Eoin Keith tells us how he smashed the Mizen to Malin Head world record

Eoin Keith tells us how he smashed the Mizen to Malin Head world record

Words:

Heather Snelgar

Photos:

Tags:

"Eoin Keith", "malin to mizen", running, "ultra running"

Eoin Keith unleashes his running superpowers once again as he runs a whopping 550km in just three days.

 

Eoin Keith is a man synonymous with endurance. He has broken records at some of the world toughest running races, holds the Irish 48-hour running record and in our eyes is superhuman. His latest challenge saw him attempt to break the current record for the fastest time on foot from Malin to Mizen Head. Taking the 550km in his stride, Eoin arrived at Mizen Head just 3 days 3 hours and 47 minutes, shaving almost 12 hours off the record held by Mimi Anderson. And as if that’s not impressive enough, he came away feeling great without even so much as a blister. We caught up with Eoin to find out how managed such a feat. 
 

          “I had no sore muscles or feet, or blisters, nothing! I was just running.” 
 

How is the body feeling? 

That’s an easy answer – the body is feeling great. It’s quite remarkable. I was running along towards the finish thinking to myself that at the end, and well, actually in the middle and every point bar the start of a long event you are usually dealing with pain and issues, trying to ignore things that are going on the background, however, I wasn’t dealing with any pain, I had no sore muscles or feet, or blisters, nothing! I was just running. 


Photo by Bren Whelan
 

A couple of days on, you still have no stiffness? 

I have a very slight stiffness in the legs, I am walking slower, but nonetheless I don’t have the crippled effects I normally get. It’s the first time that I’ve felt like this after an event – it’s a new one. 
 

Was there anything that you did or changed that made the difference to your pain levels? 

No, I think it was down to the accumulation of my experience and my training. I’ve got better and better and I think the body adapts more and more, your body learns to cope better. 
 

How did you train for it?

I put in a lot of work for sure. Everything this year has been an ultra-run which makes the training all pretty much the same, I can concentrate on getting good at the one thing. Once the Spine was out of the way and my broken rib healed up I decided that this was going to be the year for Malin to Mizen. 

The only real adjustment to my training was the fact that I spent more time on the road. Apart from that, it was my normal training for ultras. I did back to back runs on the weekend of about five or six hours and pushed one of those runs to the road instead of the mountains for the past couple of months. 
 

          “I did pay for my route choice at one point when we got held up by a herd of cattle though!”
 

Why did you choose to go from south to north as opposed to the other way around and how did you choose the route? 

I wanted to get the big hills of West Cork out of the way early on when I was fresher. I was able to float along the hills as I was taking it easy so I wouldn’t tire myself out, whereas at the finish, theoretically you should be giving it your all. The other factor was wind direction – of course being Ireland it is totally unpredictable – but the reigning wind direction in Ireland is from the south west so if you want a tail wind you should start down south. 

The route was beautiful. I used Google Maps main suggestion for the shortest route which brought me through some fantastic parts of the country. I took on the hills instead of going around them as I am strong on the hills. Some parts of the route were so remote, it took me to places that I wouldn’t otherwise go and still I was on the most direct line. It’s a nice journey which makes a big psychological difference. I did pay for my route choice at one point when we got held up by a herd of cattle though! 

 

Speaking of weather, it looked like you had all four seasons over the course of the run? 

That’s right, welcome to Ireland! I was sitting in the B&B before I set off thinking it was so typical that out of all the weekends I had chosen, I was set to get a really bad one. But the one good thing was that the screaming, howling wind was screaming in the right direction. Going up and down hills with a tail wind makes a huge difference. 

By Sunday morning it had dried out and as we went further north, the sky got bluer and the sun came out. Monday turned out to be very nice but by the middle of the day it was hot. Within about four hours I was down to my summer running gear. Then that even started to feel warm. It went from winter to summer. 
 

How do you cope with bad weather on a long race? 

It’s all about having great gear. I was kitted out in the latest Columbia Montrail Outdry jacket which is a bit lighter and cut for racing – they are great jackets. It is so important that if in doubt you put your jacket on before you have the chance to get wet and cold. It is much easier to recover from overheating. If you do get cold on a race of this length, it is easy to go hypothermic very quickly. 
 

Did you have any low points over the three days? 

The roads out of Enniskillen were horrible and busy and the heat was really on full power at that stage. It was surprisingly warm, well over 20 degrees. I usually handle heat extremely well, I have done desert races and performed better than those who are from hot climates. It got to me a little and I had to take a five minute lie-down on the side of the road as Richard, my support, stood over me to regain my energy. I was relatively slow running out of Enniskillen, I was feeling very drained, it was my low-point without doubt. 


 

          “The key was to keep moving, push through and get out the other side, literally and metaphorically.”
 

How do you cope mentally in those low situations? 

The key was to keep moving, push through and get out the other side, literally and metaphorically. I had to get out the other side of that energy and out the other side of the busy roads around Enniskillen. As we approached the turn off the main road I was feeling faint, but as soon as I was back on the quiet roads, it was like magic, I had three Fruit Pastilles to give me a kick and I looked at my watch and my speed was on target and I felt completely back to normal. 

 

How did you manage your food intake? 

Food was very easily managed, my aim was to eat as little as possible which is pretty easy in my case. Over the event I had one or two chocolate bars, I had nine Fruit Pastilles and I had two big sleeps and before those I had a nibble of some Christmas pudding my mother had given me, at the end of my sleeps I had a small tub of rice pudding, once or twice I had a homemade energy ball, a piece of melon and two ice-creams. I could live off ice-cream on an event like that but access to it was pretty limited. 


Did you not feel hungry? 

No, far from it. I didn’t feel at all hungry. I arrived home with more food than I left with! There are lots of advantages – it’s much easier on the stomach, if it doesn’t go in, it doesn’t need to go out. And that’s not just a time issue, there’s lots of management times around chaffing which is the worst nightmare. 

I didn’t even eat when I finished. I waited for a few hours until I got to a restaurant. I had a nice steak and I was happy to wait for it! 
 

          “It is amazing what the human body can do, anybody could do it.” 


 

Are you superhuman? 

It is amazing what the human body can do, anybody could do it. 
 

What was the highlight of the run? 

The finish. It is a cliché but it was probably because it was a culmination of the whole thing, not because it was finished but because I arrived in Donegal with blue skies which is a miracle in that part of the world, I had perfect running time, I had the support crew behind me, my speed was slightly up, my energy was good, nothing was sore, I saw the tower at Mizen Head and ran towards it in the sunshine, it couldn’t have been more perfect. 


 

Breaking the world record must have been an incredible feeling?

I had been thinking about it for a long time. It was great. That was my best ever running performance. If you asked me last week what my best performance to date had been I couldn’t have pinned it down but now I can tell you that it was this run. Everything went so well, I didn’t leave much out there, I ran incredibly well. 

 

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Eoin Keith tells us how he smashed the Mizen to Malin Head world record

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