Thursday, November 19, 2015

Mind over Matter. The Sub 3 hour Marathon.

Original article available here.

Irish International Ultra Runner John O’Regan explains how he helped train Derry McVeigh, A Lust for Life team member and sports agent, on how to break the 3 hour marathon mark. “It doesn’t need to be the loneliness of the long distance runner”.
I got to know Derry through our local parkrun back in January 2014. It was Saturday 18th January and he finished 2 seconds ahead of me after putting in a sprint finish that I couldn’t match. We met again on Saturday 25th January and this time I finished 8 seconds behind with Derry showing signs of improvement and then on Saturday 01st March we ran together in a small group with Derry again finishing ahead of me. This time he was first over the line.
We got talking and he told me of his plan to run a sub 3hr Marathon in Dublin later that same year. Thinking to myself that 3hrs should be a handy enough target for him based on his 5K times I didn’t say too much and we continued to battle it out whenever we met at parkrun.
Soon after the Dublin Marathon, we met again at parkrun and I was very surprised to hear that he had missed his target by 7 seconds and had experienced a very tough day. This was even more surprising when he told me that he had finished a parkrun in 17:17 less than a week after the Dublin Marathon.
Defining Moment
Jump forward to 2015 and we met up for a long run in March with Derry’s two training partners (Karl and Stephen). I was the guest so I sat at the back and felt under pressure soon after starting which had me thinking that maybe I wasn’t fit enough to run with these guys. Halfway through the run we stopped at a quiet junction to retrieve a bag containing energy drinks and gels and it was then I realised that the lads were just running and weren’t doing a specific session. They were going too fast on their long run and it was becoming just another run which wasn’t helping to prepare for the Marathon and this could be the reason for Derry missing his target in Dublin.
The Beginning
I said nothing until after the run and then took the gamble of telling Derry that I knew why he hadn’t achieved his sub 3hr Marathon. We had a brief chat and I gave him an idea of what I thought he would need to do which would make running a lot easier than it had been and I made a few suggestions to help make the most use of his available time. Quite simply it was a case of ‘You can do the same thing and get the same result or you can try something different.’ He was interested!
Derry got back in touch and said he’d been thinking about what we’d been talking about and it made sense. He asked if I’d help with a training plan and this was time for me to walk the talk. I didn’t have time to train regularly with Derry so I needed a way to control what he was doing by checking what he had done. We had less than 4 months until the next Sub 3 attempt in Berlin.
To start things off I suggested he buy a Heart Rate Monitor and we decided on the Garmin 225 as the software included (Garmin Connect) would allow me to view the sessions he had completed and I could then monitor his progress and suggest changes if required. To get the most from a Heart Rate Monitor it helps to know your lactate threshold which is the fastest pace you can run without generating more lactic acid than your body can process.
Knowing the heart rate at which this happens will allow you to stay below it and could be compared with the difference between keeping a pot of water simmering rather than letting it boil. You can make an educated guess based on feel and comparing with race results and hard sessions but it’s still only a guess and won’t help to maximise your performance. We did a few guessed sessions during which I was cautious not to overdo it as I felt that Derry was always training harder than he needed to be so my main objective was to slow him down and get him used to doing easier runs. The added advantage of using the Garmin made it easier to monitor progress from a distance as I could easily see from uploaded files if there was an increase or decrease in distance covered as the weeks progressed.
The Plan
It was May 20th and Derry made an appointment to do a Lactate Test with Colin Griffin at the Sports Surgery Clinic in Santry. This test consisted of 6* 1 mile controlled intervals on the track under the observation of Colin with a small blood sample taken at the end of every mile to measure lactate levels and heart rate was recorded. The results were no less than I expected and confirmed what I had been thinking. I used the information received from the test to structure a few definite sessions to ensure that Derry was running easy enough on easy days and hard enough on the harder days. A common mistake is running easy sessions too hard which means you might not be sufficiently rested and recovered to run the harder runs as they should be run with the end result being that all runs are more or less the same.
We sat down and designed an individualised adaptable training plan that would make the most use of his available time with regular checks along the way to ensure the plan was productive. We looked for windows of opportunity in the working week and also used times that were already working for training runs. A typical week included a Lactate Threshold Interval Session, a tempo run, a long run and the rest was easy running. The long run was one of the big changes and we shifted the format of this run from pace to an aerobic heart rate zone with it being measured in time rather than distance.
The Training
The best plan isn’t always the best plan and to make something work you need to fit it around your life, rather than fit your life around what you are trying to do. Getting this right will immediately remove a stress or at least make the training less stressful and make it more workable. Training with friends makes it a lot easier and the early morning or late nights become more bearable. Involving others can make all the difference and if those others are like minded with similar goals and objectives then your chances of success will improve from the beginning.
Derry was lucky as he had a group of regular motivated training partners which was a great start and this didn’t just happen by chance as they came together by design and in a similar way that I got involved. We share a common interest and got chatting after one of our many battles during a parkrun. Finishing close enough together shows the similar ability and we all realised that training is easier with company if we embrace it.
A perfect example of fitting the training around your life would be the Lactate Threshold session as we designed a session of just the right duration to be completed during a running commute to work. Early morning was also perfect for this run because it required energy and concentration and was the perfect start to a busy day.
Making it work
From my observation they had evolved into a same pace and every run was more or less the same. We needed to change the training but not change the training partners and keep them involved as they were crucial to the success of the plan. On a few occasions when we talked, Derry told me that if he hadn’t committed to meeting the other guys for an early morning run at the weekend then he would have stayed in bed.
Goals and objectives can differ but with some thought out scheduling it was possible to still do individualised training sessions while running in a group. As an example, Derry was able to do an easy session while running with someone of lesser fitness doing a faster session. Some sessions can’t be compromised as specific work needs to be done but if you look around you will find that there’s always someone looking for company and would love to tag along.
It won’t always work out as when you are training in a group you need to compromise and find a middle ground that suits all but luckily for Derry, Karl and Stephen were close to the same fitness level and equally benefited from the session. I think that the key to this training cycle being a success was due to the network of friends and training partners that Derry had around him and it was important to keep them involved.
During a big city marathon you have all the distractions along the way with the mile markers very obvious and breaking the distance into manageable chunks but when you are alone it takes a lot more mental effort to stay focussed and motivated. Training alone is still beneficial and some people prefer it but if you find that your motivation is starting to wear off then you should consider finding a training partner for the occasional run.
Monitoring Progress
Along the way it was necessary to monitor progress to ensure that the training was productive or in some cases to discover in time if it was unproductive and needed changing. With that in mind we decided to use the regular interval session as used during the commute. This particular session became the benchmark and the improvements were obvious. As Derry got fitter from the training he had to work harder which in turn means run faster to elevate his heart rate into the training zone and this meant covering more distance in same time.
Derry had registered for the Rock and Roll Half Marathon in Dublin on 2nd August and we discussed using this as a performance indicator with the finishing result being very positive and confirming we were on track.
A perfect example of how this plan was workable would be an observation of the Interval Session that was fitting in around a commute into work which consisted of 3*15 mins at Lactate Threshold with 5 mins recovery between reps. This started with a warm up that lasted as long as it needed to last and finished with a cool down. As the weeks progressed this session was resulting in more distance being covered during the 15 minute sections for the same heart rate. This meant the training was done before the working day had begun and it was utilising the time that would have been spent commuting. The long run was done on a Sunday and as it got longer it started earlier.
Tapering and Race Week
Race week came around very quickly which highlighted the importance of making the best use of available time as it seemed like we arrived at the start line just at the right moment. The tapering period was short but definite with a reduction in training volume while maintaining some intensity. Most importantly the temptation to sign up for shorter races or racing in training was resisted. Racing in training is simply running faster than you should be running and testing your fitness when you should be saving it.
Derry travelled to Berlin and was confident enough with his training to prevent any panic at the start. We had talked through the race and worked on a strategy based on previous experience. We knew where the sticking points would be and because of that we had gone beyond them in training and proved in advance that it could be done. We talked about when it would hurt and how much it would hurt and although slowing down or stopping might temporarily ease that pain it was nothing like the pain of knowing you’d given up and missed your target by just a few seconds as was the case in Dublin 2014.
It was a fast start but he got back onto pace and played a patient game knowing that he had prepared well and the recent performance indicators had all indicated he should achieve his target. Marathons can be strange events in that you are amongst a group of 10-40,000 but after a certain point you can feel all alone in your own little world of pain and for Derry this was to happen at 35K.
For a moment he was disorientated and forgot where he was but then he remembered that he was here before and knew he had the experience to deal with it. Rather than slowing down he put in an extra effort which wasn’t to speed up but to just maintain the pace as tired legs require more energy for the same output. At 37K he told me that he had thoughts of giving up and pulling out of the race but those thoughts were cancelled out by more positive affirmations remembered from Karl and Stephen as they talked each other through long run after long run.
He remembered all the early nights just so he could have an early morning and some days arriving into work feeling like he’d already done a day’s work and that he hadn’t done all of that to drop out at 37K. Most of all he remembered the feeling of just missing out on a Sub 3 finish with his last attempt by only 10 seconds and he didn’t want to feel that way again.
He then did what he did on those unpressured training runs away from witness and just kept going and although the self doubt was still there he didn’t give up as he knew that this wasn’t just for him as others where depending on the result including me. It was only when someone passed him at 40K and told him that if he kept going at the pace he was at then he would finish in under 3hrs. This positive cue was all that was needed to switch back on again and the pace which he described as comfortably painful was maintained all the way to the finish and he crossed the line with a smile and a new personal best of 2:58.44 and the elusive sub 3hr Marathon.
You never really know what will happen on the day but if you prepare well then you give yourself the best possible start.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Looking beyond the Finish Line

Over the past 15 years I’ve competed in some of the most extreme races in the world taking in the 7 continents plus the North Pole and have represented Ireland on 10 occasions in the Ultra Marathon, but my running career was almost over as quickly as it had started.
My first Ultra Marathon was a 150 Mile race across the Sahara Desert called the Marathon des Sables and it took 2 years of preparation to go from zero to being fit enough and able enough to complete this epic race. Every day of every month was pre planned and I knew exactly what I was to do and when to do it and before I knew it I was in Dublin Airport starting my journey to western Africa.
My 2 focussed years were now leading into this one week and then all of a sudden it was all over. Crossing the finish line was a very strange experience because rather than having that feeling of success I felt empty. My first thoughts were not about what I’d done but instead I was thinking what do I do now? I was lost and without any sense of direction.
I returned home and lost all interest in what I’d done and hardly wanted to talk about it. With no intention of doing anything like it ever again, I started to regress back to my old ways. This wasn’t because I didn’t want to but I just didn’t feel motivated enough to set myself a new goal.
It was only when another interesting race presented itself almost by accident that I began to regain my focus. When I started back training I got quite a shock to realise that I wasn’t as fit as I had been and a valuable lesson about running was learned when I stopped running. Fitness is not something you can just hold onto. You either use it or you lose it.
Since then I’ve always thought ahead and had future ideas but wouldn’t get too caught up in them too soon as they can distract from the closer short term goals and you may lose focus. I now use the finish line of a race as a new start line even if only to start back training.
Learning how to deal with this negative mindset has allowed me to continue on my running journey and even though these moments still arise I feel better able to deal with them as rather than fear them I expect them and that allows me to prepare for them.
Think beyond the finish line but stay in the moment.
Always have another goal in mind.
Stay focussed.
Keep moving forward.
Never forget where you’ve come from.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Off The Ball speak to Ciaran 'Kipper' Maguire and John O'Regan.

'I wouldn't call it mad' - The inside track on Ireland's extreme sports enthusiasts

Tomorrow night, a new documentary called Extreme airs on Setanta Sports.
Tracking seven Irish athletes, it shows them as they pursue the different extreme sports that they are involved in.
Some of the sports include base jumping, thunder cat racing, surfing, rock climbing and kayaking among others.
Tonight on Off The Ball, kayaker and the show's presenter Ciaran 'Kipper' Maguire and marathon runner John O'Regan joined us to talk about the documentary and their own experiences in extreme sports.
The latter, who spent time with TV adventurer Ray Mears, has competed in 24 hour marathon races as well as a six-day race in the Sahara desert. 
"I wouldn't call it mad because I was still able to do it," he said of the Sahara race, which he suggested was "underwhelming".
 "I'm not someone who can't swim and then decides I'm going to swim the channel. I didn't see this as a big deal but I did set myself a two-year plan. I made sure I could run a marathon first of all. The idea came into my head in April 2001 after I ran the Dublin marathon in October. I didn't just jump into it."
Listen to the full interview with Maguire and O'Regan via the podcast.

Friday, February 27, 2015


If it can be raced, John O’Regan has run it. The North Pole, Mount Everest, the Sahara Desert and the steps of the Empire State Building have all been tread by the Kildare man. He’s also sent himself into hallucinations while completing the historic 153 miles Spartathlon between Athens and Sparta in Greece. 
Last year he outlasted the competition to win the Wings for Life World Run in Co. Kerry, meaning he has his pick of where to race in the competition this year. Always with a plan in mind, O’Regan will be at the starting line in India so he can knock the Taj Mahal off his list as he aims to run past all the seven wonders of the world.
Before then the 45 year old will represent Ireland at the 24-hour world championships in Turin, Italy, but here he gives us some advices on how to gear up for our lone exertions.

The biggest challenge
“The most important thing with any race is getting to the starting line in good shape,” he says. “There’s no point trying to do more than you can in training or going at anybody’s pace other than your own, in training as well as in the race. If you are unlucky enough to get an injury, allow time for the injury to heal and remember injuries heal not just through rest but also by eating a healthy balanced diet.  Wait until you feel that the injury has healed before you start moving on again.”

Take a breather“Do make sure to enjoy your days off.  If you are starting back training after a lay off, bear in mind that chances are you’re going to be a little bit out of shape and have lost some fitness. So don’t try to start back where you left off, do a short easy recovery run first. Treat it like a race where you pace yourself from the start but do stay at a reduced rate before you start thinking about picking it up again.”

Enjoy it“Running is fun. It’s also a challenge for each individual so you have to strike the right balance between pushing yourself and enjoying it. You don’t want to be dreading putting on your shoes before your session. When you are training you should try finish with something left in the tank. No single session will do the work of two so don’t push yourself so hard that you can’t have another good session the next time out."

Extreme TV Documentary

Extreme  is a TV documentary made by Athena Media Productions for Setanta Sports Ireland with the support of theBroadcasting Authority of Ireland and the TV licence fee. Extreme is an exploration of adventure, the stories of those who go to the edge. Extreme will be broadcast March 5th, 8pm on Setanta Ireland. Presenter Kipper Maguire meets athletes across Ireland to find out what they do and why they do it. Extreme features the athletes Fergal Somerville, Easkey Britton, Conor Heelan, Aileen Mann, Ricky Bell, Heather Irvine and John O’Regan who Kipper meets to find out what drives them to regularly compete in some of the world’s most daring activities. Kipper Maguire is no stranger to the extreme and has competed himself in Freestyle World Championships and White Water trips all across the globe.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Donadea 50K. The Race.

Race day seemed to come around very quickly but then again it’s only been 3 months since the Dublin Marathon and team training sessions were intermittent which probably made the time pass quicker as every session was important.  Making the most of this limited available time we prepared as best we could but there’s always an element of uncertainty and until the race starts you just don’t know exactly what to expect.  There were so many factors at play and I knew that pacing was going to be a real issue as the paths were laid out for minimum impact on the forest park and although wide enough for causal walkers to pass each other in comfort they were not designed with a large group of 230 runners in mind.  This group would then form smaller individual groups taking up complete sections as they moved forward in unison helping each other with the pacing.  The path also twisted and turned through the park to follow nature rather in a straight line to suit the runner and then there were the hills!  We had a goal time in mind as I know the importance of having a plan and something to help break up the race but I knew in advance that this plan would change constantly as the environmental conditions would determine what actually happened.

We arrived at the Forest Park in good time and met up with our support crew for the day (Maggie Lawler) from my running club and gave her a quick chat on what we might need and a few  other instructions to take away the guesswork as the race progressed.  A few minutes were spent chatting to the other runners and then I decided to move away from the crowds as we had spent so much time trying to get into the zone and visualise the race that I didn’t want conflicting comments from other runners changing our mindset as a simple reassurance from someone could easily lead to a false sense of the difficulties that lay ahead.  This was in sharp contrast to quite a few negative comments in the lead up to the race and it’s important to know how to deal with both.

We walked towards the first and probably trickiest corner on the route to get a feel for it and it was a good job we did as we had the time to test it out and then came up with a command of ‘tight right and down’ and I would put my left arm out to allow Sinead hold on for stability plus I would count down the run into it in Metres, ‘tight right and down, (arm up) 3, 2, 1 and into the corner.  Beyond this turn which curved around a lake we then had sections of uneven path with bumps and trip hazards caused by tree roots breaking through to the surface and this was an area that I had found particularly tricky when running it myself blindfolded (see previous post).

With 10 minutes to go we made our way back along the race route to the start line and talked through the part of the course that we were now on before positioning ourselves towards the back of the field.  I had thought that this was the right thing to do but soon enough I was thinking it a mistake as we were caught amongst a large group and it was so congested that it was hard for me to focus on the ground ahead as all I could see were feet.  It was an effort to run slow enough to not clip the feet of those ahead and we were running like this for at least the first kilometre and it made for a less than relaxing start to the race.  

We eventually made a break from the back of the field and found a less congested positioning and then the seriousness of the task in hand became obvious.  There was very little let up from the commands and it took a lot of concentration from Sinead to stay focused and move safely while trying to avoid trip hazards and constantly adapt to the changing terrain underfoot as I was trying my best to explain what lay ahead.  Most of the undulations were in the first 2 K of the route and then the path was relatively good except for the constant turnings and a camber that fell to the right which was my side.  The camber caused us to collide quite often as I had to lean left to avoid going off the path and the camber was guiding Sinead towards the right with end result being my elbow striking Sinead’s bicep a few times too many. 

Finishing the first lap we knew the course was quite testing but we were moving well and used the next lap to get a better feel for the pace and terrain as the field was now spread out and we tried to just concentrate on moving safely and finding our rhythm.
The next few laps went quite well but as each lap passed the degree of difficulty increased because even though we were running the same route the foot placements were always different and the exposed areas of trail with puddles were becoming very muddy and slippy with all the passing traffic.  We had a few close calls and one incident could have ended our race when a runner just ahead of us dropped a bottle which I tried to kick away from Sinead’s path but then he turned and ran back towards us making a beeline between the two of us but turned just in time and only barely managed to avoid a collision. 

With fatigue setting in during the later stages of the race we both began to feel the effort of the constant concentration without any mental breaks and then at the start of the last lap I almost caused an accident when discarding a used water bottle by throwing it in front of and across Sinead towards some race marshals but didn’t throw it hard enough.  It broke the silence, woke me up and then we were back in the zone but Sinead was tiring and was very concerned about finishing inside the cut off time of 5hrs.  I had calculated that we were still within time but we didn’t have anything to spare and we couldn’t really afford to slow down and walking wouldn’t be an option. 

This was our last time to visit each of the hills but that didn’t make them any easier and I think by this stage Sinead was fed up hearing the degrees of difficult and length of each climb and I tried not to talk too much.  Eventually we turned onto the final stretch towards the finish line and Sinead had said she wanted to run it freely but I warned her of the slip hazards with the muddy spots and then the trip hazard of the three timing mats but her reply was ‘If I can’t see them then they’re not there’, 

I stayed with her for as long as I could and then she took off as I tried to stay close.  She crossed the line a few seconds ahead of me in a time of 4hr52.25 to a celebratory cheer from the waiting crowd that you’d expect the winner to get and the rest is hard to put into words....

Photos thanks to Peter Mooney & James Shelley

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Next stop Donadea

Today (Sunday) was the last of the training runs with Sinead Kane before we take on the Donadea 50K and if today was anything to go by then the signs are good for Race day.  

Who is Sinead Kane?  Sinead is a visually impaired runner from Cork and I’ve known of her for a few years now after first reading about her in a newspaper article but we only got to know each other since last August through a mutual friend , twitter and email as she prepared for the Dublin Marathon.  We then met for the first time only 2 weeks before the Dublin Marathon and the meet up was partly because she was recovering from an injury and having missed some long training runs was feeling slightly underprepared and was looking for some advice.  Knowing the injury she had  I may have advised her against doing the Marathon but she seemed more worried about rain than pain and didn’t really listen to the parts of the conversation where I was telling her that it might not be such a great idea. 
Two  weeks later and through sheer determination and ambition she proved me wrong and went on to successfully finish and in doing so became the first visually impaired female to complete the Dublin City Marathon guided by Kieran O'Reilly.   Rather than feeling that sense of relief with finishing she wanted more and 3 months later we are now in the lead into the Donadea 50K (Irish National Championships) to be held on Saturday Feb 14th.

Dublin Marathon 2014

Since finishing the Dublin Marathon Sinead has become more focussed with her training and through a network of Running Guides (Denis Kelleher in Cork and  Claire Powell & myself in Dublin) has managed a more consistent training routine although it’s still far from ideal as every session is a compromise (for Sinead).

In the build up to this race we’ve ran together as often as possible and mostly around the Phoenix Park in Dublin and after each session I’m left thinking that we need to run together more often but that isn’t going to happen as every training run means 6-7hrs of travel time for Sinead and that isn’t practical for a few obvious reasons including Recovery.
Sinead is quite fast and that brings extra demands for both runner and guide as it means a quicker reaction time to avoid hazards and as the pace increases so too does the injury risk.  A gentle climb feels more severe for the visually impaired runner as it can’t be visually prepared for and any turns other than a gentle curve can put extra pressure on the knees.  The list is endless and  I could go on and on because every run is a new learning experience but come race day the learning needs to be done as this is the exam.

To help improve my guiding skills without actually guiding and to get a feel for the race route I went to Donadea and ran blindfolded over sections of the course with a friend acting as guide.  It soon became obvious that what may appear as a flat surface when running with friends and distracted with conversation is a continuous obstacle course full of potential trip hazards and ankle twisting traps.  Potholes appeared out of nowhere, branches were lower than I realised, tree routes breaking through the ground were never noticed before and the once familiar route that I’ve ran hundreds of times was now the unknown.  I was running with my heart in my mouth and expecting to fall with every step and found it hard to fully trust my guide and this has given me a better appreciation of what’s to be expected on Race day.

This will be the fifth edition of the Donadea 50K and on completion I'll be the last of the original list of invited starters to start and finish all of the races but I’m not expecting this to be a  ‘Walk in the Park’ of a Run.

Thanks to Great Outdoors & No17 Personal Training for the assistance in preparing for the event.

Outsider People of the Year Awards 2014 – winners announced (Full List)

Outsider magazine celebrated a year of amazing achievements by people involved in outdoor adventure at its third annual People of the Year event which was supported by Trident Holiday Homes, Cotswold Outdoor and Great Outdoors, Dublin.

Tony Mangan was named Outsider of the Year for his epic adventure running around the world. Tony won a holiday which was given by Trident Holiday Homes, co-sponsor of the awards. (Photo: David Craig)
Top honours went to Tony Mangan (57) who was named Outsider of the Year 2014 in recognition of his extraordinary achievement of running around the world. Mangan, who hails from the Liberties, clocked up 55,000 kilometres as he ran around the globe. That’s the equivalent of 1,200 marathons and is longer than any human has ever run.
Receiving his award, an emotional Mangan said, “This award means the world to me.” But he was quick to add that life is returning to normal now that he’s back. “My mam is still worrying about me. She was worrying about me being walking a mile in the cold weather. I have to remind her, ‘Mam, I’ve just run around the world; I’ll be fine.’”
Jacinta Doolan, Director of Trident Holiday Homes, presented Mangan with a holiday voucher and said, “I hope after his run around the world you will enjoy a relaxing break at home in Ireland in one of our holiday homes.”

Jade O’Connor who was named Outsider Woman of the Year award and won a fantastic MSR Hubba Hubba tent.  (Photo: David Craig)
Kitesurfer Jade O’Connor (43) was named Woman of the Year. O’Connor won the British Ladies Championship in June 2014, came eight at the World Championships in Istanbul Turkey, August 2014 and fourth at the European Championships in Poland in September 2014. The Dublin woman is Ireland’s highest ranked kiteboarder. Kiteboarding is a close action, high adrenaline, high-speed water sport that sees up to 30 kiteboarders at a time race around a course reaching speeds in excess of 50km per hour. O’Connor commented, “I am over the moon… This kicks my 2015 race season off with a bang of good energy”

(L-R) Matt Roffe from Cotswold Outdoor who co-sponsored the awards, Helen O’Sullivan who picked up the Audience award, Liam Delahunty with his Most Inspirational award and John O’Regan who won the award for being most Devoted. (Photo: David Craig)
The Most Inspiring Person award went to multi-sport racer Liam Delahunty (36) who hails from Kilkenny. Delahunty was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis eight years ago and his life fell apart. He suffered from serious depression and admits that he considered suicide. Everything changed for Delahunty back in 2013 when he set himself a target of completing 24 races in 18 months. In December he scaled that mountain with a final event in Waterford. In 2014 he also came first, second and third respectively in WAR Lough Dan, MOXY, WAR Sugar Loaf and the Dingle Adventure Race (sport).
“I have met some amazing people through getting involved in adventure racing. It has really helped me fight against depression and not let MS take over my life,” said Delahunty.

Deirdre Mullins who won the award for Best Film and Maurice Mullins her father who took home a Lifetime Achievement award. (Photo: David Craig)
A lifetime achievement went to Maurice Mullins (72) from Skerries, Co Dublin. Mullins organised Ireland’s first triathlon in 1983 and then long-distance triathlon. He also competed himself, running 130 marathons, 20 100km races, a handful of 24-hour races and competed internationally in ultra-distance events. Although he now has cancer and has had to slow down in life, he still keeps active by cycle training in his garden shed and continues to inspire.
A modest Mullins stated, “It’s lovely to get this award but for every organiser there are so many helpers behind the scenes. When I organised that first triathlon, I had 104 helpers. They deserve this award too.”
An award voted for by the audience on the night went to Helen O’Sullivan (nee Whearity), also from Skerries. The 37-year-old mum of one suffers from cystic fibrosis but overcame the odds to run the Dublin marathon in October in a time of 3:45:56. A clearly delighted Whearity who received a huge cheer from the crowd, said, “Even through the training was hard, I loved every minute if it.”
A Youth award went to Belfast teenager Dominic Burns. This 17-year-old climber has been punching above his weight for several years now on the domestic and international scene. In 2014 won the Senior Irish Bouldering and the Senior Irish Lead Climbing Championships. He also won the Junior Irish Bouldering Championship and the Junior Irish Lead Climbing Championship as well as coming fourth at the British Bouldering Championships and the IFSC European Youth Cup. He came 27th at the IFSC Bouldering World Championships in Munich. Burns said, “It’s really great to see more people taking an interest in climbing.”
The Most Devoted to the Outdoor Scene went to ultra-runner John O’Regan (45). In 2014, the Dubliner won the Red Bull Wings for Life World Run in Killarney and finished second in the inaugural Tralee 100K just two weeks after running 227km in the Belfast 24-hour race. He is also the current National 24-hour Champion. A level 2 athletics coach, John also trained 30 first-time marathon runners at Le Cheile Leixlip AC and also ran the half marathon and Dublin marathon as an official pacer. He was advisor and online coach for Mark Pollock’s Run in the Dark, organised the crew behind the Bumbleance charity push and also helped coach Sinead Kane, the first blind Irish female to complete the Dublin Marathon in October. He is also actively involved in the local Parkrun and coaches runners in Athletic Ireland’s Fit4Life programme.
An understated O’Regan said, “We don’t do these things to get awards but it’s nice all the same.”
Conor Lavelle who won the award for Best Breakthrough Performance.
The Breakthrough Achievement Award for 2014 went to Dublin mountain biker
Conor Lavelle (17). He came third from, in the Enduro World Series junior category.
Awards were also presented for the Best Outdoor Escape, Film, Event and Photo. The Escape award went to Pure Magic Achill, a kitesurfing and water sports lodge in Co Mayo. The Film award went to Deirdre Mullins for her short film, Going the Distance about her father Maurice (see above). Best Event was the Helly Hansen Killarney Adventure Race and Best Photo went to James Jones for his picture of Ballyhass Wakeboarding Park.
Commenting on the awards, Jacinta Doolan, Director of Trident Holiday Homes said: “For such a small country, Ireland really is a big hitter when it comes to adventure. It is so humbling seeing people do such incredible things. The mind boggles.”
Matt Roffe of Cotswold Outdoor, stated, “It was great to support such an awe-inspiring community – the people that, sometimes against the odds, go the extra distance and pull off extraordinary achievements. When Outsider first got in touch I was stirred by the amazing stories of Maurice Mullins and Tony Mangan, both very different achievements but sharing the same driven adventure spirit. Total outdoors magic.” 

The Best Outdoor Event award went to Ollie Kirwan from Elite Events which runs the Helly Hansen Killarney Adventure Race.
Roisin Finlay, editor of Outsider magazine, added, “Everyday I hear about Irish people doing extraordinary things. Just when you think the bar cannot be pushed any further, somebody will do something that is completely incomprehensible like Tony Mangan running around the world or Liam Delahunty competing in all of those races when he has such health challenges. Ireland is really leading the way for adventurers around the world and at Outsider we really wanted to acknowledged that.
We were incredibly lucky to receive such great support from Trident Holiday Homes, Cotswold Outdoor and Great Outdoors which meant we could make it a night to remember.”
The event took place on Thursday 29 January at Generator, Smithfield, Dublin 7.