Category Archives: Training

May 2017 Training Summary

I only went out for nine walks during May – at an average of 34.25 miles (55km) each!

May was all about two separate events – the M25 circumnavigation on the first weekend of the month, and the Grand Union Canal Race (GUCR) on the last weekend.  In between, I rested for a week and then just did a few short, easy walks.

The M25 walk was definitely the highlight of the month.  I set the fastest known time (FKT) for circumnavigating the M25 motorway on foot, and also managed to complete the 158 mile (254km) walk without sitting down from the time I started until I finished 44 hours later – the greatest distance and time that I have walked without sitting down.  And I raised a total of £1,880 for Limbless Association.

The GUCR didn’t go to plan however, and resulted in a DNF at 100 miles.  I have discussed this in detail in my race report so won’t go into the details again here.

Total mileage for May was 498km (308 miles).  Year to date: 1,960km (1,218 miles).

Looking forward to June:

TR250 route mapThere is only one thing to focus on during June, and that is the Thames Ring 250 which begins on the 28th June.  This is a 250 mile (400km) trail race which follows the popular canal boat route from Oxfordshire down the River Thames towards London, and then up the Grand Union Canal (in the reverse direction to the GUCR) to Northampton, before returning to Oxfordshire via the Oxford Canal.

It sounds reasonably easy.  A flat’ish course, which is my preference – I’m not a fan of hills – and 100 hours to complete the race.

The race is only held every second year and this year will be the fifth running of the event.  To date 111 athletes have attempted the race and only 54 have finished – that is a 48% success rate.  Worse than that, only 49 of them completed the race on their first attempt – a 44% success rate.  And in total, the 111 athletes have 138 starts between them for 61 finishes – a 44% success rate.

So it would appear that the race isn’t going to be as easy as a straight forward, flat 250 mile race.

When I first considered doing the race I thought a time of around 72 hours might be achievable – that’s 83 miles per day.  But given that only 5 runners have finished in less than 72 hours in the history of the event, I suspect that this is unrealistic.

It’s going to be a great event.  I can’t wait to get started!  And to find out what will happen during those 250  miles.

P&H Sea Scouts Walkathon

The weekend before the Thames Ring I am organising a walkathon to help the local Petersham and Ham Sea Scouts raise money for their new clubrooms.  Established in 1908, P&H Sea Scouts are the oldest continuously run scout group in the world and their current club rooms are almost as old 🙂

About 100 Beavers, Cubs, Scouts, and Explorers, aged 6 to 18 will walk laps of the local common for three hours (two hours for the Beavers) as a sponsored walk.

Thanks to the support of Fitbit I have organised two prizes of Fitbit Charge HR’s for the scouts – one for the person who raises the most sponsorship, and one as a spot prize for one of the participants.

During the last month I have been speaking at their club nights to try and inspire them.  Some of them have been inspired by the idea of winning a Fitbit, some by my stories of long walks.  It has been a fun exercise so far, and I’m looking forward to seeing how they go on Saturday 24th June.


May 2017 map
Only nine walks in May, but I covered a reasonable amount of ground!


April 2017 Training Summary

April saw the start of my racing season (5 races between 20th April and 26th August totaling over 1,000 miles in distance) with the Dublin to Belfast Ultra on the 21st and 22nd.  It was good to finally put all the winter and early Spring training to use, even if the race didn’t go as well as I had hoped, and I’m looking forward to my summer racing – with some seriously long walks coming up!

Dublin to Belfast Ultra race start
Group photo at the start – outside the Guinness Brewery in Dublin

In the first half of April I completed my two month build up with a 50+km walk on each of the first two weekends, and then eased up the training through to the Dublin race.

And after Dublin to Belfast I had a complete week of rest, and that was pretty much it for the month.

Total mileage for April was 431km (268 miles).  Year to date: 1,464km (910 miles).

Looking forward to May:

There won’t be a lot of ‘training’ as such in May.  I’ll be taking it easy for the first few days before my attempt to circumnavigate the M25 motorway non-stop as a fundraiser for Limbless Association on the 5th to 7th May.  The walk will be about 160 miles and my aim is to complete the walk without sitting down from 8am on Friday morning when I start, until I finish – hopefully with 48 hours.

If you haven’t already donated, please click the here to visit my Just Giving page.  Limbless Association is a very worthwhile cause.  They support people who have lost one or more limbs through accident, illness, or other causes.  Please make a donation, and if you do, you will go in the drawer to one a Fitbit.

Win a Fitbit
Make a donation and go in the draw to win one of these Fitbits.

After the M25 walk I will have another week of complete rest before two easy weeks of walking leading up to my third Grand Union Canal Race – 145 miles from Birmingham to London.  Last year I completed the race in 36 ½ hours but I really struggled over the last 45 miles.  This year my aim is to maintain a steady pace right through to the finish, and hopefully get under 35 hours for the first time.

And then the month will be over.

As well as walking from Dublin to Belfast, this is where I walked in the London area during April
As well as walking from Dublin to Belfast, this is where I walked in the London area during April

March Training Summary

After an injury scare in January that meant I couldn’t train from late January until mid February, I was back on track with a good month of training in March – 526km (327 miles) in total, including a walk of at least six hours each weekend (back to back 6 ½ hour walks on the second weekend of March) and a 100km walk last weekend.

My intention was always to build up to a big month in March before my 2017 races start on the 21st April, and given my lack of training at the start of the year, I am happy with my month.

100km training test:

Testing my Ultimate Direction running vest
Testing my Ultimate Direction running vest

I’m particularly happy with the 100km last weekend, in which I tested my nutrition strategy and also my new Ultimate Direction SJ Ultra Vest, for the second time.

I left home at 3:30 on Saturday morning with the aim of walking the most direct route up through London to Gunpower parkrun in Waltham Abbey, using Google Maps to lead me in the right direction.  During this section of the walk I ate fruit every half hour (two bananas, two clementines, an apple, as well as some dates and raisins) and because it was still reasonably cool, I didn’t need much more than a few sips of water.

I arrived at Gunpowder Park with less than two minutes until the parkrun started, dropped my UD vest and jacket at the finish area and then walked a 34:40 5km to bring up a total for the morning of 47km in exactly 6 hours.  I had averaged 7:44/km for the walk up to Gunpowder Park and was almost 1 minute faster per kilometre during the parkrun.  Not a bad effort.

Walk to Gunpowder parkrun and back
My 100km walk

After scanning my parkrun barcode I had my first coke and cereal bar of the day, packed my jacket into the back of the running vest, and headed off in a north west direction.  My plan was to cross over the M25 given that I was close to it, walk a mile or two and then head home via Wembley so as to turn the walk into a loop rather than out and back.  I thought the walk home would be about 45km and I was hoping to stay within a few seconds of my pace from the first 42km (7:44/km).

I continued to eat every 30 minutes, but this time I was eating biscuits, cereal bars, and chocolate, and drinking coke and water.  It also turned out that my route home was a little hillier than the route up to Gunpowder Park and my average pace for what ended up being 53km back to home was 8:12/km.

I don’t know whether the slowdown was related to my change of food, tiredness, or the result of overdoing it in the parkrun, or a combination of all three, so it wasn’t really a great test.  But overall I was happy with the walk.  I felt both mentally and physically strong the whole way.  The 100km took me just under 13 hours and 14 minutes to complete, excluding the 3 minutes I was stopped for at the end of parkrun, and I think I could have comfortably continued at that pace for another 61km which means I would have walked 100 miles in around 21 ½ hours.

Dublin to Belfast:

I’ll probably do another couple 6+ hour walks over the next two weekends and then take two weeks easy before my first race of 2017 – the Dublin to Belfast ultramarathon.  This is a 105 mile (169km) road race starting at 11am on Friday 21st April in Dublin, and like most running ultras, I’m likely to be the only walker in the race.  The course has about 1,100 meters of ascent/descent and I’m not a big fan of hills, but I think I should be able to walk in in around 25 or 26 hours.  I’ve given myself 30 ½ hours from the time the race starts until my flight home from Belfast leaves, so in reality, I probably need to complete the distance in less than 29 hours in order to get to the airport in time for the flight, and if I can go faster than that, I can have a shower before my flight 🙂

M25 circumnavigation:

And two weeks after the Dublin to Belfast race I will be having another attempt at circumnavigating London’s M25 motorway non-stop, on foot.  As with my failed attempt last year, I am doing this to raise money for charity – Limbless Association.  Full details are here.

Fundraising for the local scout group:

As well as fundraising for Limbless Association, I am also in the process of organising a fundraising walk to help our local scout group, The Petersham & Ham Sea Scouts, who need to replace their clubrooms.

The Petersham & Ham Sea Scout group is the oldest troop in the world.  They were established in 1908 and have operated continuously ever since.  Their scout hut isn’t quite as old as they are, but does need to be replaced and they need to raise £900,000 to replace the building.  To help with their fundraising I’ve volunteered to organise a 3 hour walk which the individual beavers, cubs, scouts and explorers (and maybe even some of the leaders) will use as a sponsored walk.

Fitbit have kindly provided a couple Fitbit devices as prizes, one to the person who raises the most sponsorship, and one as a spot prize.

I will provide more details as plans progress.

Ultra Magazine’s Ultra Festival:

Lastly, on the first weekend of June I will be speaking at Ultra Magazine’s annual Ultra Festival.  The title of my presentation is “Sometimes it is faster to walk than run”.  I think the organisers have been surprised at how I can beat as many as 2/3rds of the runners in races like the Grand Union Canal Race without running a step, and have invited me to share the secrets of race-walking with their audience.  I don’t want to give away too much though, as some of the people I will be talking to will be my competitors in the Thames Ring 250 at the end of June 🙂

If you are interested in attending, you can find details here.

Year To Date Mileage:

March accounted for over 50% of my 2017 mileage.  I’ve now covered 642 miles (1,033km) in a total of 130 hours (5 days and 10 hours).

Where I walked in March
Where I walked in March