Category Archives: Miscellaneous


Me at Bushy Park parkrun this morning

It’s 2024, and for me this year is going to be big!

As it has been for the last two years my main focus will be the 6 Jours de France six-day race which is just 16 weeks away, but this year I’m also planning on competing in a second six-day race – the EMU race in Hungary in September.

In last year’s 6 Jours de France I learnt so much about myself and the things I can improve to walk even further than the 711km (442 miles) I completed last year, but unfortunately, I’m starting on the back foot a little this year in that I was unable to train at all between mid-August and early December due to an injury. The injury didn’t stop me eating though and I’m starting 2024 8kg heavier than I was 12 months ago (and I’ve already lost 1kg over the last month).

So I’m making a major change to my training plan for this year’s race, and I’m going to be incorporating some running into my schedule.  I’ve been doing some secret (not on Strava) running over the last three weeks, building up from 1km at the end of each walk to running 5km this morning. My first 5km run since August 2021 and only my fourth 5km run since I gave up running back in 2015.

The running combined with my annual removal of Coca Cola from my diet (no more Coke until day two of the six-day race) will hopefully see me get back down to around 84kg by race start (20th April).

I’m going to follow a very similar training plan to last year, with a main training block of 12 weeks (starting on the 14th January) comprising of 3 weeks at 100 miles (160km) followed by a lighter week of around 60 miles (100km). The difference being that each week I’ll run 10 to 15km by adding a few running kilometres on to most walks and running my weekly parkrun rather than using the parkrun as walking speedwork.

As well as using the running to lose weight, because running uses different muscles to walking it should help build additional strength in my legs.  My rehab from my injury is also requiring me to spend 30 minutes four or five days each week working on stretching and strengthening exercises, mainly focused on my weak and inflexible hamstrings.

Another thing I’m doing is using a circulation booster for 30 minutes most days while watching TV, and that has worked wonders in removing the tightness I have had in my calf muscles for the last few years as well as the pain in the top of both feet.  My only concern about this is that maybe the muscle tightness and foot pain may have disappeared due to my forced injury break and might come back as I ramp up my mileage, but I’ll keep using the circulation booster until I find out whether or not that happens.

I think that is enough of an update for now.

My two big races will be the two six-day races (April and September).  I will probably walk in the Phoenix Running 24 hour track race in March like I did last year, using it solely as a long training walk with the goal of walking 100 miles. And in August I hope to complete in the UK Centurions 100 mile walk, but again, that might only be a training race given that it will just be a few weeks before the EMU six-day.

Thanks for reading, and Happy New Year!

Project 700 – my training plan to walk 700km in six days

In 2016 I entered my first 6 day race with the aim of walking 700km (435 miles) in the 144 hours between when the race started on the Sunday afternoon and when it finished on the following Saturday afternoon.  At the time that goal was perhaps a little ambitious.  I had only been walking seriously for a few years and going into that race I had only walked in excess of 100 miles on eleven occasions with a longest walk of 283km in 72 hours the previous year.

Still, I believe in aiming high, and I finished that first 6 day race with a total distance of 614km (381 miles).  If we had had better weather conditions I think something in the range of 650km may have been achievable, but instead we had torrential rain for the first three days and then excessive heat for the last three days.  My race report from the 2016 Privas 6 day race is here.

I returned to Privas in 2017 and 2018 but had disappointing races both years, and in 2019 I decided to take a year away from the really long races before fourth attempt at walking 700km in six days – a distance that only six walkers have achieved in modern-day racewalking – in 2020.  But thanks to Covid I’m still waiting for that opportunity two years later – something I’m calling Project 700.

The 6 jours de France is the only six day race in the world that has racewalking judges and therefore the only race from which six day racewalking results are recognised for record purposes (although some countries recognise performances from un-judged events) and in 2022 the 6 jours de France will move from Privas to Vallon Pont d’Arc, 50km to the south.  More importantly, the race will be held on a 100% tarmac surface as opposed to the cinder track used in Privas, and the race has been moved forward to early May to avoid the extreme summer heat of August.

At 53 years old, I don’t know how many more opportunities I will get to attempt 700km in six days – although of the six people to have achieved the feat, one was 60 and another was 54 at the time.  And of the other four, three were in their early 50’s.  Long-distance racewalking is definitely a sport for the older athlete.

Six day race walk rankings - men
Six day race walk rankings – click the image to read more

My training plan:

The race starts on Saturday 7th May – 18 weeks away.  I’ve done very little walking since finishing the Lon Las Ultra in October as I have been trying to get over some niggly injury problems.  This means that I am starting from a low base so my training plan will look something like this:

  • January (weeks 1 to 4)
    Four walks per week with mileage growing throughout January. I like to do my long walks on a Saturday and often walk to a parkrun, walk the parkrun (5km) at a faster pace, and then walk home.  My aim for January will be to build up to a six hour Saturday walk by the end of January.
    I usually aim for the Saturday walk to be about 50% of my weekly mileage so I think the first four weeks of January will range from around 65-70km in week one through to around 100km in week four.
  • February to mid/late April (weeks 5 to 16)
    Week 5 will be an easier week of around 80km before I start my high mileage training which will take me through to mid/late April. In May/June 2019 I completed eight weeks of 100 miles (160km) per week for the first time and am hoping to replicate this to a certain extent.  My plan, from week 6 to 16, is to do three high mileage weeks (100 miles per week) followed by an easy week – so nine 100 mile weeks in total.
    During the 100 mile weeks I will need to increase my walks to at least five per week, maybe six.  I prefer to have three rest days per week if possible to reduce the chances of injury and also to accommodate my work.  My usual training/working week involves walking Saturday, Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday with the Tuesday and Thursday being shorter working days (less than 8 hours) and the Monday, Wednesday and Friday being upwards of ten hours at work.  So it will be necessary to find the right balance and also ensure that I have plenty of time for family life and other activities including the swimming and stretching that I want to continue with.  Also, when I start my high mileage training in February it will still be cold outside and the days will still be shorter, so there is likely to be a lot of walking in the dark before or after work – as opposed to when I did the high-mileage block back in 2019 during the summer.
    During this time I will do a couple back-to-back 50+ km each day weekends and at least one 100km walk – probably an overnighter.
    One of the things I would like to do is join Cardiff to Bristol on my map.  Having walked from Holyhead to Cardiff and from London to Bristol, I want to close that gap.  And I’m thinking that I could catch a bus to Cardiff on a Friday after work, walk up to Severn Bridge overnight, do the parkrun there on Saturday morning, and then walk down to Bristol before catching the bus back home.  This could be a mini adventure in late March or early April perhaps.

    Join Cardiff and Bristol
    The gap in my map showing everywhere I’ve walked
  • April/May (weeks 17 and 18)
    A two week taper before the race.


My sole focus during the 18 week build-up is to build endurance.  I am much stronger mentally than I was when I last walked a six day race, and I’m not so concerned about sleep deprivation for a six day race compared to the likes of the Thames Ring and Lon Las Ultra where I suffered badly.  This is mainly because the nature of a six day race means that you can stop at any time to sleep – each lap is only about 1km – whereas in a point to point race sleep opportunities are usually dictated by the location of checkpoints or finding an appropriate place to sleep beside the trail/road.

The only speedwork I intend doing is my weekly parkrun, and even then, I won’t be going too fast if my niggly injuries don’t fully recover.

Cross Training:

I started swimming in late October as a part of my recovery from my niggly injuries.  I am also cycling to and from the gym where I swim and after each swim I spend 10 to 15 minutes stretching in the sauna at the gym.  Ideally, I would like to continue this throughout the training period but this could be dependent on how much time I have available.  I have never done much stretching in the past and am about as flexible as a brick but I’m hoping that if I continue the stretching my flexibility will improve and that will help with both the final stages of injury recovery and improving my overall speed when walking.

No Coke!

Even although I have made a deliberate attempt to reduce my Coca Cola consumption in recent years, I still consume at least two large bottles (about 3 litres in total) of Coke every weekend.  So I am committing to not drinking any Coke at any time between January 1st and at least mid-March (my wife’s birthday).

In 2015 I stopped drinking Coke for three months (maybe longer, I can’t remember) and I lost seven kilograms with no other changes to my diet.  But at the time I was drinking in excess of 2 litres of Coke every day, so that one dietary change made a big difference.  This time I am hoping that it will make some difference to my weight but probably only a couple kilograms.

Back-up plan:

So that is my training plan.  The big unknown is, will covid restrictions prevent travel to France for the race in May.  If so, I have a back-up plan.

Firstly, if I can’t do the six day race starting on the 7th May I will do a seven day adventure walk in England – assuming we don’t have restrictions about domestic travel.  I have an adventure walk planned (something that I don’t think anyone else has done previously) but I’m not even thinking about that at the moment as my focus is on going to France in May and walking 700km in six days!

And if the race goes ahead but we are not able to travel from England to France, then I will hopefully have the opportunity to do another six day race later in the year – probably the EMU six day race in Hungary in September, but other possibilities include six day races in a number of other European countries during the summer.

The thing is, at present the only six day race with racewalking judges is the 6 jours de France in May, so that is my focus.

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.