Training on a helideck for a 500km adventure

In November Willie Richards’ feet will hit the trails from Mossel Bay and he’ll spend a week on a multi-discipline adventure that will see him reaching Franschoek 500-kilometres later.

I was charmed to receive an email this morning from Willie, describing his upcoming adventure:

“I have come up with a little off-road running trip starting in Mossel Bay (St Blaise trail),” he writes.

“I’ll run all along the coast, then paddle the Bree River from Witsand to Malgas. From here I’ll cycle back down to the coast and run along to Arniston – Struisbaai – Die Dam – Jongensfontein – Gansbaai – Hermanus – Kleinmond and then cycle on my last day into Franshoek to finish off my little trip, which is just over the 500km. Hence the name for my adventure ’500kmplus’. I have put aside 10 days to achieve this, but will be trying to cover the distance in 7 days.”

What almost interested me even more is Willie’s training and preparation situation.

A ‘little’ comment that read “I am preparing for this offshore on a small helideck with a circumference of 22.5 meters every day after working night shift” totally caught my attention and had me asking questions.

Over the years Willie has worked on various offshore projects in locations like south-east Asia, Russia and in the Gulf of Mexico. Until two years ago he was a Saturation Diver Offshore.

“This really made training hard as I was in a decompression chamber for 28 days at a time,” he says.

Willie currently works 88 nautical miles off the Angolan coast on a deep-water inspection project (his vessel has 1,300-metres of ocean below it!). He is office-based on the vessel.

His ship has a treadmill – “But it has been broken for ages – you can only walk on it. Stationary bike is present but it is only available for the ships crew to use,” he says.

He joined the project 18-months ago and took to training on the helideck, which has a circumference of only 22.5 metres.

“I run 20 minutes one way and then 20 minutes the other or until my knee starts hurting on the one side. For an hour. It’s not very nice running in a 22.5 metre circle the whole time.”

There are stairs on the ship, which he uses a lot and he also has a skipping rope. To mix things up he runs one day and the next does circuit training “and loads of burpies!”.


He’s generally offshore for one-month-on, one-month-off and when back home in Cape Town, he hits the beach and Lions Head to run and if time and weather allows he climbs on his surfski.

Willie plans to set off from Mossel Bay on 15 November 2015. If you see him out there, give him a big cheer. You can follow his adventure and see where he is by checking out his Facebook page at 500kmplus.

Willie is doing some fundraising for Tin Can Town “a charity very dear to my heart” while he’s at it. this organisation provides parasite treatments, medical care, sterilisation and immunisations and food to the animals of Blikkiesdorp, a relocation camp in the Delft area of Cape Town.