privilege to be invited in so many people's homes and really nice, like experience that on our doorstep. And at the beginning, I felt really uncomfortable about it for because I just felt like I was being a real burden. I think I eventually realized that like, at some point, people don't offer to help you if they don't want to like nothing. Nobody was making these people message me on Facebook and say I live in this place if you'd like need somewhere to stay. And actually, I think people were quite excited just how I would be like if somebody else was doing something similar and I could help them out. But yeah, that was definitely the most surprising thing and it was a thing made the trip and if it hadn't been for all those people I don't know if I would have made it to the end but I just don't know if I would have I would have done it because the winter would have just been so miserable. So yeah, it definitely like just the kindness of all these strangers rarely. And they just made it like they'd run with me. I just hang up, like read people's bedtime stories go to their children and go to choirs, and I'm sorry, I can't believe that you're just letting me into your house.

Becka Heaps  35:12

That's incredible. Actually, five months. Yeah, it's really incredible. Five months. So it's a different place every night.

Elise Downing  35:19

Yeah. So what would generally happen if it was really organic, like people would, I'd get an email or a message, I started making these kind of daily video diaries and post them on my Facebook page. And mostly thanks to my brother spamming every running forum going with them. Like they got started to get a few followers. And then it just became almost like web of people. Because obviously not everyone's up to having a complete stranger today. But sometimes I'd stay with someone and then they'd get the map out be like, like, I've got a friend here and here. And then I guess they were kind of vouching for the fact that I was, you know, pretty harmless. And, yeah, genuinely, like, people just messaged me on here. And I was I got a bit closer, I'd be like, message them back. And any chance you're still around, or in the winter, when everything's really quiet, like a lot of kind of people have their BS and hostels, like gave when they just had loads of empty rooms that day. And it was just like, yeah, it was incredible. And then a few people, like a few families that I just think so fondly off you let me save kind of three nights, and then we'll have a rest day. And it was mind blowing how nice people are, it's really

Becka Heaps  36:23

heartwarming. And actually, I'm very surprised about that, as well, especially along the UK. We all think we're quite reserved people. But that's, that's actually telling us the absolute opposite.

Elise Downing  36:34

Yeah, and a big part of them, like quite a talk, but it's quite a lot in the book. And it was almost like, there was a point in June where it was when the whole Brexit campaign was going on, there was a lot of stuff in the news, just of like, people not being very nice to each other. And like all these different sides, and like people kind of fighting and then I was just saying with all these people. And I was like, that's not what people are like, and I don't know, it was just it was a bit strange. But yeah, like, people are just incredible. And I think some people were like, like I said, people who've done adventures themselves, or people who for went to local running clubs, and we're just really excited about the running side. And then other people, it'd be like their daughter had shared my page and then be like, Mom, can this person stay they live. If my feet weren't really into the running, they clearly found what was doing a bit weird, but they still gave you dinner and let me wash my shoes. Yeah, it was really hard.

George Beesley  37:26

Yes, an amazing experience. I almost feel like I wish that everybody could experience what it's like to have the joy of have other people be so kind and so helpful. And to know that they don't want anything in return. It's such a powerful experience. And it completely changes the way you relate to life and others as well. Like you look at people in a different way. Because you realize, and the whole like lens that you look through life, you realize, like 99% of people are just really nice, really friendly, but because of what we see in the news, and like the stories that get propagated around whatever it is now like the racism, football, or Brexit, that's the kind of stuff that we hear, we don't hear like, mum of two hosts runner for three nights with rest day with dirty shoes on green carpet. Like you never, you never hear about something most of the time,

Elise Downing  38:18

same thing I kind of thought a lot was I would stay with people and they were all very different people and we'd sit around and chat over dinner. And like, people would have completely different views on almost everything, some of which are great with lots of which I didn't. But they were like fundamentally like such nice welcoming, like warm people. And I just couldn't help think you would really say you wouldn't like the person I stayed with last night because I've got a complete different view on this. But actually, I think if you sat down had dinner with them, you'd realize that they're just another nice person. And I think yeah, what everyone was quite similar, like very different, but similar in that way. That was really nice. Yeah, I think it's getting used that I don't they don't know people don't want anything in return. I think that's why I felt really guilty at first because I'm just kind of taking from people but I think yeah, people don't often do things, for the most part to get something back. I think not, not when they're offering a muddy runner to say anyway.

Becka Heaps  39:13

Well, you're also sharing an adventurer, you're bringing adventure to them. In a way. That's what they're getting. So it's something we were talking about before you know, you've got your nine to five job and, and you feel you know, life's a bit dull, but if a runner who's doing an amazing things come and stay in your house one night? Well, that's something you know, that's bringing some adventure and some interest to your life, isn't it so you were bringing them something?

Elise Downing  39:37

That's a really nice way to look at it after I remember that next time I feel too guilty. I just find it mad but I started making these videos it was me muffling onto the camera. And then people were just so supportive and lovely about how much they enjoyed watching them and I was like you're actually enjoying watching this. I guess I'll make another one. Did you get any trolls well Got one troll on the internet who told me that I was ruining a good view when I put a picture up. So we're rude. Yeah, pretty much for online trolls, I did get a few weird. Like, obviously I didn't just stay with like anyone who messaged without any kind of, I did get a few creepy messages that I just adored. Like Manny said I could save you only have one bed, but it was fine because we could share, like, except that. But they were like so few and far between like 99% of people were just really nice. I think I had such a positive experience of social media through that as well in a way that I know. Like, I guess the whole point of social media at several level is to kind of connect people. And I think I saw those connections become really tangible because I would connect through these people online, and then they would become real people and a few nights later. And it was like a real positive experience. Was it Yeah, if I'd done this kind of before social media again, I don't know how it all these people found out about it. Like I might have bumped into a few people who had like, offered me so much there, whatever. But it would have been a completely different experience. And it was really kind of uplifting. If I was having a really rubbish day and I'd post a video and then all these people were just sending me such supportive messages. And I was like, This is so nice. I can't be evil these people care. But yeah, definitely a very positive experience for that. And only that one troll fingers crossed that it started flooding in now

George Beesley  41:39

it's nice to hear that the positive side of social media are so awesome that that's like all it was because it's a tool right? It can be used for great stuff like that. All the shit that goes along with it as well. So it's nice to be reminded that there's some good stuff that comes along with it too. So since your adventure, you then wrote your book coasting. I really want to call it Coasteering. Every time I say it. I'm just like, want to correct myself but it's coasting. Did you find that word?

Elise Downing  42:04

So this was my friend Sophie's boyfriend Oscar, who I mentioned was the one who was like, I don't see how you think you can do this.

George Beesley  42:12

I didn't believe in you earlier.

Elise Downing  42:16

But he came up with any also got an idea in the book. I called him Sophie's boyfriend have an Oscar. I think we are friends in our own right. So I'll give you this photo now. Yeah, Oscar came up with it. He I had a few I couldn't think of a good name. And then he just came up with coasting one day, because he said I coasted for and also by the coast. So yeah, I have to thank Oscar for that one. I can't take any credit for the title

George Beesley  42:42

of redeemed yourself. Oscar. Well done. Thanks, Oscar. How was the experience of writing book them? Had you done lots of writing before? And what what was it like?

Elise Downing  42:51

Yeah, I like working in marketing. I've done quite a lot of copywriting and stuff, but nothing kind of, well, I haven't written anything over 1000 words for quite a long time to be honest. So. And it took me about five years to actually put pen to paper, I've kind of kept saying I was like, I did really want to but I don't know, just life got in the way it never really happened. And then I was when I got put on furlough during that lot. First lockdown from my den jobs. I just thought, again, such a cliche baked the sourdough I'd done the banana bread than the home workout just like better. I've worked to help. But I just thought if I don't do it now, I'm never going to do it. Like I've got months that I'm getting paid, I'm sitting at home, I can't do anything. And I think it took me a while to kind of have enough perspective on the experience. Like know what I wanted to say about it. I think if I had written it, soon as I got back on that show, it would have been any good. And it was really nice to go back and revisit all those good memories we've just talked about. And then there was bits where I was in a not great relationship the year before I left which kind of played a bit of a part in kind of my mindset at the beginning of it and some of the kind of less happy parts of the whole adventure, I guess. And I didn't think I could really tell the story without talking about that, to some extent. And I think that's probably why it took me a while to like want to, but then it was really weird going back to end like talking about that. And also just all the any of the bad bits, which obviously over the course of a year, there were, I feel like I just don't think about those things anymore. Like I look back on the whole experience. I'm like, Oh, this is great time with all these changes. And it's I think the hardest thing about writing but it was like putting myself back in that mindset of those things that kind of really mattered to me at the time so that I could write about him because I don't really think about money more. But it was mostly Yeah, really nice. Just to kind of go back. I've watched all those videos back to kind of jog my memory on it. It's been I'm really glad that I did it eventually.

George Beesley  44:45

What advice would you give to somebody else who wants to write a book about their adventure then you mentioned taking time to get some perspective is one way but any other advice?

Elise Downing  44:56

I think the most worthy is writing the book that you want to write Because I think I knew that I did didn't, I just didn't want to write a really kind of sugar coated adventure book that I don't know made it all seem a bit like inaccessible and may seem really brave and great because it wasn't really what it was like. And also, I wanted it because the whole reason I went adventure in my early 20s, I was feeling a bit sad and lost. And I feel like that's probably more relatable experience than the running 5000 Miles bit. And also, I'm not the biggest running expert, like if somebody wants to read a book about how to be the best doctor ever, somebody else can write a much better book on that. And they have written some great books on that. And I just didn't feel like I had much to offer like I didn't want to almost write like a how to go for a really long run guide. So whereas I think I don't know, maybe that's I think a few people have read it expected it to be a bit more like that. I've had that. And I've had quite positive feedback. But it's not like that. So I think you have to kind of go with your gut and write about things that are important to you. And that you that I wanted to write the book that I would really want to read, and especially maybe would have wanted to read at that time when I was going on that adventure. So yeah, I think just make sure you write about something you care about if you're going to write a book, because it's a really long time to be writing about something you don't care about

Becka Heaps  46:13

us. Good advice. And how long did it take you to write? Do you?

Elise Downing  46:16

Yeah, so I started and it was yeah, it was like April of last year that I kind of over the years, I'd like randomly written little bits down, but nothing substantial. So I did kind of some sample chapters and put together the proposal and stuff republish between sort of last April and June, July, got offered a book deal in July. And then from July until November, I was writing first draft and then November until March, early April, we were kind of doing edits and changing things. So about a year and total the whole process. But I think yeah, because I paid for it, it was gonna leave your bad book review. Like they just tell you not to read your own reviews. And I felt whatever you write however good a book is it gets a bad review. And I think there was some bits that I wasn't sure whether to put in other bits that I've left out. And I think I just thought if somebody says something not nice about something, I think I'm really glad I put it I won't mind. Whereas if I think oh, I'm not sure about that bit. And so the lives about real be like oh, yeah, I'm not sure about that either. So I think that was my Yeah, just trying to be honest in it. But yeah, so But yeah, basically, it spanned lockdowns, one, two and three,

George Beesley  47:26

such a good time to write a book, if I was furloughed. That would be I mean, I don't know what I'd write about. But it seems like, I feel like that should have been such a good broadcast message that lockdown one just like if you've ever wanted to write a book, do it now. Because you're getting paid. You've got all this time. I mean, people found it different, right? Some people found it really tough. And I completely get that today. They weren't in the kind of headspace to do it. But if you want to, like learn a language or write a book, it's like the best deal ever. You don't have to go to work, but you get paid 80%. And then you can just do fun stuff. I think it really depends on what type of person you are. Like, if you're really self motivated, you can do all this kind of thing and like, get yourself organized, then it's awesome. Or if you're not like that, and there's nothing better or worse about being like that we're all just different. Because for some people, it was really shared. Some of my mates were on furlough who, whenever laborers, they were just like, this is all awful. It's nothing to do. But I think if you could, if you were kind of like organized and could seize the time, just sounds like such a great time to write book.

Elise Downing  48:28

Yeah. And I think my excuse for not having done it sooner was that I was I was like, I just don't have time and everything else going on. And I think techniques, I did have time, like I guess I could have sat down for an hour before or after work every day and put pen to paper. And eventually I would have had a book. But I think for me it was more like having the like headspace to do it in a way that I just did. And then when I literally couldn't do anything else, I was like, I haven't got any excuses left. And I think I knew I'd be annoyed if I didn't give it a go. And at that point I didn't have I didn't have a clue that anyone would be interested in publishing it or anything. But I've always been on it for stuff, I don't have a go. And this is my last excuse. Like you've literally been given several months off work being paid. Like, I've got no excuses left. So I think I just know, I wouldn't really forgive myself if I didn't take the opportunity. So I spent half the day in the morning. I generally like write a bit in the morning and then go do home workouts and with my mom in the afternoon. So I was at home for a bit so

George Beesley  49:27

nice. If somebody because a lot of people are going down the self publish route now. What advice would you give to people who want to get something published? Do you think it's worth putting in the time to get the book deal? Or do you think self publishing is often a good route? And if they are going to go for the publisher route? What would you recommend? They do? Yeah,

Elise Downing  49:45

I didn't sell for a bit and actually, to be honest, now I know how much goes into the whole book process. I have so much respect for anyone who manages to self publish because, yeah, there's just a lot to it. And I think it's like really impressive that people managed to do all of that kind of manage that project themselves. Basically, I kind of had a bit of an easy route, I guess in terms of I, when I was actually running around the coast. I am Debbie, who ended up being my editor had read my blog, and asked if I'd thought about writing a book. And I've always wanted to write books, so the best email ever got. And then when I finished actually running, I, we met for coffee once and I kept emailing her and say, Yeah, I'm writing something, and I wasn't writing anything. And then five years passed, and I sent her this really sheepish email or a thread from 2017. Like, hey, Debbie, just wondering if you'd like to still be interested, I've like kind of finally started writing something. And she said, they'd be interested in still receiving something. So I sent over my proposal, and they offered me a deal. And I didn't go down the route of trying to find an agent or anything like that. So I can't speak to what that process was like. But I did write kind of a full book proposal. And I would say that if you for somebody wanting to get properly published, having obviously a really good book is one thing, but it is at the end of the day, a business and publishers are looking for books that they think they can sell. So I think working on kind of the business side of the proposal, and there's loads loads of useful information online as to how to do this is kind of really good to get their intention like, and it'd be things I put a section on my own audience why I thought this would sell at the moment, like I put in, kind of, we're in the middle of a lockdown. Nobody can go anywhere. I think a book about UK travel quite timely. And I think focusing on that side, rather than just your what the book is, is probably quite useful. And also, I think you do have to be a bit trying, yeah, not be too personal about it. Because there are some, there are some stories that I treasure a lot from that run, but they just weren't there are not that interesting to somebody reading a book, or there's like lots of similar ones. So you just have to kind of pick representative stories almost. Whereas I think it's probably easy to get a bit too personal about it and be like, just use it as a blog for your best memories. And that doesn't really make a good book, basically. So yeah, I think just working on a really good proposal. And if you want to self publish, I think most really good self published books, people hire, edit, like actually pay editors to edit it. And now I've been through that process, I think I would have thought I could go through my own book and get rid of my own typos, but that she like transformed it into something that people would actually want to read. And I think it's just really good. You know, your story so much where she would like Debbie, Deb, my editor would read it and be like, we need a bit more on this because it doesn't quite explain it and like this seems a bit confusing or whatever. So yeah, but that's it. Really. I feel like not that useful.

George Beesley  52:40

No, I think really useful. I think a lot of people will get a lot from that going down. I think having that support sounds like it's really, really worthwhile. Okay, awesome. Well, at least thanks so much for coming on taking the time. If people are keen to dig into coasting, then I believe it's on sale at Amazon. And I also saw that it was on sale at Waterstones five star reviews and Waterstones, none of those fake Amazon reviews. So it must be good. Thanks for the shoutout, George. So people should go and check that out if they want to read the book. But if people want to just find out a little bit more about you and your story, at least where's the best place for them to go?

Elise Downing  53:18

Yeah, so I'm on all the social medias, I post most on Instagram where I'm Elise Downing AND, and OR on Facebook, Elise Downing and we do have a website with a very dormant blog on it. But you can read all the posts from the coast there. That's just the least downing.com But I don't really update it anymore. But Instagrams probably the best place to find me. Or like George says, yeah, the books available in all good bookshops. I've always wanted to say that.

Becka Heaps  53:45

So does it feel great being an author?

Elise Downing  53:49

It just was so surreal. I think that's the main thing that personally, from my experience is exciting about having an actual publisher because if you're self published, it's really I from what I can tell almost impossible to like get your book in Waterstones wherever you have to rely on online sales and stuff. And it was just so excited to go into Waterstones and my mum was really exciting. And it just off it was very surreal.

Becka Heaps  54:11

Yes, definitely. Definitely a thing. It's on a bucket list, isn't it to go into Waterstones or bookshop and see your own title? They're absolutely brilliant. Well, congratulations on that. Also, I loved your website, by the way. Your your the way you write your blogs is great. I your voice comes through really clear and strong. And I loved reading about it. So yeah, I would. I would advise people to go to the website because it's your blogs are really great.

Elise Downing  54:37

Thank you and yeah, all the like videos that I took on the actual coast. On the Facebook page. They're all really cringy. But they are there to bring the long term of blog back at some point.

Becka Heaps  54:48

Yeah, I think you should carry on it. You've obviously got a talent for it.

George Beesley  54:53

Hopefully good stuff. Well, thanks, Elise. Thanks, Becker. Thank you listeners for tuning again, see you I was just not how I was gonna say I got nothing

so that's it for this episode. I hope you enjoyed it head over to call to adventure that's to call to adventure.uk for shownotes and more about this episode, you will also find lots of other free content there. Things like how to guides and gear reviews, everything to get you out on your next adventure. We've also got loads of adventures for you to join us on in the UK and abroad. We've got things like climbing, hiking, mountaineering, surfing, wild swimming, ski touring, and we're adding new ones all the time. So we do take peak that sounds interesting. Each booking helps us fund our green mission and all international trips are carbon offset. Please do rate and review the show if you're enjoying it. It helps get more people engaged with outdoors and onboard with protecting wild places. Thanks for listening. See you next time.

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PodCast Host
George Beesley
Adventurer & Founder of Call To Adventure
George just bloody loves a bit of adventure! Imagine someone who not only hikes up mountains for breakfast but also bikes across continents. Got a case of wanderlust? This guy's been to over 50 countries and comes back with stories that'll make your grandma want to go bungee jumping.

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