Category Archives: Training

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.

Thames Ring 250 DNF – 2021

With the help of Strava I have spent this afternoon trying to work out what happened last night.

It appears that I left the final checkpoint at 10:50pm and the volunteers have confirmed I was Ok then and didn’t think I needed any sleep before commencing the final 20 mile leg through to the finish.  I remember being at the checkpoint, having something to  eat and repacking my kit for the final leg.  I was there for an hour and didn’t feel too bad considering that I had been walking for over 84 hours by that stage.  I was definitely confident that I would finish the race – finally, on my 3rd attempt.

Strava says I walked about 6.6km in the next 2 ½ hours sticking to the route which followed the river, but my recollection is that I was lost and walking around in circles and I couldn’t find my way out.  I kept seeing things I had already seen – Google says “People who are exhausted or stressed tend to experience déjà vu more” so that probably explains why I thought I was walking around in circles.

So it was now about 1:30am and I think I still knew I was in a race but I also started thinking that I had been abandoned in this field and that it was something to do with covid – some sort of outdoor covid detention or quarantine centre.

I then thought I saw some German farm workers in the distance and I waved my torch to get their attention but couldn’t, so I clambered through stinging nettles shouting out for help and eventually they saw me.  They weren’t actually German farm workers (I have no idea why I thought they were) but were railway workers replacing the line which also explains why they were up high above me and there was a barbed wire fence between us.

I told them that I had been abandoned in this field for two days and needed them to help me.  They hauled me over the fence and walked me back to a road and called an ambulance.  They probably thought I was an escaped mental health patient or something.  I remember they asked if I had had anything to eat or drink and I said I hadn’t eaten anything for two days.  My race number was under my over-trousers and while I was wearing my running vest with water bottles and food in it, they probably didn’t know what that was, or they were just going along with my story.

While waiting for the ambulance Maxine (one of the race organisers) rang me.  That was the first I knew I had a phone with me but while I knew who Maxine was I didn’t think I was in a race and she explained to the railway men that she would come and collect me.

The ambulance arrived and I was checked over and Maxine explained the situation to them and assured them that I was now withdrawn from the race and would be taken to the race HQ to have a sleep – not that I had any interest in re-joining the race at that stage anyway.  The ambulance team asked me to sign something authorising my release to Maxine so everything was done by the books and I want to thank both the ambulance team and the railway workers for their help – if anyone reading this knows anyone that was working on the railway line near Appleford station last night, please pass my thanks on to them.

Thanks to those of you that have messaged me asking if I am OK, and I’m sorry if I caused any concerns.  I also want to apologise to Maxine and Lindley (race organisers) and all the volunteers for any embarrassment I may have caused.  I have suffered minor hallucinations in races before but over the last four days I had some major mind-altering experiences that would cost the average drug user thousands of pounds to experience.

And lastly, this means that the Thames Ring has beaten me three times out of three attempts.  But if I wanted to do something easy it wouldn’t be a challenge.

“If you want to run, run a mile. if you want to experience a different life, run a marathon. if you want to talk to god, run an ultra.” – Dean Karnazes

The Great Virtual Race Across Tennessee #GVRAT1000k

Before lockdown I never thought I’d do a virtual race.  I mean why pay for the privilege of recording your mileage/time on a random website in return for a finishers medal that I would just put in the drawer with all the other finisher’s medals I have received over the years. Virtual races seem to have become popular in recent years and for many people they are actually a great pathway to ‘real’ races. But not for me.  For a start, as an accountant, why would I want to pay for something that I can do for free?  I pay to do real races, but that is different. Or at least that is what I thought.

That was until Covid-19 came along and all races worldwide were cancelled.

I found myself competing in my first virtual race, the Quarantine Backyard Ultra, in early April and not long after that I heard about a virtual race across Tennessee which would be starting on 1st May.  Runners and walkers would have four months (May through August) to complete 1,022km (635 miles) from the bottom left corner of Tennessee and finishing to the top right corner.  For those who wanted a bigger challenge, there was the option of the double crossing of Tennessee within the same time period.


The race was being organised by the famous Lazarus Lake, founder of events including the Barkley Marathons and Big’s Backyard Ultra.  He initially thought that a couple hundred runners might be interested in virtually crossing Tennessee.  Little did he know that over 19,000 runners and walkers (including me) would toe the virtual start line and the event would raise hundreds of thousands of dollars to help feed the homeless people of Tennessee.

With no actual races on the horizon I decided to enter the double GVRAT – there and back – rationalising that walking approximately 500km per month for four months would be great training for when races do finally resume after lockdown (I’m still hopeful that we will have the opportunity to do a real race before the end of 2020).  2,000km would give me about 50% of my normal annual mileage in the space of four months, and recording my daily mileage and watching my runner icon slowly move across a map of Tennessee would give me the motivation to keep going.  I’m the sort of person that needs a race goal to motivate myself to train, and with no upcoming races I wasn’t sure how motivated I’d be during the summer.

Of course, staying healthy and social distancing during the Covid-19 crisis was always going to be number one priority.

The race:

The race started at midnight on the 30th April local time.  This meant it started in New Zealand first and for us in England it started about 11 hours later, and for those in the US, even later.  But when the race finishes on 31st August, it also finishes at midnight, so everyone has the same amount of time to complete the distance unless they happen to change time zones.

Because of this it meant that race times would only be recorded in full days but that didn’t stop a few people starting their race immediately after midnight in their local time, and the first people to finish treated the race as if it was a real race, running as much mileage as they possibly could each day.  The first person to finish the race took just 12 days!

For me, my initial aim was to take eight weeks for the first 1,000km (actually 1,022km) across Tennessee and then eight weeks for the return journey, and treat the event as high mileage training.  I also had a full time job to fit the race around.

GVRAT week 1 progress map
GVRAT week 1 progress

The race started on Friday 1st May and I started at 5am with a 37km walk before work.  By the end of week one though, I had completed 162km (101 miles).  A 100 mile training week. The last time I had walked 100 miles in a week that didn’t include a race of 100 miles or longer was in 2014!  I have never been a high mileage athlete when it comes to training, but this race was enticing me to walk farther than I normally would, and also farther than the 125km weekly average I had planned for the race.

But surely this was a one-off.  My weekly distances would now settle back to my required average of through the summer. Just enough weekly mileage to get me through 2,000km in four months.

GVRAT progress map week 2
GVRAT week 2 progress

Week 2 – another 100 mile week. Another great week of training.  After just two weeks I’d completed just under one third of the one-way journey across Tennessee and I was in 304th position out of 19,000 athletes.  I’d started checking the online results on a daily basis to check my placing and had even started graphing my daily mileage and analysing how my average daily mileage since 1st May correlated to my current position in the race.

GVRAT progress map week 3
GVRAT progress week 3

In week 3 I purposefully reduced my mileage as I had never walked back to back 100 mile weeks and I was concerned that a third 100 mile week could bring on an injury.  I was purposefully keeping my average speed to a above 8 minutes per kilometer (12:50 per mile) due to my shin injury from the Thames Ring 250 last year but in the first two weeks of May I had already walked further than my average monthly mileage for the first four months of the year.  Even so, at 133km week 3 was still longer than any other training week (non-race week) in over a year!

By the end of week 3 I had dropped to 448th place and with a rest day for day 22 I dropped another 100 places.  I started to think about ‘racing’ through to the finish. Lockdown restrictions in England were being reduced slightly and I was able to walk farther and farther away from home.

GVRAT progress map week 4
GVRAT progress week 4

The 23rd, 24th and 25th May was a long weekend in the UK so I walked 165km in three days, starting between 4 and 5 each morning. Week 4 mileage was 198km (123 miles) which coincidentally was the same distance I had completed in the Quarantine Backyard Ultra.  I was now just short of two thirds through the one-way trip across Tennessee and started thinking seriously about two more 100 mile weeks to finish in 6 weeks total – or at least make it to the half-way turnaround for the double crossing.

One of the things I really enjoy about ‘real’ ultramarathon races is walking through the night.  There is something special about walking huge distances while everyone around you is asleep, and I was missing this.  So the following weekend I decided to do an overnight walk through London.  It turned out to be a 104km walk starting at 10pm on the Saturday night, walking from home up through London and through towards Stratford (where the 2012 Olympics were) and then across the top of London before heading back home.

I started using a website called CityStrides a while ago which shows streets you’ve walked previously on a live map so that you can identify which streets you haven’t been on previously.  I’ve spent the last six years exploring areas all around greater London and the website makes it easy to see whether you have ‘been here before’ – although quiet often I will recognise a street that I might have walked down months or even years ago.

The website shows how many completed streets you have walked/run along and has a leaderboard for different cities around the world as well as showing the percentage of each city/borough you have completed.  So in a way, it is a little like a virtual race in its own right. After each walk the website would show how many new streets I had walked.  During the whole GVRAT event I completed 902 new streets including 161 new streets during the 104km overnight walk.

Citystrides 1st May to 10th June
Citystrides 1st May to 10th June
GVRAT progress map week 5
GVRAT progress week 5

Week 5 mileage ended up at 173km and I was now in 368th place with just under 200km to go.  One more big week to get to the finish.

The race had started on a Friday meaning that each of the above weeks are Friday through to Thursday.  Week 6 started with a rest day, my ninth rest day since 1st May.  Over the weekend I walked 32km and 52km on the Saturday and Sunday respectively leaving just 112km to finish the race and five days to do so if I wanted to complete the race in six weeks.

Throughout the race I had been working fulltime from home which meant fitting the race around work hours.  All of my rest days had been on workdays during which I would work longer hours so that I could work shorter hours on the days I wanted to walk long.  I decided to have a tenth rest day on the Monday leaving me three days to walk 20km, 30km and then 62km to finish on the Thursday.  The plan was that the Tuesday and Wednesday walks would be before work and I would finish work early (3pm’ish) in order to get the final 62km completed before midnight on Thursday, day 42.

After the Monday rest day the results showed me as being in 398th place.  20km on Tuesday and I slipped to 401st place. I now had 92km to finish the race and decided that I would do all of that on Wednesday, day 41 of the race.

The only problem was that Wednesday was a workday and I had several meetings to attend (virtually) with the first starting at 9:30am and the last finishing at 3pm.  So it would be a short workday sandwiched in between a 35km morning walk starting just after 4:30am and a final 57km after work.

The 35km went fine.  I had to message my manager just before 9:30am to tell her I would be a couple minutes late for our meeting, but that was fine.  I had woken at 4am and had breakfast before my walk and I had an early lunch straight after my 9:30 meeting. A second lunch a couple hours later before an early dinner straight after my workday finished at 3pm, and then I was off out the door again.

For the whole of the last 41 days I had managed to avoid rain when training.  It had tried to rain on the 1st May during my first walk of the race, and I had carried my jacket on one other day, but other than that, the weather had been perfect.  Now, at 3:45pm as I was preparing to head out for my final walk of the race, the heavens opened, and it started raining.  But this wasn’t going to stop me.  I had set my mind to completing this race today and I needed 57km before midnight.  My average pace for the whole 41 days had been a shade over 8 minutes per kilometer so if I left home before 4pm and maintained that same pace then I would finish the race before midnight, before the end of day 41.

GVRAT progress map week 6
GVRAT progress week 6

And that’s what happened – I completed the 57th kilometer at about 11:45pm and then walked one last kilometer, crossing over the Teddington footbridge across the River Thames, the same bridge I had walked over at the start of the race on the morning of the 1st May, and back to my home where I recorded my daily mileage for the last time.

GVRAT finishers selfie
GVRAT finishers selfie

Or at least the last time for the one-way race across Tennessee.  There is still the return journey to do.

I finished 305th and took 137 hours to complete the 1,022km.  I did 32 walks at an average of 32km (20 miles) each, in 31 days with 10 rest days.  Great high mileage training.  The virtual race is giving me what I wanted from it.


During the last 41 days I’ve taken a few photos as I walked the streets of South West London, London and North London.  These are some of my favourites:

Teddington Lock
5am on day 1, walking across the footbridge at Teddington Lock less than 1km into the 1,022km race
M3 motoway during lockdown 3rd May 2020
The M3 motorway during lockdown on 3rd May. Not a car in sight.
One of the private roads in the Wentworth golf course resort
M25 motoway during lockdown 3rd May 2020
The M25 motoway during lockdown 3rd May 2020
River Thames early morning 8th May 2020
River Thames early morning 8th May 2020
Deer in Richmond Park 12th May 2020
Deer in Richmond Park 12th May 2020
Crossing London Bridge with the Shard in the background
Crossing London Bridge with the Shard in the background – 16th May 2020
Tower Bridge and the HMS Belfast
Tower Bridge and the HMS Belfast – 16th May 2020
Pall Mall during lockdown - 16th May 2020
Pall Mall during lockdown – 16th May 2020 – hardly a tourist in sight
Buckingham Palace during lockdown - 16th May 2020
Buckingham Palace during lockdown – 16th May 2020 – hardly a tourist in sight
Walk like a penquin
Walk like a penguin – early morning walk on 21st May
Abbey Road Studios London
Abbey Road Studios
Abbey Road pedestrian crossing London
Abbey Road pedestrian crossing. The Beetles walked across it in the 60’s and I walked across it on the 23rd May 2020. Abbey road Studios are in the background.
View of London from Epson Racecourse
View of London (15 miles away) from Epson Racecourse – 24th May
Homeless in Notting Hill
Homeless in Notting Hill – 31st May
London from Wimbledon
London from Wimbledon – 6th June
Where I walked 1st May to 10th June - GVRAT
Where I walked 1st May to 10th June – 1.023km in South West London plus a small amount of North London
GVRAT graph place versus daily mileage
GVRAT graph place versus daily mileage – average of 15.5 miles per day for 41 days, finishing in 305th place



And one last screenshot.  I posted on facebook in the GVRAT facebook group after I finished the race.  This was by far my favourite comment, and also one of the reasons I write these race reports.

GVRAT Facebook feedback


It’s now time to head back to the start in order to complete the double crossing!



I completed the return crossing of Tennessee on 4th August when I completed a 219 mile circumnavigation of Surrey, UK.