I’ve been thinking about the year that has just finished and how I would rate it if I was writing my school report card. Would I give myself an ‘A’, an ‘E’ or something in between?
On the positive side, my 2016 highlights included:
- My circumnavigation of the M25 motorway in March.
To my knowledge I am only the third person to circumnavigate the M25 on foot, and I’m the fastest.
- The Continental Centurions Race in May.
I broke the New Zealand 100 mile record and also bettered the official NZ 24 hour record – both of which have been goals since I first started race-walking in 2012.
- My second Grand Union Canal Race, also in May.
36 ½ hours on my feet without sitting down once. Great mental training, and 6 ½ hours faster than last year.
- Walking the District Tube Line in July.
My birthday treat. A fun walk on a beautiful summer’s day.
- Walking the Monopoly Board in July.
Another fun walk a few days after my District Line walk.
- The UK Centurions Race in August.
More than just a race, I used this weekend as training towards my upcoming 6 day race and walked 125km from Leeds to Redcar the day beforehand.
- The 6 Jours de France in October.
My main focus for the year, I walked 614km in six days, narrowly missing out on the NZ and Commonwealth record, but successfully breaking the NZ 500km record along the way.
- And many other training walks during the year.
I love training. In fact I would say that I am addicted to it.
I covered over 2,500 miles in training for the first time ever – 4,100 km/ 2,548 miles to be exact. In total I did 201 walks on 146 days, taking 624 hours. And I loved almost every minute of it.
- Improved diet, sleep and general health
With my focus on the 6 day race in October I also took steps to improve my general health which I wrote about in each of my monthly training reviews from January up until the race in October.
And as would be expected in the friendly race-walking and ultra-running communities, I enjoyed the friendship of many new and old friends from all around the world.
So based on all of that, you might think I would give myself a report card rating of an ‘A’ or even an ‘A+’.
But to be honest, I don’t think I did as well as I could/should have. In fact, when I look back at my big walks from 2016, I keep seeing one common failing:
- My circumnavigation of the M25 motorway
I lacked the mental toughness to complete my goal of walking the 265 km / 165 mile route non-stop. At the time I blamed the weather (it was extremely cold at night), but when things began to get hard, rather than pushing through, I gave up.
I went back and finished the job after a 36 hour rest, but I’m not happy with my lack of mental strength, my lack of will-power.
I will give myself a ‘C+’ for this walk. A pass mark, but could do better.
- The Continental Centurions Race
I might be a bit hard on myself here, but I think I could have done better. There were a few hours in the middle where I lost time, and after I finished the 100 miles (my first of two goals) I slowed over the last three hours when I should have pushed on at the same pace I had been walking earlier.
I’ll give myself a ‘B’ for this race, but again, mental strength was below expectation.
- Th Grand Union Canal Race
Again, maybe I’m being too hard on myself, but after walking the first 100 miles in a little under 24 hours, I struggled mentally on the second day. I think I can cover the last 45 miles at least an hour faster by staying focussed, so I will give myself a ‘B’ for this race too.
- The UK Centurions Race
This race was to be a training event in the lead-up to the 6 day race and I expected to walk at least 85 miles (135km) in 24 hours during the race, after walking from Leeds to Redcar the day beforehand. And I thought I might even be able to manage to complete the whole 100 miles within 24 hours if I had a good day.
But I struggled both mentally and with tiredness and only managed 100km before stopping after 22 hours.
I don’t think this walk was good enough for a pass mark, so give myself a ‘C-‘ as a ‘D’ is possibly a bit harsh given that I had to walk 10 miles further than planned on the Friday.
- The 6 Jours de France
Before the race I said that my absolute minimum distance to get a pass mark was 622km (386 miles) which would have beaten the NZ and Commonwealth records, and before the race I thought I could walk 700km in six days.
So based on that, I failed. The reason I ‘failed’ was because I lacked the mental strength I needed to achieve the goals I had set myself. I fell apart, especially on the last day. But I finished, and finished strongly with an incredible last three laps. The bad weather during the first three days of the race didn’t help me either. I also broke the NZ 500km record, so am happy to give myself a ‘C’ for this race.
And therefore overall, I think that my 2016 year rates as a ‘C’ or ‘C+’ on the report card. General comment: “Performed well but lacked the mental strength when needed. Expect better next year.”
I have to work on the mental strength. I think a part of that will come from seeing a sports phycologist which is something I have been thinking about for a while, but I think the other issue is that I don’t train hard enough. I do the occasional interval session but most of my training is at a steady pace, and whilst that is good for building endurance, I never finish a training session thinking that I couldn’t walk another step. In 2017, it is time for me to step it up a level.
Goals for 2017:
I feel that I have unfinished business after 2016, and 2017 is going to be all about finishing what I started in 2016:
- NZ 24 hour record
At this stage I am thinking of racing the Bourges 24 hour race in early March. The goal is to walk 24 hours without any lapse in concentration. If I do that, then something around 190km is a strong possibility. I need to at least beat the official NZ record of 182.65km. I walked 182.95km at Schiedam in May.
- M25 circumnavigation
I’m not yet 100% certain when I am going to do this, but I think mid-April will be ideal. The goal is to walk the 165 miles non-stop, without even sitting down once, and in under 48 hours. That was my 2016 goal, and in 2017 I will do it!
I’m also going to use this as my annual charity fundraising walk.
- 700km in 6 days
The 6 Jours de France has been moved forward to the end of August in the hope of better weather. I learnt so much in the 2016 race, and still believe that I am capable of walking 700km in six days with the help of a great support crew (which I had in 2016), better weather, improved mental strength, and an improved training schedule.
If I can achieve all of those I will be happy. I’ve got a few other races planned for 2017, but the above three events are my main goals.
Thank you for your support this year:
I have received plenty of support from people this year as I have chased my goals. Whether it is the comments on facebook, the comments on some of my blog posts, or the occasional email I’ve received, thanks to everyone who has helped me this year.
I especially want to think my family, the support crew I have had at various events this year, Shaun Lightman who has been giving me advice on walking technique, and both Fitbit and Strictly Banners. Without you, I would not have achieved anywhere near as much as I did in 2016.