Irish athlete runs for 89 hours in gruelling ultra race covering almost 600km

An Irish athlete has run for a gruelling 89 hours in an ultra race in Germany, covering an incredible 596.8km – which is the same distance as over 14 marathons.

Keith Russell was one of 24 participants in the killer Race of Champions Backyard Masters in the German Rettard, in which athletes have to complete a lap of 6.706km each hour with any remaining time used to sleep or eat.

After 72 hours, the race was down to two men and the ultra-runner from Navan, Co Meath battled it out with Belgian’s Merijn Geerts for a further 17 laps before he admitted defeat on Tuesday evening.

Read More:Dad-of-six to make history by becoming first person to swim around entire coast of Ireland

Throughout the 89-hour race, Keith grabbed between eight to 10 minutes each lap and fuelled himself with a menu including pasta, salted potatoes, toasted sandwiches and bananas.

Keith Russell

He also drank CocaCola for sugar, 49 litres of water and a further eight litres of water diluted with a supplement.

Although having to settle for second place in the last man standing race, Keith smashed his own Irish record of running for 63 hours by 26 hours.

The duo also beat the European record of 81 hours and the world record of 85 hours, though Geerts gets to hold those new titles.

Keith, who only started running because of his daughter, has dedicated his achievement to Alanna, who passed away in 2017.

Keith Russell with daughter Alanna at the Dublin City Marathon in 2017

The eight-year-old, who was born with spastic quadriplegic cerebral palsy, became the youngest ever competitor in the Dublin City Marathon when Keith pushed her along the circuit in a wheelchair.

“I’m happy. The result didn’t go my way but I gave it everything I had and the competition was savage,” he said, after grabbing three hours’ sleep.

“After 72 hours, it was down to Merijn and myself and I knew the last two loops that I was struggling. When I went into the forest area in the 90th loop, I just knew I wouldn’t make it back, so I spoke to Merijn and finished.

“I gave it all I had. At that point, I was exhausted. I was falling asleep running. I was hallucinating through the forest and waking up still running.

“I can’t sleep now but it’s generally a week after that I crash,” said the Business Development Manager of the SRS Alert Fire Systems.

Keith having a power nap during the gruelling ultra race

“I wouldn’t be running if it wasn’t for my daughter Alanna so obviously this is dedicated to her and I’m looking forward to going to the US to compete in the 2023 World Championships in Tennessee.”

Sammy Daye, who runs the Irish Backyard team, said “he has done Ireland proud”.

“He is now second in the world at these events. He is after running for almost four days which is incredible. It’s the same distance as from Malin Head to Mizen Head with 10 minute breaks.

“This kind of racing is tough, especially in your head. You can’t doubt yourself for a minute.”

“The Irish team is ranked among the top five in the world and Keith’s achievement on Tuesday night has probably improved that. We are so proud of him. He has done Ireland proud.”

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