A 70-year-old man, born in Punjab and based in Ireland for over 40 years, has applied for a Guinness World Record after completing what he calls his Earth Walk – covering over 40,075 kilometres or the equivalent of the circumference of the Earth in under 1,500 days – without stepping out of his home city of Limerick.
Vinod Bajaj began his journey in August 2016 with a humble goal of losing some weight and getting fitter.
As he shed the kilograms, his enthusiasm for walking only multiplied and led him to chart out varying routes, including through indoor malls to overcome weather constraints.
“During the first three months of my walking seven days a week, I lost 8 kg by having a deficit of 700 calories per day. Over the next six months I lost a further 12 kg. The loss of weight was almost entirely due to walking and I did not have to change much of my eating habits,” said Bajaj.
“Typically, I started walking early in the morning and completed mostly in two intervals, the first one was always for a longer duration. There were many times I did the entire walk in a single attempt. Starting early allowed me to finish up by early afternoon, which gave me plenty of time to do things such as shopping, bank work, house and garden work,” he said.
The retired engineer and business consultant grew up in Chennai and moved to Scotland in 1975 for a Master’s in Management from Glasgow before work took him to the Republic of Ireland 43 years ago, where he has been living with his family at Castletroy, a suburb of Limerick, for 36 years.
It was the local Irish and world news that kept him company during his long walks, which fell within a 10 km radius of Castletroy.
He also downloaded the Pacer activity tracker app on his smartphone to keep a complete track of his steps and its records flagged his major milestones along the way.
“By the end of the first year I walked 7,600 km and to my surprise I found that in fact I walked to India from Ireland. I continued walking and by the end of year two, I walked a cumulative total of 15,200 km and I found that in fact I walked more than the circumference of the moon (10,921 km). This motivated me further and I decided to walk the circumference of Mars (21,344 km),” he recalls.
“The difference between the Mars Walk and Earth Walk was approximately 19,000 km and I knew it was not going to be easy. I continued walking with an aim to complete my ultimate goal,” he says, in reference to his Earth Walk, which he completed on September 21.
His application with the Guinness World Record is currently under process as they assess if his walk covering the equivalent of the Earth’s circumference in 1,496 days and 54,633,135 steps makes the cut.
Meanwhile, his walking mission continues despite the COVID-19 lockdown constraints, which only means he has to repeat his routes a few times a day to meet his daily walking goal.
He also keeps himself replenished with almonds, cashews, walnuts and bananas to keep energy levels up during the walks.
“My wife and siblings were not impressed initially as they all felt that I was walking too much and my health would be affected. Eventually, they came around reluctantly and now hope that I will reduce my walk and not attempt a second Earth Walk, anti-clockwise,” he jokes.
While he awaits a response on his potential world record, Bajaj is keen to spread the message that walking is the best form of exercise for all ages – "better than running or jogging and it is free".
Having run through 12 pairs of shoes, at an average three per year, during the course of his Earth Walk, his central advice is to invest in a good pair of walking shoes and socks.
And, other advice for fellow walkers: “Loneliness will be the biggest walking challenge and can partially be overcome by listening to music or podcasts.
Make the umbrella your best friend so that no weather will upset your walk plan and self-motivation, discipline, consistency and time management are key”.