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Summer 2016

Colin Vesty: A Centurion in the Making


Colin thinks he can do it - he’s training hard to become one, but it is a tremendous feat. So what is it he’s got to do? Well, you don’t have to wear a Roman tunic topped by leather armour, but you do have to walk 100 miles in 24 hours. Yes, that’s right - 100 miles in 24 hours! And on August 6th at 12 noon in Redcar this is what Colin is going to try to achieve, in nothing more dramatic than a T-shirt, shorts and pair of trainers. Although an experienced race walker Colin has never attempted such a gruelling distance before. The furthest he’s ever raced is 38 miles. Yet he’s been training for the last two years so feels confident he’ll do it! In fact, in any one year, not many do become Centurions. Since it all began in 1911, the average number of new Centurions is about eleven a year - hence the elite race-walking status of those who actually succeed.

You can’t run! This is absolutely taboo. In race-walking you have to keep one foot on the ground at all times and to walk 100 miles in 24 hours you need to average 4.25 miles an hour. (Some hours you will have to walk a little faster because in others, the call of nature will be impossible to resist.) Surprisingly it’s a challenge anyone can enter; between fifty and sixty are expected to take part in Redcar this summer of which about 75% will finish within the time. Yet they won’t all be British as about 50% will have travelled from overseas with contestants coming from as far afield as Australia and America. Would-be Centurions are extreme gluttons for punishment!

It’s true anyone can enter, but the challenge is known to be so demanding only the well prepared ever do so. In Redcar the distance will be measured along the two miles of the Promenade, which will be walked (up and down) 50 times. There are ‘feeding stations’ along the route, medical staff on call, friends and family to give support and officials checking that no one is breaking the race-walking rules by losing contact with the ground!

I asked Colin how he had become involved in this unusual sport and was told it was a family affair. Both he and his brother started race-walking through the Boys Brigade, and then he continued race-walking by joining Leicester Walking Club at the age of eleven when his family lived in the city. His brother Philip Vesty went on to take part in the 20K race at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics. Barrow is a wonderful village to train in he told me. Walking along the river in the summer is perfect, as you don’t need to worry about the traffic. Colin walks for 45 to 60 minutes every morning and evening and walks much longer sessions at weekends. In the past 12 months Colin has completed several marathons in less than 5 hours, including the London Marathon for the fourth time. He walks the distance, of course, but finishes far ahead of many thousands who were ostensibly running!

But to become a Centurion this year has a special meaning for Colin; as well as completing a long-held ambition, he wants to raise funds for ‘Crohn’s in Childhood Research Association’ - CICRA. This is because his daughter has suffered from this disease since childhood and CICRA has been a godsend, especially to his wife, Linda. CICRA is a small charity which has limited resources, but does wonderful work researching the causes and treatment of Crohn’s in children and providing support, often over the phone, for worried parents needing reassurance and information.

CICRA and Colin would be grateful for any support you can offer. For more information about this challenge, please have a look at Colin’s Facebook page www.facebook.com/100forCICRA and should you wish to donate please go to http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/100forCICRA

Gaynor Barton