Gerard Callaghan Interview

With the 2017 event fast approaching we interviewed the only competitor on the start line to finish all 3 previous races.  

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Have you always been interested in endurance sports ?

Well it would have been up until about 18. From 18 on then it would have been cars, rally cars, racing cars. 

As a young cyclist I finished 7th in the national championships at a junior level and was part of a 3 person team that won an Irish U16 cycling title. From then on however I did nothing in terms of cycling for the next 20 years. I didn't even own a bike other than the original one I had at school. All that energy and interst was directed towards motor sport.

How did you get back into endurance sports ?

I don't know what spurred me to do it but one day I just pulled out my old bike that i'd had from the 80s and away I went. The buzz came back immediately and I just knew straight away that I was going to go back cycling. It was so quick that the same weekend I went to the bike shop and got all the gear.

A friend then called and asked me to do a charity cycle the next weekend from Sligo to Letterkenny. It was 70 miles and I had no training under my belt. It was herrendous and took me almost 4 and a half hours. I could barely make it in the door to the house that evening I was so wrecked. I remember saying to my wife that night that a cycle like that would never take as much out of me again. The following year I completed the same cycle in 2 hours 44 with a 25 mph average.

I don't know what spurred me to do it but one day I just pulled out my old bike that i'd had from the 80s and away I went

I loved it but I didn't want to go back racing propperly because I knew it would take over my life. Cycling is one of those sports that you have to turn yourself inside out if you want to compete and I didn't have the time. Then along came The Race

When did you first come across The Race?

A friend of mine Boyd Robinson was running the Cancer Costal Challenge, an adventure race in Dunfanaghy. I took part in that and absolutely loved the whole idea of it. I remember thinking that if these type of events had been on the go when I was younger they would have been my thing. I couldn't belive how brilliant the race was. Then lo and behold, when I was signing up the next year, I met David Burns at registeration who told me about The Race. When he went through what was involved in the race I remember thinking nobody is going to sign up for that. That said from that day on it was in the back of my head and never left.

That summer I had a cycling holiday booked in the Pyrenees. I was on the Tourmalet, my face was burning with the heat which was so bad that the tarmac was melting. Right then I remember thinking that if I could do this I could do The Race.

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Do you have any standout memories from The Race?

Although I have done the event three times, they have all been like completely different events. The first year I dIdn't have a clue if i'd get round, the second year there was an orange weather alert during the event and it was incredibly tough, the third year I was being physically sick for about 30km on stage 3.

But one thing that stands out was coming to the end of stage 5 on year 1 and my legs just didn't feel any pain. I felt the way I used to feel when I was doing well in a cycling race as a 16 year old. I thought to myself i'm going to do this. I rememeber friends coming alongside me in a car and I said "I can't understand this but i'm feeling brand new". That was some feeling.

I can't understand this but i'm feeling brand new.

In terms of achievement i'm probably proudest of completing it in year 2. On paper with the run extended at the start and the weather on the day i should never have finished.

Would you have any tips for first timers?

Don't give up. The bad times will pass that's for sure. You will get very low at some stage but you have to keep moving.

And everybody knows, well I think everybody knows that this event is 70% mental and 30% physical, for the majority it's the head that gives in before the body.

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