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Beaten and brokencan't wait to do it all over again; Eoin unbowed after taking on toughest run in the world.

Byline: SYLVIA POWNALL

ELITE runner Eoin Keith has become the first Irish competitor to gain entry to the notorious Barkley Marathons in the US.

The 49-year-old took on the gruelling five-loop course across rugged terrain at Frozen Head in Tennessee over the Easter weekend.

But he was defeated by the punishing 160km circuit - along with the other 39 entrants as not one of them managed to finish the world's toughest race.

The Barkley was the subject of a Netflix documentary which recounts how just 15 runners have ever managed to complete the ultramarathon.

Over the course of the race runners face five 12,000ft climbs and five 12,000ft descents - the same as climbing and descending Mount Everest twice. Eoin told the Irish Sunday Mirror: "I'm mostly recovered, except for a broken collar bone.

"It's the hardest thing I've ever done but the experience was amazing.

"It's obviously the pinnacle of the sport so anybody who's big into marathons and pushing themselves to the max is all about making their way there."

IT expert Eoin, who trains in the Wicklow mountains close to his Dublin home, said he was in "pretty good shape" starting the race as his preparation had gone well.

But he added navigating the unmarked course using only a compass in brutal weather conditions took its toll.

But despite the handicap of being a "newbie", he finished the first 32km loop of the race in 12 hours - keeping on target to complete the course within the deadline of 60 hours. He said: "Physically I was in pretty good shape but mentally I was exhausted.

"The last two hours started getting dark, started raining, coming down cats and dogs. At one point my head torch gave up the ghost, we had lightning lighting up the place.

"The whole experience was like turning up on a film set. It was bizarre, it was nearly like an outof-body experience."

It was on the second loop while running with four others that disaster struck.

Eoin added: "I slipped on a rock and as soon as I hit the ground I felt it was a heavy fall, a few seconds later I knew my collar bone was broken.

"It was the middle of the route and there's nobody to come rescue you. It wasn't hurting that bad so the easiest thing for me to do was carry on. So that is what I did."

By this time the course was treacherous having been lashed by torrential rain for hours and the group realised they were not going to finish in time.

Eoin fell "seven or eight times" on to his broken collar bone getting back to the starting line but was justifiably proud he refused to take "quitter's road".

He said: "No one should be disappointed because the course won. Conditions were particularly brutal. Barkley is the toughest race in the world.

"I loved it from start to finish. It's not often I get pushed way beyond my limits. I will probably try and enter next year, there's no guarantee I'll get accepted but I will try."

sylvia.pownall@irishmirror.ie

It's the hardest thing I've done but the experience was amazing EOIN KEITH ON COMPETING IN THE BARKLEY MARATHONS The whole experience was like turning up on a film set - it was bizarre EOIN KEITH ON THE GRUELLING RACES IN U.S.

CAPTION(S):

DETERMINED Runner Eoin Keith

NUMBER MARKED Eoin with a comical registration plate

down but not out Eoin Keith during the gruelling Barkley Marathons
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Publication:Sunday Mirror (London, England)
Date:Apr 15, 2018
Words:586
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