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Richard Farquhar has spent most of the past year walking. Since March 2015, he has covered more than 2,500 miles, crisscrossing Britain on foot. So what does he do on a day off? Without a trace of self-pity, the charity walker admits: “When I’m not walking, I’m working.” Although his employer kindly agreed to give him the time off he needed for his grand undertaking, and hired someone to cover while he’s away, he feels obliged to come to the office whenever he can.

Clearly, Richard Farquhar doesn’t do things by halves. Even more so when it comes to his current extracurricular undertaking. Walking The Courses has seen him walking between all of Britain’s 60 courses, attending race meetings and, upon arrival, doing a lap of honour around each of their tracks. When he finishes in April 2016, he will have spent more than 12 months walking 3,000 miles in all seasons, in wind and weather, all in aid of Pancreatic Cancer UK and Racing Welfare.

Farquhar is dedicating his efforts to the memory of his late father, who succumbed to pancreatic cancer 4 years ago. “The survival rates for pancreatic cancer haven’t improved over the past 10 years, and the fundamental reason is money and awareness,” he explains.

“Some of the more common cancers have significantly enhanced survival rates, and those survivors become ambassadors, fundraisers and awareness raisers for those illnesses. So few people survive pancreatic cancer, there’s no one left to raise awareness. It’s up to the families who are left behind to get behind the cause. I felt like just once in my life, I had to do something meaningful, something that would raise a lot of money and awareness.”

Not everyone will attempt quite the epic challenge that Richard Farquhar set himself, but whether you are walking for charity, for leisure, or both, the advice of a man who has spent the past year walking up to 32 miles a day is worth taking.

Anyone Can Become A Walker

“When I started off, I saw the walking as a means to an end. The one part of this project that has genuinely surprised me is how much I have enjoyed the walking. Walking is now definitely a part of my life, and that isn’t going to change. I suspect there is no man in Britain who has done more walking within this country in the past year, but there are still places I would love to go and see.”

Gain Strength By Walking

“I’m 53 and wouldn’t have described myself in any way, shape or form as an athlete. I never did much exercise before, so I had to get myself in shape. For 5 months before I started, I walked home from work 3 days a week. At weekends, I’d go on longer walks, so I was doing about 40-50 miles a week.”

Build Your Core

“I also started Pilates, which I had never done before in my life, to build up my core strength. It helps with balance, when you’re walking on wet, slippery, unstable ground. I suspect I would have spent a lot more time on my backside, falling down, if I hadn’t done Pilates.”

Harness The Support Of Your Community

“In the very early days, I did quite a lot of walking on my own and quite enjoyed it. It’s great thinking time, I love the peace and quiet. But equally, it’s nice to have company, and I have been very lucky to have the support of the racing world. It didn’t necessarily surprise me that I received their support. What has surprised me is the scale and breadth of the support. I’ve done two walks in the past week, and I had half a dozen trainers walk with me.

Some really high-profile people in the racing world have taken time out to walk with me, because they realise that what I’m doing has the potential to make a difference. In the early days, it meant a lot to just have people voicing their support, to establish credibility, but as the project has progressed, it’s been greatly enhanced in the physical sense by people putting one foot in front of the other with me.”

Set Yourself Big Goals – And Take The Challenges As They Come

“Before I started, I knew physically I could deal with walking 25 miles one day, followed by 25 miles the following day. However, I had no idea whether my body would be capable of the longer and more strenuous stages until I attempted them. Equally, I didn’t know if I could do it in hot weather, or in very cold weather. Maybe it was just a glorious sense of idiotic naivety, but I thought: It’ll probably be alright, let’s just see how it goes.”

Keep Your Eyes On The Prize

“There’ve been moments of discomfort and moments where I’ve been cold, and sodden, and wondering what on earth I’m doing, but there hasn’t been a single moment where I’ve thought ‘I can’t do this’.”

Choose Scenery Above Speed

“All my routes were planned by the chairman of an organisation called the Long Distance Walkers Association, of which I am now a member. He planned all my routes A) for safety, B) for scenery and C) for time. His view was: if you’re going to walk 50 miles, you might as well walk 60 and go the pretty way, and I’m very glad that he put the priorities in that order.”

“It’s been a revelation, spending as much time as I have walking through this unbelievably beautiful country, and it’s given me the most amazing opportunity to truly appreciate what a magnificent country I live in.”

You Don’t Have To Travel Far To Walk

“A lot of people spend a lot of their lives planning and thinking about and dreaming of which beautiful place they are going to visit next, but they haven’t walked their own country. I’ve been blown away by the beauty of my own home. It’s all sitting here, for free, right under our noses!”

“The whole thing has been, without doubt, been the most fulfilling thing I have ever done.”

Visit walkingthecourses.com, or go to virginmoneygiving to contribute to the cause.

Article by Fiona Brutscher

Photos: Minty Farquhar

What is your view of Richard Farquhar's extraordinary charity walks?



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