Dual Grand National-winning jockey Richard Dunwoody has set off on a 2,000-mile trek through Japan to raise money and awareness for the bone and soft tissue cancer charity Sarcoma UK.
The Belfast-born 53-year-old is walking 20-30 miles every day from the southernmost tip of Japan’s four main islands to his winning post in the north, which he hopes to reach at the beginning of June.
“Two or three years ago I thought I’d like to do something else and Japan was somewhere different,” Richard told H&H. “I hadn’t visited the country before a recce there two years ago so I’m looking forward to getting out there and seeing a lot more of it.”
Richard’s nephew George, 21, was diagnosed with an aggressive and rare sarcoma in 2015 for which he is still receiving treatment.
“I was made aware of Sarcoma UK as a result and wanted to do something positive to help promote the fantastic work and ground-breaking research they do,” said Richard.
Since retiring as three-time champion jockey in 1999, Richard has become something of an adventure traveller, successfully reaching both the north and south poles, raising more than £250,000 for charity. However this is the new father’s first expedition in seven years and the longest trek he has undertaken.
“It will work out to be about eight hours walking per day but we’ll see how it pans out,” said Richard, who has no set route other than the start and finish points and hopes to take in many of Japan’s key landmarks as he goes. “I’ve got to be quite strict about it, so when I am moving I’ve got to cover the ground.”
Richard set off from Cape Sata on Sunday evening (26 February) and, travelling completely unsupported with little more than a rucksack, tent, sleeping bag and bare essentials for the three-month journey, his first meal came out of a vending machine — “microwave chips, a Kit Kat Chunky and and Asahi beer”.
He will be joined at various stages en route by friends, including his girlfriend Olivia and even his former weighing room colleague AP McCoy.
“My money would always be on Richard to complete anything he undertakes!” said AP. “I hope to join him at some stage and I expect we’ll be as competitive as we have always been.”
Follow Richard’s progress on the challenge’s Facebook page.
Don’t miss our exclusive interview with Richard Dunwoody in the 6 April edition of Horse & Hound.