For immediate publication
South Downs Way attempt – walking 100 miles non-stop to promote Sport Walking!
Roger Burlinson, founder of ‘Sport Walk’, is kick starting work to promote and grow Sport Walking in the UK with an attempt to walk the full length of the South Downs Way solo, non-stop – a distance of 100 miles or 160 kilometres. His goal is to finish in 26 hours or less, setting a verified Sport Walking time that can be a target for others to take on in the future.
Roger will be walking the South Downs Way east to west, which some think is the harder direction because of prevailing westerly winds but for him, it’s all about walking towards home, coming as he does from the New Forest in Hampshire. He’ll be starting in Eastbourne around lunch time on the 5th July (weather permitting) and will finish in Winchester some time the following day.
This will be a solo supported walk, with a small crew tracking his progress, providing fresh supplies of fuel and hydration along the way and verifying his time. He’ll be walking at a target pace of between 8 and 9 minutes per kilometre, which is slower than his normal pace but the South Downs demand respect and this walk will be 60km further than he’s walked before. If he can maintain a sub 9 minute per kilometre pace, he can achieve the 26 hour goal with an hour or so to use for refuelling stops and short targeted breaks.
Setting a verified time
This being an attempt to set a ‘verified Sport Walking time’, Burlinson will record his top walking speed on a sports watch displaying the speed with a number of on board video cameras prior to setting off. He’ll record his top speed on the flat and also on a steep descent and this data will then be used to confirm that he does not run or jog during the attempt.
Sport Walk’s development plan
This South Downs Way test will be the start of Sport Walk’s promotional push, to build awareness and understanding of what Sport Walking is and what it can offer walkers of all abilities.
Sport Walk’s development plan includes activity to explain and promote Sport Walking, work to create challenge resources such as route lists, challenge routes available on OS Maps and also the creation of ‘Trail Records’ for people to try and beat.
There will be outreach work with ‘try out’ days and work to connect with country parks and trail centres in order to encourage Sport Walking in these locations and, finally, there is a long term goal to work with local authorities to establish a number of permanent way marked Sport Walking Challenge Routes based on existing way marked trails.
What is Sport Walking?
Sport Walking is an endurance walking discipline that’s all about taking on challenges. It’s not a prescriptive technique like Nordic Walking or Power Walking (you can Sport Walk using any walking style you like), it is the challenges you take on that matter, not the way you walk.
Sport Walkers might take part in organised challenge events (ultra marathons, charity walks or challenge events organised by the Long Distance Walkers Association or other group). They might take on their own personal challenges – the West Highland Way, the Welsh 3000s or Hadrian’s Wall – or they may just plot a route entirely of their own design, perhaps on OS Maps or another app.
There are only two factors that Sport Walkers need to take into account – to complete the challenge as quickly as possible (total elapsed time is the only measure) and to have one foot on the ground at all times. Apart from that, the challenge can be as personal to the individual walker as they like.
Sport Walking, while naturally suited to ultra distance challenges, is more about an approach to walking and so any route of any length can provide a fulfilling test. From a 5km ‘super sprint’ up a local hill or along a canal tow path to a 100 mile ultra marathon, the goal and the way you take on the test is the same.
Sport Walking is also an ideal way of getting or staying fit, given that it’s so easy to do, needs no specialist equipment and can, effectively, be practiced anywhere. While you may not actually be taking on a challenge, the simple act of walking fast still means that you are essentially Sport Walking, if that’s what you see yourself as doing.
NOTES FOR EDITORS
Sport Walk is a brand of Maximus Media and was developed by Roger Burlinson in 2016 after he created an 80km route across the New Forest where he lives. He completed the walk unsupported in 18 hours, including long breaks to buy supplies and refuel.
Having approached this challenge as what might be considered a traditional hike, he began to look at how he could strip back his kit to save weight and go faster. This led him to the world of ultra running, where he derived his own personal approach to the ‘fast and light’ mantra, adopting the equipment, clothing and footwear of the ultra endurance runner and formulating the basic concept of Sport Walking.
In 2017, while Sport Walk was still in the early days of its development, Burlinson took on ‘Race to the Stones’ along the Ridgeway and finished the full non-stop event in under 16 hours. This was very much a ‘test of concept’ for Sport Walking, to see what was possible for a route of this length (100km).
Two years on, after adapting and refining the original idea, a clear format has emerged that will be the framework for the development and promotion of Sport Walking, enabling walkers of all abilities to turn their passion for walking into a sporting challenge (should they wish). Sport Walk’s aim in this is not to change existing walking activities or to try to persuade long distance walkers to become Sport Walkers but simply to create an appealing walking variant that, by adding a sporting element, can give immense physical and psychological satisfaction.
Sport Walking will sit in an already crowded space with numerous different styles of recreational walking – Nordic Walking, Power Walking, Speed Hiking (similar to Sport Walking but running is allowed), Fit Walking, Long Distance Walking and more. While all these disciplines are distinct, Sport Walking is the only discipline specifically designed around challenges because challenge is where the sport lies.
There is another element that Burlinson believes will be a factor in attracting people to the concept of Sport Walking and that is its similarity to trail and ultra running, which has grown significantly in popularity in recent years and is among the ‘cool lifestyle sports’ attracting a broader range of participants, not just the super hard fell runners of old.
Burlinson stops short of adopting a mantra for Sport Walking of ‘making walking cool’ but he does fully understand that recreational walking may struggle to appeal to young people as a lifestyle activity. He hopes that the similarities between trail, sky or ultra running and Sport Walking will present a vibrant image of challenge walking that will specifically appeal to the younger audience and can help bring more young blood into the overall walking community.
Sport Walk will also be directly targeting female walkers and runners in its development plan, as there is a feeling that women are less influenced by perceptions that walking is somehow easier than running in the context of trail and ultra challenges – it’s seen as what you do if you can’t run. A key strategy for Sport Walk is to demonstrate that this simply isn’t true and that fast walking is a viable option for tackling trail challenges and achieving a goal, especially in ultras.
Roger Burlinson is available for interview and will be happy to take journalists on a ‘taster walk’ upon request. Sport Walk has a large collection of video stills of an online resolution that are available to assist with the publication of information about Sport Walking and can also supply copy from any of the blog articles that may be of use.
There is an explainer video on YouTube which can be viewed on the blog at: https://sportwalkuk.wordpress.com/what-is-sport-walking/
Roger can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
General contact can also be made through Sport Walk’s various social channels:
Instagram – sportwalkuk
Twitter – @sportwalkuk
Facebook – @sportwalk