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Irish climber set for Kilimanjaro race

An Irish climber is making final preparations before a gruelling attempt to become the fastest man in the world to scale Africa's highest mountain.

Ian McKeever expects to set off on his race up 5,895m-high Mount Kilimanjaro on Monday morning with his African climbing guide friend Samuel Kinsonga.

The pair are hoping to break the current record of five hours 38 minutes, set by Italian speed climber Bruno Brunod in 2001.

The effort is part of their anti-racism Black and White Makes Sense Campaign.

They have already arrived at their base camp at Kilimanjaro from where they will expose themselves to extreme conditions over the weekend as part of an acclimatisation process.

The challenge carries with it the risk of serious physical injury from falls as well as the threat of pulmonary and cerebral oedema, a build up of fluid on the lungs and brain respectively, from exposure to high altitude.

Both men know the threats could end their climbing careers.

"I'm a bit nervous at this stage," said Mr McKeever, speaking from Kilimanjaro.

"I know the mountain like the back of my hand, I've done it about 14 times now, but I still respect it. I don't take it for granted.

"I just hope everything goes well on the day."

The pair plan to get in a few runs on the mountain - including a full ascent to the peak Uhuru on Sunday at less than full pace - before attempting to smash the decade-old world record on Monday morning.

They will set off at around 5.30am local time (3.30am Irish time) along the so-called Marangu route and hope to be at the summit around five-and-a-half hours later.

Mr McKeever is equipped with a special GPS watch which uses satellite technology to confirm the distance, speed, height and time they travel as well as calories used to corroborate their feat.

There will also be witnesses along the route to verify their time which has to be authorised by the Tanzania national parks authority.

Mr McKeever, 41, from Lough Dan in Co Wicklow, decided to take on the challenge after running a 2,500m section of the steeper Umbwe route around 10 days ago along with Mr Kinsonga, from Arusha in Tanzania.

"If you can do that in around three hours, you know the record is on," he said.

"We did it in about three hours 15 minutes so we reckon we can do it."

They will be equipped with very little during the race apart from light running gear, two litres of water in a backpack and some energy bars.

Mr McKeever, a lecturer and broadcaster who has also scaled Mount Everest, helped his then 10-year-old godson Sean McSharry become the youngest person in Europe to reach the top of Kilimanjaro in 2008.

The experience prompted him to set up the first school expeditions from Ireland to the Tanzanian peak which started this summer.

He has helped 102 teenage climbers up the mountain in recent weeks, with another 58 due out in the coming weeks. They usually take six-and-a-half days to the summit.

Mr McKeever is the former holder of the record for completing the seven highest peaks in the world.

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