As It Happens

This ultramarathoner crossed the width of Ireland in a day — with a Guinness at the start and end

At 10:31 p.m. Saturday night, with a pint of Guinness in his system, Robert Pope dipped his feet in the Atlantic Ocean near Galway City, Ireland, then started running east. He arrived at Dublin, on Ireland's opposite coast, 23 hours, 39 minutes and 215 km later — and soon celebrated his accomplishment with another pint.

Robert Pope is seemingly the first person to accomplish this feat — and it’s far from his first record

A man takes a selfie outside with a long road stretching out behind him. He's smiling and his T-shirt reads: Life ain't always empty.
A day after his run across the width of Ireland, Robert Pope, an ultramarathon runner, stands proudly on one of the roads on his route. (Submitted by Robert Pope)

At 10:31 p.m. Saturday night, with a pint of Guinness in his system, Robert Pope dipped his feet in the Atlantic Ocean near Galway City, Ireland, then started running east. 

He arrived at Dublin, on Ireland's opposite coast, 23 hours, 39 minutes and 215 km later — and soon celebrated his accomplishment with another pint.

In doing so, Pope, an elite ultramarathon runner, became the first-known person to run the width of the island in under a day. He also raised over $3,300 for the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) in the process.

"I actually was surprised when I just couldn't find any record of anyone having done it," he told As It Happens guest host Paul Hunter. 

This is far from Pope's first successful long-distance run. A Liverpudlian himself, he won the 2015 and 2016 Rock 'n' Roll marathons in Liverpool, England. 

He then quit his job to retrace the route of Forrest Gump, taking him across the United States five times and raising over $35,000 for Peace Direct and the WWF. He completed the more than 25,000 km-long route in 422 days and chronicled his journey in his book, Becoming Forrest: One Man's Epic Run Across America

In the process, he took a break to earn the Guinness World Record for the fastest marathon in film character costume (male), dressed as Gump, at the Virgin Money London Marathon in 2018. 

But Pope's experience didn't make his most recent run any more of a cakewalk. 

"Obviously, most people have just gone, 'Oh, man, that should be something that's really easy for you,'" he said. "But I did get a friend [who] messaged me before and he says, 'Mate, it might be your most impressive one yet.'"

Step by step

Pope decided to attempt the run across Ireland on a bit of a whim. He was talking to some people at a running conference in the U.K. about how no one posts their failures on social media unless they're berating themselves. So, he wanted to normalize having success even in perceived failures, and committed to proudly sharing his run even if he failed.

"I gave myself a 40 per cent chance of actually pulling it off," he said. "Maybe there was some sort of karmic reward in that because I managed to pull the crazy thing off."

Pope says that he had never done anything of this duration in a single day, and the challenge with this run was running a length longer than five full marathons almost non-stop over a 24-hour period. 

"When I was running across the U.S., well, I had three years, two months, 14 days and 16 hours to beat Forrest's time, you know. So it was a bit more leisurely," he said. 

"I could quite often sit at the side of the highway with a huge sort of, you know, sandwich and a ginormous soda and drink and watch the world go by. But there was none of that here."

Pope's food consumption was much more modest in his Ireland run. Besides the Guinness at the start, he did have some Jaffa Cakes about two hours in.

"A chap turned up about 48 miles in with some bananas," he told As It Happens. "And … my body just went, that is exactly what you want."

"I think I had about 15 bananas on the way."

He broke up the journey in six-and-a-half-kilometre runs, after which he would walk and stretch for a bit while eating. But he never fully stopped — he was in "almost perpetual motion" throughout the whole time.

Asked which was a more welcome sight nearly 24 hours later — the finish line or the pint of Guinness — Pope laughed and said it was the finish line.

"It took me a while to sort of gather my faculties before I could enjoy that [pint] properly."

Despite basking in his achievement now, Pope still plans to tie his running shoes again — maybe even in Canada someday.

"The only reason why [I didn't go to Canada before] is because Forrest didn't go," he said.

"I think anybody who knows their running knows Terry Fox. And so it'd be an honour one day to follow in his footsteps."


Written and produced by Aloysius Wong.

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