"The Running Wounded" - Day Three Part One - Peter Ryan's Malin to Mizen Ultra Run

October 20, 2023

“On the Monday night, I don’t think I even got one full hour of sleep, my body was shivering off the back of the ice bath, I was waking up in sweats, and I just felt like I hadn’t slept. I just remember being down in the lobby thinking ‘How am I going to get out there?’ Then I started running and, don’t ask me how, but my body felt good. I was able to run, and I wasn’t feeling as sore as I was the day beforehand.”

When I saw Peter on the morning of Day Three, I would never have known that he had just had a terrible night’s sleep. Peter’s physio on Day Three, Gavin, told me in the aftermath about just how bad his sleep was, “He was groaning in his sleep. I woke up at around 2am or 3am and heard him quietly groaning, like he was having nightmares. Then he woke up at 5am in a pool of sweat.” Looking at him from the lead car during the first couple of hours of the day, he was energetic and full of conversation with myself, Donnacha, and Lenny who were with me in the car.

We were roughly two and a half hours into Day Three when we met a diversion on the road, which directly affected our route. We got Peter into the lead car and drove to the next available point on our route which was Tubberclair. Personally, I was worried when this happened as I feared that Peter would seize up from being in the car for any length of time. But Peter took it all in his stride, and when we got to Tubberclair he loosened up on the roadside and was ready to go again. “I didn’t even care about the diversions, I just cared about how my body felt, and it was amazing. I probably put down my best 60km that day.”

The next stretch of the journey saw Peter run an 11k leg into Athlone. For the leg after the Athlone pitstop, I was in the car that was tailing Peter while the electric Vision Van was being charged, that’s another article in itself! It looked from our viewpoint that Peter was running well and keeping a good pace and stride. However, Peter told me that “Up until Athlone I was smiling, laughing, and joking. But the three blocks after Athlone, the wheels started coming off.” This is where the day completely flipped on its head. Peter went from having his best spell of the whole journey, to the worst spell of the journey.

Peter Ryan taking a small break in Athlone on Day Three of his Malin to Mizen Ultra Run
Peter Ryan taking a short break in Athlone surrounded by his crew.

“I felt okay for the first leg, but the pain in my foot started to really kick in, then my quad. I ended up having three, if not four, things that felt like they were ripping off the bone on that run into Birr.” Gavin shared with me the extent of the pain Peter was feeling, “As the day went on, his shins, feet, and groin area persisted to bother him. Icing his bruised feet and using anti-inflammatory gel on his shins and groin area. He kept trudging through until about 4pm approaching Birr.”

The 13.5km leg which saw Peter run into Birr was the most difficult part of the journey to watch from the lead car. Peter looked broken. He was almost unrecognisable, and he was overcome with emotion. When I shouted out to tell him that he had 4km left to run, he became more disheartened. Diarmaid, who ran an incredible distance with Peter during this difficult patch, was with him at the time and it was evident that he was worried about whether Peter would be able to finish out the leg. I decided to get out of the lead car and run alongside Peter and Diarmaid for the final 2km as I couldn’t bare looking back and seeing Peter completely fold before my eyes any longer.

To give people a sense of just how bad it was in Birr, I asked Gavin and photographer Michael Molamphy for their opinions on Peter’s state as he arrived. Gavin explains “He looked as if he had been stripped of all the colour in his body, pale as a ghost and glowing red around his eyes. We sat him down, changed him, and iced his feet. I remember he leaned over to me and just goes “Gav, I was crying for the last 3km for no reason, I couldn’t control myself.” Michael offered an outside perspective on how Peter was doing, “In Birr, Peter looked as if his race was run. Seeing him effectively being carried into the camper van I couldn't see this man taking to the roads again the next day, let alone less than an hour later.”

I watched as Peter was carried into the camper in Birr, and wondered how he would be able to complete this run, nevermind get to Mizen Head. We had planned for people to come out and greet Peter as he arrived in Nenagh, but that was all in jeopardy as he couldn’t carry his own weight any longer. As he lay in the camper, unable to move, the team discussed what we should do next.

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