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.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Outsider People of the Year Awards 2014 Winner

I’m delighted to be named the ‘Most Devoted to the Outdoors’ at the third annual Outsider magazine awards held recently in Dublin. The long list of nominees read like a who’s who on the Irish Outdoor scene and to be even listed amongst such names was an honour. Ultra Running seemed to do quite well on the night with the overall title of ‘Outsider of the Year 2014’ going to Tony Mangan for his mind boggling and epic World Run. The ‘Lifetime Achievement’ award went to Maurice Mullins the man responsible for bringing the first Triathlon and Ultra Marathon to Ireland and Maurice’s daughter Deirdre Mullins won the award for ‘Best Film’ based on the life of Maurice.

Maurice Mullins, Tony Mangan, John O'Regan.

 Thanks to Outsider Magazine for holding the awards night and creating an opportunity to learn from others while making new friends and thanks to my main sponsor Great Outdoors for believing in me from the beginning. We don’t do what we do to win awards but when it happens it’s appreciated and even more so when it celebrates your lifestyle and in the words of Tom Peters, ‘celebrate what you want to see more of’.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Going the Distance / Best Film winner at the Outsider Awards

Going the Distance is an award-winning short documentary about a running-addict who has been diagnosed with cancer. Maurice Mullins was once an ultra distance runner and is now undergoing chemotherapy. His disease has meant that he has lost his lifelong passion, but his determination to compete again in a sport that he loves drives him to face his darkest days with optimism and humour. Maurice’s story is a simple one - he just wants to run again. Through this straight narrative the film explores how he draws parallels between his years of sports training to how he copes with undergoing chemotherapy. The film brings the viewer face to face with the question of how we will respond when confronted with adversity, with our own mortality and with the loss of our greatest love or passion. The filmmaker is Maurice’s daughter and in just 12 minutes the audience gets a glimpse of many sides of the one man; the runner, the philosopher, the father, the friend and the entertainer. Going the Distance Winner of the Audience Award at Dingle International Film Festival 2013 Official Selection at Stranger than Fiction Documentary Film Festival 2013 Director: Deirdre Mullins Twitter: @DeirdreMullins Producer- Bobby McCormack Lighting Camerapersons -Eavan Ryan and Naomi Cahen Sound Recordist and Edit Assistants - Patricia Gonzalez and Shane O'Connor Editor - Tristan Hutchinson You can read an interview with Deirdre and Maurice Mullins in the Irish Times here;