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Catch up with Ultra Runner John O’Regan

  • Athletes
  • Thursday 23rd February, 2017
  • By Susan
John O'Regan

We caught up with Irish Ultra Runner John O’Regan who talked us through his training, the World Marathon Challenge and what he is up to next.

You took up running relatively recently (in 2001) with the Dublin marathon- what was the reason for this?
It was never my intention to run a Marathon as it just didn’t interest me.  I was more into the outdoor life and spent my free time hill walking, climbing and camping.  In April of 2001, I read about a race called the Marathon des Sables which was a 150 mile race in the Sahara Desert and this caught my attention.  I wanted to do it but I needed to know if I could at least run a marathon before I could consider anything more.

What other outdoor activities are you involved in?
In my spare time I like to go hill walking and occasionally I go rock climbing.  I’ve also done some basic training for kayaking, scuba diving and sailing.  If I had the time I’d be doing them all plus more as anything outdoors appeals to me.

Can you recommend any running blogs or online running communities?
My own blog can be found at but it’s a little bit out of date. Maybe this will be my reminder to update it.

Do you have any pre-race rituals?
My pre-race rituals would mostly be ensuring that I’ve done the training relative to the event.  I always like to stand on the start line knowing that I deserve to be there and that makes it easier to accept the outcome if it doesn’t go as planned.  I also like to get a good night’s sleep in the days before the race and if time allows I try fit in a short warm up run before breakfast.  I find that this helps to waken the body up.

Do you use any activity trackers or gadgets while running?
I train using my heart rate and currently use the Garmin FR630 which I’m very attached to.  In my opinion this or similar can be one of the best investments you can make to improve your training.  Having said that, it’s no good just having it as you need to use it and that means listening to what it says.  Trust the information.

You recently took part in the World Marathon Challenge and you had previously already ran a marathon on the 7 Continents- how do you prepare your body for competing in extreme environments?
The first time I did the 7 Continents I say it was in 7 Ways as I went for an extreme event on each continent. I completed, the hottest, the coldest, the most northern and the most southern.  I raced across desert, arctic, mountain and much more in between.  The second time I did it in 7 days.  There’s a different degree of difficulty and as your question suggests, it’s all down to preparation.  Knowledge of the environmental conditions and how the body copes in these extremes is a big advantage.  There’s only so much training you can do and you can never really prepare for an extreme environment unless you can train in similar conditions.  And that isn’t always practically possible.  You control what you can control and make a big problem smaller by doing what you can do and then clothing and equipment used can be the deciding factor when faced with success or failure.  You need to make the right decisions when selecting your kit as you can’t buy your way out of a problem when in the middle of a desert or halfway up a mountain in the Himalaya (been there!).  The more extreme the environment then the more important you your kit selection.

Did any of the World Marathon Challenge competitors give you any tips or advice?
I didn’t look for any advice but did share some. My thoughts are, you don’t look for advice unless you are needing it and then prepared to use it.

What was the most difficult race of the World Marathon Challenge?
The most difficult race is the one you are facing into as you need to treat each one with the same respect. It can be during the perceived easy one that you get complacent and a momentary lapse of concentration can mean you don’t reach the finish line.  Each of these races had its own unique features and the one that we (the competitors) were expecting to be easiest was leg 6 in Dubai. This was ran on an artificial running track with very little elevation and that sounds really nice but the reality was it following 5 previous marathons plus long haul flights and the temperature during the race was 34°C.  I knew there was a high risk of a heat related problem so I didn’t take advantage of the good running surface but instead stayed at an easy pace to prevent my body from overheating as best I could.  This was aided by ice and pouring water on my head.

Favourite piece of gear of the World Marathon Challenge?
My Garmin Forerunner 630 would be a first thing that comes to mind. I lost the heart rate strap in Madrid on day 4 and knowing how much I missed it makes me know it’s a favourite.  Whenever I’m in an Arctic environment I always have my icebreaker top and hat.  For most of the races in the World Marathon Challenge I wore Salomon T shirts and shorts.

What’s next?
My bags are packed for a 24hr race in Finland during which I’ll be guide running. Following that I’ll be at the 24hr World Championships 2017 and then…

Thanks to John for taking the time to talk to us. Be sure to follow him on Twitter @johnoregan777 and maybe encourage him to update his blog!



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