ON March 17 – St Patrick’s Day – our world fell apart.

As the Covid-19 emergency took a grip around the world, the family and many friends of Pete Durkan were dealt a devastating blow, after Pete lost a brave battle with cancer.

Pete left behind a devoted and devastated family who are still trying to come to terms with the loss of such a brilliant father, husband and brother. He was 38-years-old.

He also left a huge circle of friends and colleagues reeling from the loss of a person who was giant to us all, and someone who we were all honoured to watch with admiration as he faced into each battle and obstacle that this cruel and awful disease put in his way.

Anybody who loses a family member or close friend in desperately tragic circumstances will tell you, it is so easy and so acceptable to take such a blow in the worst possible way. The journey for recovery will be a long one, particularly for Pete’s widow Kasia and his children Lilly (Age 4) and Alex (2 in June).

I’ve decided, as Pete would have wanted – I have no doubt - to take this blow and try to turn it into something positive, or something less negative than Pete’s passing has dealt.

MEMORY

Once the Covid-19 lockdown has passed, and it will pass, I will embark on my very first ultra-marathon run, in Pete’s honour, and covering a distance between two points that meant so much to him when he was alive.

I will run to where Pete grew up in Swinford, Co Mayo – and where he and his many friends spent so many great times. As the years have passed by we’ve all built different lives for ourselves but we remain in constant contact via WhatsApps.

Our group name - ‘Some Bucks – What’s the Plan?’ – has been a great way for Pete’s many friends to stay in touch and carry on his great legacy and to help plan this ‘Run for Pete’.

So with the help of Kevo, Glavey, Goldie, Dermo, Finty, Aidy, Bison, Ian, Meehan, Pat, Pricey and RapStar my plan is to spread the word to as many people who didn’t know Pete, and who want to help raise money for Cancer.

The run will start from a place which meant so much to Pete, his final place of work, Ballynahinch Castle where he was Head Chef.

He was so passionate about his work that this is the most fitting place that I, as an enthusiastic runner, can think of starting out from.

I’m stepping into the deep end with this ultra run. I’ve completed three marathons so far, beginning in 2017 with the Dublin City Marathon, coming in at 3.26.36 (target time was 3.30.00). While I enjoyed the experience and was elated at completing my first marathon, and so the bug had bitten hard once I crossed the line.

The following year I was back, coming in with a PB of 3.19.14 (although my target time was 3.10.00). This was not so great an experience - I tore my calf muscle at 13k and should have stopped but stubbornness kept me going, I got sick 3 times from the pain too.

Lesson learned. A marathon can and will chew you up and spit you up if you don’t take it seriously. But I was a glutton for more punishment, and in 2019, I ran the Mainova, Frankfurt Marathon, 2.55.58 (target time 2.55.00).

Boom, a sub-3 Hour and an official member of an exclusive marathon running club. I trained hard, 6 days a week for 18 weeks averaging 100k per week. I enjoy running, I like the solitude and the fight with yourself, no place to hide.

Now to go from 42.2k to 106k in one effort is a significant challenge, but nothing like the challenge that Pete suffered in his brave battle. My run, broken down into segments will be 1 full marathon followed by another full marathon followed by a half marathon……as you do.

If Pete were still with us he’d be the first to say to me: “Waste of time matey, why would you want to do that……” No better man to give you a quick jolt of reality.

I read somewhere recently that an ultra-marathon is 90% a mental battle with a 10% mental battle added on. I’m going to need Pete with me to get through this. I know he’ll be there in spirit.

I discussed the idea with Kasia (Pete’s wonderful wife) and Liam (Pete’s big brother) and they were very supportive. But I also got the impression that they think I’m a bit mad too - we can come back to that again.

And like all good friends our WhatsApp group has agreed to join me on my run, except they will all do it on bikes. Well, it’s better than nothing, I suppose and a bicycle ride across the rugged and wild landscape of the west of Ireland will be interesting in itself.

Training


 

How do you train for your first ultra? It started with reading a book by Scott Durek ‘North’, about his 47 day journey running the Appalachian Trail in North America. It’s not a like-for-like comparison - Durek ran 3,500k’s, I’m slightly shy of that…

What I took from the book is that my journey will involve a lot of resilience and telling myself how much I want and need to run this.

22 weeks, that’s how long I have to get ready, with preparation consisting of running Monday to Saturday, and Sunday as a rest day. The structure of my training is essentially my marathon plan on steroids (note, I’m very definitely not on steroids). Monday 12k with strides, Tuesday, 5 x 8 minutes at marathon pace, Wednesday mid-week long run 16k to 21k, Thursday 14k with strides, Friday end of week long run 16k to 21k. Saturday, the key one, the focus of this run will be time on feet, from 2 hours at the start to 4 / 4.5 hours. So far the longest I’ve ran is 42.2k, this is a regular marathon distance,  I’m not sure what to expect when I run for an 10k more than that, I’ll find out though!

I was also wondering how do I keep hydrated for all my runs, and in particular as my training will be from April until run day at the end of August. Having done my research I found Totum Sport and after further investigation I knew it was ideal. When they heard about my run and particularly the charitable side of what I was doing, they agreed to support.

The potential to cramp up is very high considering how much running I’ll be doing over my training schedule. At 32k during my 2nd marathon the cramps in my quads were so bad I couldn’t stop running. By 36k a marathon supporter asked me did I need some magnesium (I had no idea what she was talking about) and finally, at 38k the cramps had me lying on my back with another supporter frantically trying to turn my two feet back to ease the pain. This absolutely can’t happen on the 29th of August. Similarly, I’m going to be sweating on every run.

 Again, Totum Sport fits the other half of my requirement, as I have not cramped anytime I have taken the product.

After initially placing an order for sachets the team at Totum Sport sent me complimentary product to help and asked if they could cover and tell my story about the Run for Pete. I am so happy to have them on board, and I look forward to telling my story through their social and digital channels.

Vegetarian

It’s probably important to explain that I’m vegetarian runner, so getting the right balance of food is key.

My first experience with Totum Sport was excellent. I took one 15 minutes before a 28k run, I took 1 after an hour and then 1 when I got back after 2 hours and 12 minutes. Honestly, I had 687 runs recorded before this 28k, no matter what after every run my legs would be sore, not this time. 100%. Legs were fresh, no stiffness, loose and well able for a busy afternoon chasing after my 2.5 year old (Kate), a hyper-active Parsons-Terrier (Poppy) and various jobs from my wonderful wife Mimi (WHO IS MIMI – Mimi is my very supportive wife).  

I’m looking forward now to the training, the run and everything in-between. I’m 4 weeks into the training, by the end of the week I’ll have 355k’s completed, here’s to keeping the legs fresh.

Totum Sport have very kindly offered to donate a percentage of any sales of their product sold as a direct result of this endeavour to the Irish Cancer Society. I will share more details in the coming weeks as I outline my training schedule, and give you updates on this crazy venture.

Any Totum Sport customers can use the code KC2020 and Totum Sport will donate a percentage of the profits to the Irish Cancer Society.

In the meantime, I look forward to updating you on my progress and the madness of a 106km Ultra Run.