A retired business consultant, who has walked the equivalent of the circumference of the Earth, has encouraged others to keep active in the midst of the pandemic.
Vinod Bajaj, 70, has walked 40,075 kilometres over the past four years without ever leaving his home city of Limerick in the west of Ireland, and has extolled the benefits of walking at such a stressful time for people.
Mr Bajaj, who was born in India and has lived in Ireland for 43 years, finished his extraordinary feat in September after completing more than 54.6 million steps in 8,322 hours and burning almost 1.5 million calories in under 1,500 days.
He has applied to the Guinness World Records to set a new world record as the first person to walk the equivalent of the circumference of the Earth.
He hopes to receive a decision on the application next month.
The married father-of-one began his Earth Walk in 2016 with the aim of losing weight, never considering the distance he would walk.
He used an activity tracker on his phone to read and record his progress.
Mr Bajaj said: “I didn’t wake up one morning to say I’m going to do an Earth Walk or I’m going [to try] to be in the Guinness World Records, I just wanted to walk because I wanted to lose weight – I was a little bit overweight.
“I started walking and after walking for one year I found that I had done the circumference of the moon; I said that’s very good.
“The second year I completed the circumference of Mars, that’s roughly about 20,000 kilometres.
“My next goal was to go after the Earth which is about 40,075 kilometres. So I said why not.
“So when I completed 40,075 I felt very good about it.”
Mr Bajaj ended up walking up to 50 kilometres a day.
During the height of the Covid-19 public health restrictions in Ireland he walked almost 9,000 kilometres while adhering to Government measures of staying within a five kilometre radius of his home.
“When the Government said I should cocoon I said I’m not going to sit in the house. But the 5km restriction did bring some restriction,” he explained. “What I did was I chose the route and I did the same route 10-15 times and I reached my target.
“I said I’m going to continue with it, Covid or no Covid, rain, hailstone, I’m not going to stop.”
“I didn’t want a situation where you’re locked in a house,” he added.
Mr Bajaj said he discovered lots of benefits to walking.
“In the first nine months of walking I lost roughly 20 kilogram of weight,” he said.
“Walking gives you peace of mind. Your mind is stress-free.”
He added: “I think people should take up walking. It’s very very good for the health.
“I sleep very well, I eat very well, I don’t have any medical issues.
“I think walking definitely helps – I’d definitely encourage people to walk, especially people who are much older.
“They sit down watching the TV and on the sofa. I don’t believe in that.”
But he did find it isolating on many occasions.
“There were times it was lonely because at times I thought I was walking aimlessly but I kept myself occupied by listening to Morning Ireland, Sky News and some of the news from my home country of India…I also met a lot of people when I was walking.”
Since he completed his walk Mr Bajaj has walked more than 3,600 kilometres, not for any reason, just because he enjoys it.
“I’ll continue to walk, maybe I’ll slow down a bit but I’ll continue.”
He added: “I looked at Neptune, it is 160,000 kilometres.
“Will I do 160,000 kilometres?
“Maybe. I would need another 10 years. Who knows, you never know.”