Saturday 24 August 2019

Professional chef set to smash Ireland marathon running record... and counts Taytos and chips as her super foods

Marathon woman Brenda O'Keeffe is planning to 'Run Home for Christmas' all the way from Dublin to Cavan (Photo: Lorraine Teevan)
Marathon woman Brenda O'Keeffe is planning to 'Run Home for Christmas' all the way from Dublin to Cavan (Photo: Lorraine Teevan)

Lorraine Teevan

A professional chef is attempting to set a new record for the number of marathons run by a man or a woman in Ireland in a single year.

So far this year super fit Brenda O Keeffe has run 96 marathons  - breaking her 2014 record of 74.

The 37-year old from Drumalee, Co Cavan only took up running in 2010 at age 32 and since then has completed an amazing 204 full marathons, the equivalent of an incredible 5304 miles/8907km.

Brenda,  who runs for Dublin Bay Running Club, said a party of woman celebrating completing a mini-marathon in a bar inspired her to get her running shoes on.

"Back in 2009 I was in a bar in Dublin and all these ladies were celebrating finishing the 10km mini marathon," she said.

"I decided there and then I was going to do it the following year.

“Not only did I run the 2010 mini marathon, just four months later I ran the full Dublin city one and six days after that another in Berlin.

"This was only the beginning, the beginning of something that would change my life.

"Last year I ran the most marathons run by a woman in Ireland in a calendar year - 74. I have already broken that record this year and am aiming to complete 106.

"That will be a new Irish record for a man or a woman. 

"My hero, Dave Brady from Co Kildare, currently holds the record with 104 marathons in 2014.  Please God it will all go to plan and I will stay injury-free in order to do it."

Brenda now plans to put her best foot forward to raise money for two charities Cavan Cystic Fibrosis and Care For Cian, a charity set up for her friends’ son Cian who has a serious condition called Cri Du Chat.

She explains “For the last couple of years my Facebook status at Christmas has been Driving home from Christmas so that gave me the idea and I've mapped a route from Croke Park to Cavan town. It's about 120km.

"I'm hoping to do it in about 15 hours.

"I will leave Dublin at 9pm on the 23rd and hope to be in Cavan town by noon on Christmas Eve.

"Earlier this year my sister Andrea did her first ever marathon in Derry with a group of girlfriends to raise funds for Cavan Cystic Fibrosis.  "Some of these girls never ran a marathon before.

"That day I was running my 145th. I got emotional watching them and decided there and then I would definitely do something to help.

“I just can't wait to do this. I can't explain how excited I am about this. 

"I have run long distances before, including a 106 miles at the Mary Peters track in Belfast last year. It took a solid 24 hours.

"But the longer the race is, the more I love it. But I plan to take my time on this charity one, as I want to enjoy every minute of it.

"I must admit my first ever 100km race was very tough. The next morning I had loose skin, pressure bruises and blisters, some of which took weeks to heal.

"But at this stage I have trained my body to get through the pain which stood me in good stead last year when I came 1st in the Portumna 100km.

"At around the 80km mark I was actually getting sick and wasn't able to take on any fluids. I was in the lead and was determined to stay ahead.

"So I literally taught myself that day to run and get sick at the same time. A lot was learnt that day.

"I know it sounds strange to willingly put yourself through that kind of torture, but I ended up winning that day and learned how far I can push myself."

And unlike a lot of top class athletes, Brenda is not obsessed with her diet - even opting to eat crisps and sweets on marathons days.

She reveals: "Last year I did ten marathons in ten consecutive days and on the first day I had porridge, chicken, salad, soup and pasta, but by day four it was Tayto and chips!

"I really wanted to have something nourishing, but my body was having none of it and so it got to the stage where I was eating Refresher sweets for breakfast.

"Every runner has different dietary needs. On the morning of a marathon I would usually have porridge and a banana.  The combination keeps me fuelled."

Brenda, a head chef at Failte Ireland, has now set her sights on another personal best - a 200 mile race in Wales next year.

She admits: "I haven't got a clue how far I will get, but I plan to find out.

"2016 is going to be very exciting as I plan at least one 48 hours race, two 24 hour ones and in 2016 the 56 mile Comrades Ultra marathon in South Africa - meant to be one of the toughest in the world."

Just four days after her fundraising run she will complete four marathons in four days to achieve the record. She says: "My body will be tired and bruised, but I am so determined to complete this run and raise much needed funds.

"I just love running. It is the freedom it offers.  I want to discover how far I can push myself. I am always striving to beat my previous records. “I hope to run my 106th marathon of 2015 on New Year's Eve to set that new Irish record.

"But the record I really want to break most is this fundraising one - I want to collect as much money as I can for Cian and Cystic Fibrosis."

You can sponsor Brenda on her Go Fund Me page “Running Home for Christmas”.

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