Couch to 100k - Dan (60) proves anything is possible

Dan McCarthy all set for the 100k challenge
Dan McCarthy all set for the 100k challenge

Last year to mark his 59th birthday, Dan McCarthy from Abbeyfeale, took on his first marathon. Now, this year, to mark his 60th, he is taking up ultra marathon running.

The humble 26.2 mile marathon challenge is no longer enough. Now it is onwards and upwards for Dan who this month hopes to complete his longest challenge to date - the Kerry 100k Ultra Marathon.

His journey to fitness started back in 2009 when Dan got a health scare. It was exactly the wake-up call he needed as, at the time, he weighed 17 stone.

After dinner every evening he would eat at least two packets of biscuits and many other calorie-laden foods.

Determined to shed the weight, Dan started walking in the summer of 2010 and, though it was a struggle, he persevered and never looked back. From being unable to walk any significant distance, he completed his first 5k, then a 10k, a marathon and now ultra marathons.

In 2017 he took on the Tralee Marathon and now he is more determined than ever to continue with long distance running.

But why? Why would anyone want to complete a 100k? Answer: 'Because they can!'

"It's a personal challenge for me. I just put one leg in front of the other and I go," Dan revealed.

Dan's ultimate plan is to complete 100 marathons and achieve the much-coveted 100 Marathon Club of Ireland medal. He already has three full marathons under his belt from last year and he has massively increased his tally by completing another 18 this year alone.

The Kerry 100k/50k Ultra Marathon will further boost this total, while the recent Born to Run 40 miler added another notch to his belt and was the perfect training for his upcoming challenge.

"I wanted to see what people were talking about, that's why I did my first marathon. My intention was to do the marathon and see how I'd get on. The definition of a marathon is 26.2 miles it never says how long it must take you."

And that is Dan's motto - 'slow and steady'.

He says that when you think about 100k it's really just another marathon... and a bit. The 40 miles is 63k so really, he says, it is not that much longer.

The Kerry 100k Ultra Marathon leaves from Tralee and takes in Ardfert, Ballyheigue, Causeway and Kerry Head before heading back through Ballyheighue and onto Banna, Barrow, Fenit, The Kerries, Blennerville and back to Tralee.

"You have eight hours to do 50k - the halfway mark is Ballyheigue. You'd walk that nice and easy. An old fellow like me can do it!

"I get great enjoyment out of it. I am not looking for a personal best, I am out for the fun. I take no notice of the distance. The ultra marathons are way more fun."

What Dan really wants is for people to learn that it is possible to do whatever you want.

"I just wish others would see that it is possible. My message is that if a lad my age can do it, anyone can. There is no such thing as can't.

"When I want to walk I walk. I always say that walking is a sign of strength."

"People are missing out because they think its long but take your time and talk. My life has changed since running. It is such a privilege to run with people."

And that sums it up for Dan. "It is about encouragement, the craic and the cup of tea," he adds with a smile.

The Kerry 100k/50k Ultra Marathon takes place on August 25.