John Paul O’Connell hails from Mountcollins, Co.Limerick. He’s been adventure racing for 5 years now, an absolute pro when it comes to the ‘Sport’ route, he’s all about getting outdoors, doing the prep and enjoying the after party.
Football was my sport for a long time not running or cycling like a lot of people who move on to adventure races. I did my first adventure race in Killarney in October 2012 with a group of friends. Thankfully we started with the 27km ‘Mini’ route as we hadn’t a clue of what to expect, but it was great. I caught the bug as they say, and before I knew it I was signing up for any events I could make. Out of that initial group of friends that started off in 2012 we all still race and a few more of my mates have joined us since.
I moved to the mid distance ‘Sport’” races and found, if I really pushed myself, both training and racing, I could be in the mix for a top 5, or even podium. There is tough competition for these places at any given race, but this is what motivates me.
I find it good to train with others so I run with West Limerick AC and cycle with Abbeyfeale CC. I try to cycle to work at least a few times a week. In all I probably train 5 to 6 times most weeks. I take a break now and again especially if my body is feeling tired. I don’t do anything in the gym, I love being outdoors so that’s where I perform best – early morning before work, if I’m training solo.
Anyone who talks to me about adventure racing I say ‘Just do it, sign up early, then you have a goal that will motivate you to train.’ If you can get a group together, even better, as you’ll motivate each other and push each other along through any barriers you encounter. Start with a ‘Mini’ or ‘Sport’, depending on your fitness level. Worst thing you could do is take on more than you’re able for.
When you know what route you’re doing, it makes a lot of sense to look at the previous results for the course, they are available online. That will give you your ballpark of where you need to be in terms of speed but also for nutrition and water. Recce the course if it’s not too far away it’ll get you out on the mountain and is great training.
For me the most important piece of kit for any adventure race is appropriate running footwear. This is always a trail runner. For anyone starting out I’d say get a good intermediate trail runner that works well on most terrain. Inov8 RocLite is a good example but there are many others. And good socks are crucial.
We all have different techniques, some of us focus on developing strength, others distance, others balance but everyone is different. Sometimes I hike up hills instead of running if they’re very steep, you don’t lose time and it gives your running muscles a welcome break.
The big bonus to Quest events is the finish line. I love hanging around for the craic afterwards, you’ll meet the people you encountered on the course, you get to talk to the person you ended up kayaking with. My fiance, Maura, doesn’t race but she comes to support me. She loves the atmosphere and the excitement around the finish line. It’s a great day out, win, lose or draw.
You can learn more about adventure racing and the Quest series here.