Alex set for biggest fight of his life: 32 marathons in 32 counties in 16 days

Alex set for biggest fight of his life: 32 marathons in 32 counties in 16 days
Alex O’Shea, who works with Cork City Fire Brigade, is set to burn 10,000 calories a day as part of an effort to raise funds for the Irish Guide Dogs for the Blind. Picture: Darragh Kane

He has braved burning buildings and raging torrents to save people’s lives but super-fit firefighter Alex O’Shea is about to face one of his toughest challenges yet.

The ultra-running father of four, who works with Cork City Fire Brigade, will set off today on the first of an incredible 32 marathons in 32 counties over the next 16 days. He will run two marathons and burn 10,000 calories a day.

Alex will be supported during the challenge by Garda Ollie O’Sullivan who plans to run 50km a day with him.

“We’ll start in Dingle and work all the way up the coast to the north, zig-zagging into the Midlands as we work our way down the east coast but, as a Cork man, my goal is to get back to Cork for the finish,” said Alex.

Everyone says to me ‘you can’t keep this up, you’re going to need a new knee’ or whatever, but everything comes to an end at some stage. So I’m going to enjoy it and look back on brilliant memories and keep making them as long as I can.

Olympic legend Sonia O’Sullivan who described the attempt as an “incredible challenge” is among a host of stars who sent best wishes to Alex ahead of the marathon fundraising effort for the Irish Guide Dogs for the Blind (IGDB).

Race walking legend and Olympic, World, and European medallist Rob Heffernan, who helped him train, also wished him well last night: “It’s a massive, massive commitment, something I don’t think I could take on. You need massive energy, and positive mental attitude towards it, and Alex has all those,” he said.

Alex, in 2014, set a Guinness Book of World Records-ratified world record for running the fastest marathon dressed in full firefighting gear. He completed the Cork City Marathon wearing steel-toed boots, fire-retardant pants, his firefighting jacket, and a 3lb firefighter’s helmet and visor in 3.41.10 — a remarkable 58 minutes faster than the previous world record. He took a break from marathons for a few months afterwards but set himself this ultra-marathon challenge several months ago.

Alex said part of his firefighting training — where firemen enter a smoke-filled simulator and have to find their way around in darkness — inspired him to fundraise for the IGDB.

He’s completed 43 long-distance events in recent years, including 24-hour runs and representing his country in 100km events, but he said the next 16 days will be the biggest challenge of his life.

He will run marathons in Dingle and Limerick today and move to Clare and Galway tomorrow for two more marathons. He will be in Waterford on September 16 for marathon 31 and plans to complete marathon 32 in Cork that afternoon.

To support Alex, text the word 'Woof' to 50300 to donate €4.

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