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If you’re a nominee, consider yourself cordially invited to our annual awards ceremony on the evening of Wednesday 1 February 2023 in the Sugar Club, Dublin. We are thrilled skinny to announce that our fab sponsors are on board to help us celebrate all that is great and good about the Irish adventure scene, so it’s guaranteed to be a good party. Our hugely generous title sponsor is Sport Ireland. And our other supporting sponsors are #2MinuteBeachClean, #2MinuteStreetClean, Craghoppers, Leave No Trace, Hiiker, Salewa and Collen Construction.
For everyone else, a limited number of tickets are on sale here. Subscribe to our email newsletter on our homepage to hear more about the Outsider Awards 2022.
We were bowled over by both the quality and quantity of the stories you sent us. So sit down, make yourself comfortable and read the spine-tingling and inspirational stories of these extraordinary people who are now officially on the long list of nominees for the #OutsiderAwards.
Ricki Wynne has always been an athlete. From a young age Ricki played Gaelic football for his local club, Leitrim Gaels. In 2017, at the Portumna Forest 50km Ricki fell in love with the sport. Ricki (40) hails from Drumshambo, County Leitrim. He is one of 3 brothers who have all turned their attention to ultra-running over the past few years. Ricki, a 5″3 ‘aerobic monster’, has reached some impressive heights both metaphorically and physically this year. In June, Ricki set out to run up and down Croagh Patrick a staggering 15 times to snag the Guinness World Record for the most amount of vertical distance ascended and descended on foot in 24 hours.
Remembering the big day, Ricki says, “The pain came on lap 5 and I was thinking, Jesus, this is very early, I’m hurting here. I’m only a couple of hours into this challenge, this isn’t good!”
But Ricki has learnt from previous experience that you just have to settle in when the pain comes. In long-distance running, the discomfort often comes in waves. Luckily this is what happened to Ricki.
“The pain never went away for the rest of the run, but it never got any worse either! So I just accepted it and kept moving forward,” he states.
Ricki managed to complete the challenge. He ran 115km with 12,000m of vertical gain and 12,000m of vertical loss in under 24 hours. Ricki also managed to raise over €37,000 for the Irish Motor Neuron Disease Association.
Read our Interview with Ricki Wynne
Before Conor O’Keeffe was well-known as an Irish outdoor runner and influencer, he was an unfulfilled, unhappy car salesman that spent too much time chasing a good time in the bars and clubs of his home town of Cork. Conor (31), an outdoor enthusiast and a runner, is now an advocate for men’s mental health, a Pieta house ambassador, a Puma-supported runner and a loving father to his baby son.
On 29 July 2022, the Corkman began Project 32. Project 32 was a challenge that Conor came up with back in 2019. The idea was to run a marathon on consecutive days in every county in Ireland, starting with a 32lb vest on and losing 1lb from the vest every day to symbolise the relief that someone struggling with their mental health may feel when they share their problems.
Conor decided to use this challenge as a way to spread the word about mental health challenges because he has found that when people run together, they share things that they may not have shared otherwise. He compares running to sitting around a campfire. “I wanted to bring this campfire around with me. We’ll run in every single county of Ireland. That way, people will get the message and spread the message. That was the simplest way of sending this message was through the medium of running. It’s so strange. Most of the time I didn’t even have to say a word. My feet did all the talking. Just being out there running the roads like that, people were just finding it helpful.”
Conor successfully completed the challenge and also managed to raise over €67,000 for Pieta House.
Read our Interview with Conor O’Keefe
Zak Hanna, a 26-year-old mountain runner from County Down, has had an amazing year, beating some of the best in the world!
After experiencing burnout following a few years of junior bike racing, Zak turned his attention to running and, more specifically, mountain running. Equipped with natural talent, Zak soon found his way to a World Championship after winning the trial race, less than one year into his running career. It wasn’t until this year however that Zak believed he deserved to be at the top end of the sport. Through dedication and hard work, Zak has been making his way up through the ranks in an impressively consistent manner now for six years. And in 2022, Zak came away with some incredible results.
“Consistency was a big thing [in 2022] and apart from one race in July (Grossglockner Berglauf, Austria) where I was 13th after not being fully recovered from the Euros, I was happy with how all my races went as well as training and life in general,” states Zak.
The World Mountain Running World Cup is a race series that attracts some of the best runners in the world. Zak managed to finish third behind two Kenyan runners (Patrick Kipngeno and Philemon Ombogo).
The European Championships Uphill took place in July this year in La Palma. This was the first Championship race for many of the competitors in mountain running for a few years. Everyone was primed for action. Zak had an incredible run and managed to pull off an awesome result. “Coming fifth in the World Championships was the icing on the cake for this year and the motivation is higher than ever to achieve a lot more in mountain running,” he says.
The World Championships Uphill took place in Chang Mai in Thailand in November. Against some of the best runners in the world, including ex-world champions, Zak ran a smart, calculated and perfectly executed race to come fifth in the world in the discipline. This is the best Irish result at a world championship since 1986.
Zak now sits sixth in the World Mountain Running Ranking.
Ger Predergast is a 42-year-old endurance athlete from Ballymun, County Dublin, that works as a fitness instructor, gym owner and triathlon coach. This year Ger added another incredible win to his trophy cabinet, the continuous Deca Ironman!
In 2017, Ger achieved the unthinkable winning the Deca Ironman, where he completed an Ironman triathlon every day for 10 days! Five years later, he came back for more, but this time decided to go after the continuous Deca! This epic challenge involves a 38km (24 miles) swim, 1,800km (1,120 miles) cycle, and a 420km (262 mile) run, all completed one after the other with no significant breaks.
Ger was the only Irishman at this year’s iteration of the race, which yet again proves the impressive standard of athletes that our small country produces! Winning the race with a gap of 4 hours to second place, Ger says he was “on top of the world!” A huge amount of sacrifice, training, and dedication went into his preparation for the continuous Deca. Ger is now one of five people who have finished first in both the ‘An Ironman every day for 10 days’ and the ‘Continuous Deca’ format!
Read more about Ger Prendergast
Eoin Keith is a 52-year-old Columbia-sponsored, international ultra-runner from Cork but who lives at the base of the Dublin Mountains. He works in IT but has been pursuing ultra-running at the highest level for many years now, but 2022 may have just been his best year yet!
Eoin won the 400km Summer Spine Race in a new record time of 77h34m. This race covers the entire Pennine Way in England and includes 9,000m of elevation gain. That’s more than the height of Mount Everest! He also came away with 2nd (in the M50 age category) at the Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc and was 51st overall. This is an incredible result considering the race had over 2,300 runners.
Although Eoin seems to excel in the mountains and on the trails, he also tacked the ‘6 Days in a Dome’ race. “This is a unique six-day event as it is indoors. There is a 3-lane 450m or so running track around the outside of the ice rinks. With no weather variations, and, given that it is indoors, there are no interruptions to the running rhythm caused by the circadian rhythm,” recounts Eoin.
In this race, Eoin covered a staggering 627.9326km to come third. An incredible achievement. Other category wins for Eoin in 2022 include EcoTrail Wicklow 80km, La Gomera 212km, and The Glendalough Tucker Trail 80km, all of which he finished in the overall top 10 also.
Listen to our interview with Eoin Keith
Hailing from Ballymoney, Co Wexford, 57-year-old father, Mark “Cokes” Colclough, became the oldest Irishman to ever swim across the English Channel in July 2022! This staggering 15-hour effort was punctuated by severe stomach issues, strong currents and mental turmoil. Mark credits the success of his Channel swim to the hours he spent training in the Irish Sea at Courtown, Co Wexford. Mark decided to do this monumental swim to raise funds and awareness for Ataxia Foundation Ireland (AFI) and those living with Friedreich’s Ataxia, an incurable muscle degenerative disease.
Mark successfully raised over €57,000 for AFI. This was achieved through one-time donations as well as from members of the open water swimming community in Ireland that organised their challenges alongside Marks’s Channel swim!
Read more about Mark Conclough’s story
Galway-man Damian Browne (39) is a former professional Leinster rugby player turned adventurer and a proud father of one. In June 2022, Damian set off from Manhattan in the United States with the objective of completing a world-record row across the Atlantic.
On Tuesday, June 14 at 03:10 am, alongside his friend Fergus Farrell, Damien began his long journey east towards Galway. Their objective was to complete the 5000km row from New York to Galway in 55 days. Unfortunately, Fergus had to be evacuated from the boat on day 13 due to a medical emergency. This left Damian on the boat by himself with an incredibly daunting task ahead of him, a situation he had experienced before when he completed a solo Atlantic Row in 2017. However, this time it wasn’t the adventure Damian had prepared for.
Over the 100 days that followed, Damian experienced the best and the worst of the Atlantic Ocean. He arrived in Galway on 4 October 20222 after more 2,686 hours at sea and more than 3,450 nautical miles rowed. The row took nearly two months longer than expected and almost ended in tragedy when Damian hit rocks as he was landing in Ireland.
“I can’t explain how challenging the conditions were. Obviously it’s the North Atlantic and it’s very changeable and every change I seemed to get was negative,” recounts Damian.
“I was constantly hit with adverse currents so it was incredibly stressful because you would work so hard and put so much into getting one miles or two miles and then you could come off the oars for 15 minutes and you could have half of that mile wiped out and you’d have to put the head down again to regain it,” he adds.
Damian has tackled many impressive adventures since retiring from professional rugby. He works now as a speaker and has given talks at Facebook, TEDx, Aviva and BMW to name a few. In his talks, Damian discusses mental resilience, self-mastery, and inner drive.
On 20 September 2022, Dubliner Fergal Sommerville (59) completed a 40km crossing of the Bristol Channel in 12 hours 40 minutes. He became the third person in history to swim the longest course from Ilfracombe to Swansea across the Bristol Channel.
Discussing his training, the husband and father of two sons, says, “Every Saturday and Sunday, I swam in the sea, increasing the distance over the summer months and completing a number of gruelling six and eight-hour training swims in preparation for the Bristol Channel.”
Fergal successfully swam across the 25-mile (the furthest he had ever swum) Bristol Channel to raise money for Irish Motor Neurone Disease Association (IMNDA). “At 59, I am, by a long chalk, the oldest, only the third swimmer to complete this crossing; first Irish swimmer, fastest man and second fastest overall.”
Fergal began the swim at 10:48 pm, he swam through the night stopping only to eat or drink. The effort took an incredible 15 hours and 35 minutes of swimming to complete. Fergal completed the swim and managed to raise over €10,000 for IMNDA. Fergal is no stranger to long open water swims though. In 2013 he became the oldest Irishman to ever swim the 20-mile North Channel from Donaghadee, County Down, to Portpatrick in the South West of Scotland.
Fergal is a key member of the open-water swimming community in Ireland and in 2020 was inducted into the Marathon Distance Swimming Ireland Hall of Fame.
Keith Russell (39) is an Irish international ultra runner from Navan, Co Meath, that has taken the ultra-running world by storm in recent years. He finished second in the record-breaking Race Of Champs Backyard masters in May when he ran 596.834km. A backyard ultra is a race in which runners must consecutively run a distance of 6,706m(4.167 miles) in less than one hour. The race is over when only one runner remains to complete a lap in less than an hour. This brutal format is reserved for competitors with the very best mental strength. Keith went toe-to-toe with some of the best runners in the world, including ex world and European champions. He then went on to represent Ireland in the 24-hour European Championships, running a distance of 246.711km.
Speaking about his running, Keith says, “Things like this don’t come easy. It takes a lot of hard work and dedication to the sport, but it’s what I love doing.”
Keith began his running journey in 2016 with his daughter Alanna who had severe cerebral palsy. In 2017, he ran Dublin City Marathon with Alanna in a running chair. Six weeks later, Alanna passed away and Keith still carries her with him in his head and heart when racing to this day.
When reflecting on his running year, Keith told us that he decides to avoid focusing on negatives when it comes to performances. “I think you need to stay positive and realise it’s all about learning. I’ve taken so much away from the races I have done and I know I can get better in both of these races. I have reflected on them and I now focus on the races I have qualified for next year.”
Ed McGroarty (45) is a Wicklow man living that is living in Donegal, he is also one of the country’s best ultra runners having captained the Irish 24-hour team in the recent European Championships in Verona, Itlay. He has set and reset the Irish 24-hour record twice, currently 258.82km. Ed has also set a new Irish 100-mile record in a rapid time of 14hr 27min 07sec. This means maintaining an average pace of 5:23 min/km for 100 miles.
In a very short period of time, Ed has gone from being a “good” ultra runner, running the Connemara ultra (40 miles) in 6h08 and the Tralee 100k finishing 5th overall in 2014. From running just shy of the international B standard of 220km in Victoria Park in 2019, to being the National Champion and leading the Irish at international races in 2021. Ed also holds the Fastest Known Time from Malin to Mizen on foot in a time of 3d 1h 55m 15s which he also achieved in 2021.
Ed remains ambitious about progressing in the sport and seeing how far he can go.
By Matthew McConnell
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