Galway man’s ultimate endurance test through the Sahara

Ger O'Connor after completing the Marathon des Sables.

by Martha Brennan

Galway’s latest marathon man is back home and resting his feet this week – after spending six days running through 50 degree heat and billowing clouds of sand to complete one of the world’s toughest endurance tests.

Kinvara native Ger O’Connor was reflecting on his achievement in completing the legendary Marathon des Sables, a six-day long marathon in the Sahara desert earlier this month.

With a course of over 250km, the annual race is the equivalent of almost six normal marathons – and Ger decided to compete in the gruelling event to raise money for two Galway charities; Pieta House and COPE Galway.

The race took place in the Sahara desert in Morocco and this year welcomed 1,300 contestants from around the globe to push themselves to the limit in one of the world’s most inhospitable environments.

Ger, a father of three, decided to enter the race after competing in an endurance marathon in Donegal two years ago.

“I was looking for another challenge and wanted to push myself even more,” he told the Connacht Tribune this week.

Ger trained for over a year for the event, spending endless months training in both the gym and outdoors.

“I knew I needed to get the legs strong and work on endurance so I would go out to the Burren mountains and go up and down and up and down,” he explained.

The ultra-marathon is a test of both physical and mental endurance and the runners have to rely on self-sufficiency in order to survive.

Ger not only ran over 250k in six days but also had to carry all of his own food and equipment in a backpack and ration water.

The Galway man faced endless dunes, rocky terrain, stinging dustings of sand and white-hot plains along his journey with his fellow athletes.

“You just couldn’t explain how tough it really was out there,” he admitted.

See full story in this week’s Connacht Tribune.