Category Archives: Miscellaneous

How a 250 mile walk almost killed me

I’m back home from a week in hospital and I’m supposed to be taking it easy before returning to work later this week, so I thought I would write a short follow-up to my report on the Thames Ring 250, a race that resulted in me being taken to hospital by ambulance three weeks after it finished!

The race:

I was just over two days and 156 miles in to the TR250 when I noticed I had some localised swelling on the shin of my left leg, about six inches above the ankle.  Maxine, the race medic was fixing some minor blisters on my left foot while I was preparing to leave checkpoint 6 and I noticed the swelling.

When I asked Maxine whether I should be concerned, she said that the only way to stop the swelling would be to stop doing what caused it.  We both knew that that wasn’t an option.  At least, not for another 94 miles until I reached the finish line.

Now, don’t get the impression that I am blaming Maxine for what happened next.  Far from it.  There was some localised swelling, about the size of a small matchbox, but no pain.  There was no indication that the problem would get worse, and even if there had been, I was in the middle of a race that I fully intended to finish, and I would not have listened to Maxine or anyone else if they had told me to drop out of the race because the injury might get worse.

36 hours and 75 miles (many of which were very painful) later, and I’m being rescued from the race after getting to the stage where I couldn’t take another step without severe pain – the worst pain I had ever experienced or would experience again – until three weeks later.

Initial diagnosis:

I ended up at Kingston Hospital the following afternoon and initial x-rays indicated a possible bone bruise to my left shin.  Stress fractures often don’t show up on x-rays until 10-14 days after they occur, and bone bruises don’t show on x-rays either, but based on the evidence, at this stage it appeared that I had a bone bruise.  Oh, and I also had some infected spider bites on the same leg.  So a dose of antibiotics for the spider bites and some painkillers for the shin.  I was told to rest and keep my leg elevated as much as possible, and to make an appointment to see my GP in two week’s time.  I was also given some crutches for when I had to move.

Wearing the medical boot
Wearing the medical boot

10 days later and the pain was still severe, so I brought the GP visit forward and ended up back in hospital for more x-rays.  This time the diagnosis was that maybe I had torn a tendon away from the shin and possibly a fragment of bone had come away too, which would explain why I was still in sever pain.  As the pain was at its worst when I tried to walk, I was given a medical boot to stabilise my foot.  The boot came with some documentation about how immobilisation of the lower leg (which is what the boot is designed to do) can, very rarely, cause DVT (Deep Vein Thrombosis – or blood clots in the leg) and I was told to ensure that I only used the boot when I needed to, and that I took the precautions mentioned in the documentation.

Thanks to my medical insurance, I had an MRI the following week and learned that there was indeed some severe tendon damage, and some indication of minor bone trauma, but the damage was more to the tendon that attached to the front of the shin than to the bone, and the only cure was rest.

So end of story.  Take three months rest.  Cancel the races I had planned for the summer, and resume training in September or October.

Or at least that is what I thought until about 10pm on the night of Saturday 20th July, almost exactly three weeks after I was forced to withdraw from the TR250, when the right side of my upper body, which had been sore all day, when into uncontrollable spasms.

Ambulance ride:

Not that I have a ‘bucket list’ as such, but I can now tick ‘ambulance ride’ off my bucket list.

I thought the pain I had been in with my foot in the final minutes before pulling out of the race was the worst pain I had ever felt, but this was 10 times as bad, and was non-stop.  And the language coming out of my mouth was like nothing I had never heard myself say before.  I’ve heard that swearing helps relieve pain, but this pain was intense.

My wife, Ruth, called an ambulance.  The 20 minute wait for the ambulance felt like hours.  The spasms kept coming and coming.  When the ambulance arrived, they spent well over half an hour getting me under control and reducing the pain using gas, and then once in the ambulance they spent another 30 minutes doing tests including an ECG before we drove to the hospital.  I have to say, the service I received from the ambulance staff and the staff at Kingston Hospital during the following week was exceptional.

1am on Saturday morning in A&E.  I think I was the only non-alcohol related casualty in the department.  Fortunately, it was a reasonably quiet night.  I had various tests, another ECG, some x-rays, etc.  There was no obvious cause of the pain and as the painkillers appeared to be working, I was sent home at around 4am and asked to come back on Monday morning for a CT scan.

Blood clots:

It turns out that I am one of the rare few people that wears a medical boot AND ends up with a blood clot.  In fact if I had two.  I would rather be one of the rare few that wins lotto, but not yet.

The blood clots had started in my leg and made their way to my chest, but I was lucky that they hadn’t reached the heart or the lungs and were now stuck where they were and would not be moving.  Blood clots can be fatal if they reach the vital organs, so I count myself very lucky.

As a result of the blood clots, my heart had been under pressure and this had resulted in fluid ending up in my lungs, and it was the damage to my lungs that was causing the pain down my right side, which then caused the muscle spasms.  Again, I look at this as being very lucky.  If I hadn’t had the muscle spasms, I wouldn’t have ended up in hospital and wouldn’t know all this, and the next blood clot could have been the fatal one.

Instead, I am now on blood thinning medication for the next, up to six months, and am on antibiotics to clear the remains of the lung infection.

What next:

My left leg is still sore.  The swelling hasn’t yet completely gone, and it has now been a month since the race.  I am told that I won’t be able to resume any training until at least September – because of the leg – but some mild exercise will be OK, once I feel up to it, to start strengthening my lungs again.

So any plans for any more races in 2019 are now completely cancelled, and I am starting to think about goals for 2020.  I won’t commit to anything until I know I am fit and healthy again, but I am thinking that I might join a gym and start swimming and working on upper body strength during the reminder of this year.



Five years of walking in and around London

Last week marked the fifth anniversary of my moving back to London, and according to Strava, in those 5 years I have completed just under 1,000 walks with the majority of them being in and around the London area – hence the name of this blog RichardWalksLondon.

Using a combination of a website that enables people to consolidate multiple Strava activities into one map, and some video editing, I have compacted the last five years into a 1 minute video showing the cumulative reach of my walks.

This includes two complete laps around the M25 motorway (March 2016 and May 2017 – which I still think is my best walking achievement to date at 158 miles/254km in 44 hours without sitting down from the time I started until I finished), the Thames Path 100 mile race from Richmond to Oxford in May 2015 where my watch battery died part way through leaving a big gap (in my map) between Maidenhead and Henley, my July 2017 walk following the District tube line and also my walk through all the streets of the Monopoly board, and many other training walks and races.

I suspect that I have covered more of the Greater London area on foot than 99.999% of the population, but I’m not finished yet.  In another five years I’ll record another video showing my progress, but in the meantime, please watch this short video:

2018 report card and plans for 2019

At the end of each year I set goals for the new year, and review the goals I set for the year just completed.

2018 review:

For 2018 I planned on doing six walks of 100 miles or more, and I ended up doing five.  But of the six events I was planning on doing this time last year, I actually only did two.

I started off the year with a foot injury (a bursa on the bottom of my left foot which made it very uncomfortable to walk) and as a result I took all of January off, other than 29km on New Year’s day.  When I started back training I did some moderate mileage during the first three weeks of February and then got sick, so it wasn’t until mid-March that I actually resumed proper training.

This meant that I didn’t do my first race of 2018, which was going to be the Belfast to Dublin Ultra.  I was keen to do this after finishing 4th overall and first/only walker in the Dublin to Belfast equivalent of this race in 2017 but I wasn’t fit enough to consider walking for 24+ hours at the end of March.

I also decided that I wouldn’t be able to get fit enough to compete in the EMU six day race in Hungary in the first week of May either, so decided to revisit my plans.  I decided to replace the six day race with a 24 hour race in Dijon, France on the 21st April for my first race of 2018, which also happened to be the French National Championships, and also to go to Schiedam, Holland in mid-May for the Continental Centurions Race.  And I had two great results – a 5th place overall in Dijon in extremely hot conditions, and then two NZ records (100 miles and 24 hours) in Schiedam.

I was now in to full training and turned up at Last One Standing, England in the second weekend of June full of confidence.  Last One Standing is an elimination race in which runners (plus me as a walker) have one hour to complete a 4.1 mile (6.5km) mostly off-road loop in under an hour and be back on the start line for the next loop at the start of the next hour.  The winner was the person who could complete the most loops without being eliminated (failing to finish a lap in under an hour or failing to start the next lap) and I was confident that I had more endurance than anyone else in the field – and so it was.  It took me 36 hours but I outlasted all the runners to win the race.

Last One Standing was my first planned race of 2018 and 6 jours de France in mid-August was the second and last of the six events from my original 2018 plan that I actually did.   If I was to give the race a grading, it would probably be a C.  I didn’t achieve the result I was after, but it wasn’t as bad as 2017 either.

My original plan was to go back to one of my favourite races in September, the Roubaix 28 hour race, but I felt I needed more time to recover after the 6 day, and my last event for 2018 was going to be a charity fundraising walk from Paris to London which I had hoped to do in October, but I couldn’t face the effort of planning an event like that, and also wasn’t too keen on doing another multi-day walk.  So instead, I decided to do a 48 hour race in Royan which I figured I could complete without any sleep, and whilst the race didn’t have walking judges, I thought I could still set a decent distance for 48 hours as a PB and NZ best – my official NZ record being 241km from the first 48 hours of the 6 jours de France this year, and my PB being 254km from when I walked around the outside of the M25 motorway in 2017.  Unfortunately the weather was shocking for much of the race but I managed to win the race with a satisfactory distance of 278km to complete my year.

Overall, I would give my year a grade of B.  I had three wins from five races and improved my NZ records for 100 miles, 24 hours and 48 hours, and also set an NZ M50 age group record for 500km and 6 days.

100 mile world rankings for 2018:

2018 100 mile world rankings

2018 100 mile world rankings


24 hour world rankings 2018:

2018 world 24 hour rankings
Note: there is an error in my age 🙂



Summary of 2018:

Total mileage: 2,266 miles (3,646 km) – 107 miles less than 2017.

Total mileage during races: 892 miles (1,436km) – 39% of total mileage.  This was 91 miles less than 2017 but almost the same percentage of overall mileage (41% in 2017).

Total raised for charity: £1,362 – whilst I didn’t do a charity walk myself in 2018, I organised a walkathon for the local scout group for the second year in a row, and have been invited to organise a third walkathon which will be in June 2019.

The blue lines show where I walked during 2018 that I hadn't previously been.
The blue lines show the new places I walked during 2018.  The red and blue combine to show where I have walked since May 2014.

Goals for 2019:

There are so many races to choose from, and it would be very easy to over-race if I wasn’t disciplined.  Right now, rather than choosing too many races I am not really committing to much at all during 2019.  I would like to do at least as many 100 mile+ races as I have in recent years (5 in 2018, 6 in 2017, 4 in 2016 and 5 in 2015) but at the moment the only two that are definitely on my list are the Belfast-Dublin-Belfast 214 mile (346km) ultra at the end of March, and Last One Standing, England on the second weekend of June.

The Last One Standing race is the more important of the two.  If I can win this again, the prize in 2019 in an entry into Big’s Back Yard in the USA – the unofficial world championship of this type of racing.  In 2018 it took 66 hours before a winner was decided at Big’s Back Yard.  It only took 36 hours for me to win Last One Standing, England this year but after winning the Royan 48 hour race without any sleep, and effectively being awake for 65 hours, I feel that I can probably last 48 to 50 hours, and maybe more.  I would like to find out.

And with that in mind, I am very tempted to treat the Belfast-Dublin-Belfast ultra as a warm-up for Last One Standing, and walk 55 minutes, rest 5 minutes, throughout the whole race.  I would also like to complete Belfast-Dublin-Belfast in under 55 hours – which means walking 300km in the first 48 hours – a nice round number target.

If I can win Last One Standing, England, then I’ll be competing at Big’s Back Yard ultra in October, and that will be my ‘A’ race for 2019.

But let’s just wait and see what happens.


Thank you for your support this year:

I have had plenty of support from many people during 2018.  So a big thank you to everyone and especially from the companies who have helped me financially and with product – Fitbit and Strictly Banners.