2016 – The year of healthy eating and even longer walking

In 297 days time I will start my biggest race to date – the 6 jours de france (Privas 6 day race).  Six days of walking around a 1,025 meter circuit in Privas, France.

I competed in the 3 day event this year and haven’t been able to stop thinking about the race since.  I hated it and I loved it.  Reading my 2015 race report you wouldn’t think that I would want to go back for more (it wasn’t my best result of the year), but there hasn’t been a day go by since, and there won’t be a day go by during the next 42 weeks, in which the race hasn’t been in my thoughts.

Privas is my ‘A’ goal for 2016 and everything I do over the next 9 ½ months will be preparation for this event.


When I wrote my book, WALK – Going The Distance, recently one of the people who proof read it suggested that I had a chapter about the sacrifices I had made in order to do what I had done during 2015, but to be honest I don’t consider anything I have done up until now to be a sacrifice – other than sleep and time away from the family maybe.

But to compete at the level that I want to in October I will have to make many sacrifices.  When doing long training walks I try to get up very early in the morning (3am’ish) so that I can complete a 6 to 8 hour walk and be back home well before lunchtime on a Saturday and/or Sunday so as to reduce the amount of time I spend away from my family, but my sleep suffers all the time.  Early morning starts or late nights due to the need to squeeze in a 2 or 3 hour walk before or after a day at work.  Either way, it isn’t very often that I get 8 hours sleep in a night.  I have had a fitbit for the last 5 ½ months.  As well as measuring activity, fitbit also records my sleep, and it shows that since July I have averaged just 6 hours and 40 minutes of sleep per night.

no cokeAt the beginning of September this year I also decided that I needed to reduce my sugar intake, or to be more specific, reduce my Coke intake.  I have been addicted to drinking Coca Cola for over 20 years and it had got to the stage where I was drinking as much as 2 litres per day.  So I went cold turkey and stopped drinking Coke except for in races (I’ve only done one race since – the Roubaix 28 hour race during which I lived on Coke for the whole race) and the some special occasions (such as Christmas).  I used to justify my excessive consumption of Coke by telling people that I needed the calories and the caffeine that I got from Coke, but as soon as I gave up I found that I was actually less tired than when I was using the caffeine from the Coke to keep me awake!

But the biggest sacrifices are yet to come:

I eat way too much bad food.  I love junk food, biscuits, chocolate, crisps, heat and eat meals, croissants (my usual lunch), the list goes on…

But if I want to achieve my 2016 goals I think it is time to start eating a decent diet.  I’m going to reduce the amount of processed food I consume starting immediately.  No more cornflakes for breakfast.  No more croissants for lunch.  My evening meals are usually good quality except for when my wife, Ruth, is away and I have a ‘heat and eat’ or something else that doesn’t have much more nutritional value than the packaging it comes in.

I’m also going to replace my snacks with fruit. No more chocolate bars or biscuits when sitting at my desk or bags of crisps on the tube coming home after a day at a client’s office.

My diet for 2016 will consist of fruit and unprocessed foods for breakfast and lunch, and fruit for snacks during the day.  I think this is going to be the hardest thing I have ever done.  Much harder than any race I have competed in.  I have put a picture on the desktop of both my home and work computers along with some words to remind me about the end goal.  Something that I will see several times a day to remind me that the sacrifice will be worth it in the end.


On the foam roller
Me on the foam roller

It’s not that I don’t like stretching.  It is just that I don’t have enough time in my day to fit in a stretching session as well as everything else.  But starting today I am going to do a minimum of three 30 minute stretching sessions every week.  That’s over 120 stretching sessions between now and Privas.  I’ve added stretching in to my training diary to help ensure that I don’t forget, and by having a reminder on my computers desktop I hope to see that whenever I decide to spend 30 minutes on facebook, and go and do some stretching instead!.

My 6 day race goal:

The six day race in Privas is my ‘A’ goal for 2016 and everything I do between now and then will be focussed on preparing for that race.

My goal for the race?  I want to win!

But winning can’t be the only goal because I don’t have any control over the other competitors.  I can only control myself so at this point in time my goal is ‘to stand on the start line 4pm on Sunday 23rd October in the best physical and mental condition of my life’.

If I can do that then I feel that 400 miles (640km) should easily be achievable.   The current NZ record is 387 miles (622km).  To be honest, my goal is to walk substantially further than that, but let’s see how the training goes before defining a more specific goal.

Other races:

The M25 - a lap of greater London
The M25 – a lap of greater London

Whilst Privas is my ‘A’ goal I also plan on competing in four other races of 100 miles or longer during 2016, and would also like to do a 165 mile walk around the outside of the M25 as a charity fundraising walk for Sports Relief in mid March.  The M25 is actually only 117 miles in total but in order to stay on the outside of the M25 (on the A and B roads) it looks like I will need to cover about 165 miles in total.  This will be my second longest distance walked in one go, and I think I can do it in around 48 hours.  I will provide more details on this later in January.

My rough plan for 2016 at this stage is as follows:

  • 27-28 February 2016 – Bourges 24 hour race in France
    This will be a training race only. 24 hours on my feet but no set distance target
  • Mid March 2016 –circumnavigation of the M25 via the A and B roads outside of the M25 parameter – approximately 165 miles.
  • 14-15 May 2016 – Dutch Centurions Race
    100 miles in under 24 hours to become a Continental centurion.
  • 28-29 May 2016 – Grand Union Canal Race (again)
    This took me 43 hours in 2015. The goal this year will be to go under 40 hours.
  • 6-7 August 2016 – UK Centurions 100 mile race
    My target for this event will be to go under 21 hours which will beat the current NZ record.  My best time for 100 miles is currently 21:45.
  • 23-29 October 2016 – 6 jours de france (Privas 6 day race)
    The big one!


So there it is.  My plans for 2016 on paper (so to speak).


I hope you all have a happy new year.




8 thoughts on “2016 – The year of healthy eating and even longer walking

  1. Hi Richard! Verrrrrrrry interesting. I’m a racewalker and if you follow #racewalking then you’ll really get the sense there aren’t many of us out there! I’m not trying to do a 6-day race or any ultramarathons though. I do want to do several marathons. I identify with you about waking up at 2-3 AM as I’ve done that for some of my 20+ mile training sessions. I have one recommendation with regard to nutrition: if you haven’t already, learn about it. I generally believe the worst thing you can do is not get some of the required nutrients in your diet. If you do that then I think you have some flexibility to eat what you like especially because we burn so many calories from exercising regularly. I think it’s great what you’ve done with the Coke. Simple sugars causing the insulin levels to spike are, in my opinion, something to control as well.

    1. Thanks Mark. Racewalking, especially ultra-distance racewalking, isn’t too common in the UK but the UK Centurions do put on one 100 mile event per year which is usually in August. It is much more popular in Europe and there is a good series about five or six 24 hour races in France each year.
      Thanks for your comments about nutrition. I have always worked on the basis that I can eat anything because I burn the calories, but there are good calories and bad calories and I am aiming to eat more of the good calories in 2016.

  2. Hi Richard,

    Great idea to dump the junk – I’m doing the same myself this year. However, it might be an idea to take replace some of that fruit with either veg or some good proteins like hard boiled eggs. Whilst fruit is better for you than junk it is still high in sugars and so will still cause the sugar highs and subsequent lows you were getting from coke – not to mention causing havoc to your insulin levels. If you’re going straight out walking afterwards then it is probably okay as your body will hold off on the insulin but if you’re going to be sedentary for the next hour or so then fruit probably isn’t the best choice.

    Of course, if it’s a straight choice between fruit and junk go with the fruit every time but it might produce better results if you introduce some other snacks (carrot and cucumber sticks work well) or a breakfast like a bell pepper and spinach omelet. Get your body used to burning fats, rather than just sugar AND provide it the proteins it needs to build and repair.

    1. Thanks James
      I have starting using the MyFitnessPal app on my phone to record what I am eating and have already learnt a lot about the nutritional content of my food. I’ve had omelets for breakfast the last two mornings and today I had an unsweetened yoghurt for the first time. It will take a while to get used to that taste though!
      Hope your training is going well.

      1. That all sounds really good. If you do want to chat or ask questions feel free to give me a shout. I’m a REP Level 3 Nutritional Advisor so I have studied nutrition and sports/endurance nutrition quite a lot.

        Oh, and cinammon! It adds sweetness/flavour to all sorts of things without triggering an insulin response AND has the added bonus of being loaded with anti-oxidants and anti-inflammatory’s. I make a breakfast smoothie with spinach, cabbage, plain yoghurt and milk that would be inhumane without cinammon

        1. Thanks James
          I will keep the cinnamon in mind. I have switched from eating cornflakes to porridge for breakfast on week days (when I don’t have enough time to make anything more nutritious) and am using brown sugar to sweeten my porridge. Would cinnamon work?

  3. Hi Richard, It is great to see your new aims for this year. Sounds great! If you need any help on the nutrition side get in touch Nathananel is now qualified as a sports nutiritionist. He can advise on a standard sports diet or low carb – if you wanted to go that far. We wish you the best of luck in all your events this year. Oh would you like me to put a facebook post up about your book?

    1. Thanks Kate
      I would be interested in talking to Nathananel. I will email you.
      And regarding the book, if you could post something on your facebook page that would be great please. I have mentioned Generation UCan a few times in the book, but I have also said that I lived on Coke during my last race for the year 🙁
      I will be in touch soon though, as I will need some more Generation UCan in Feb/March.

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