Endurance athlete Richard Donovan completes third transcontinental run

Richard Donovan

A record-setting endurance runner has completed a third transcontinental journey in two years, this time by running across South America.

Richard Donovan, a father of one from Galway, set off from Argentina’s Atlantic coast on April 27 and covered about 35 miles a day to finish on Chile’s Pacific coast on May 31.

The 51-year-old athlete also followed in the footsteps of the liberator Bernardo O’Higgins as he crossed the Andes at altitudes of more than 10,000 feet.

“The most difficult aspect of the run was not the Andes, but the traffic in Argentina on roads with little or no hard shoulder. Cars, trucks and buses would travel at very high speed and within inches of hitting me,” he said.

“I also began to urinate blood a few days before completing the challenge.”

The impressive feat of endurance – more than 1,100 miles (1,800km) in 35 days – is part of Mr Donovan’s preparation for the ultimate mental and physical challenge of running across Antarctica, potentially at the end of the year.

And it follows his first two transcontinental feats. He ran 5,000km across the US from San Francisco to New York in the summer of 2015 and more than 1,800 miles (3,000km) across Europe from Istanbul to the Netherlands last summer.

“This was the shortest of the three so far. This made it easier mentally,” he said from Chile.

“Although I’ve never considered giving up in any of these runs, it doesn’t mean my body hasn’t wanted to, but the idea of it being finished in a few weeks rather than months is less taxing on the brain.

“They get easier with experience, which correlates with age. You get better at actually not looking at the big picture, but just each day ahead. I also found myself a little more disciplined in this run.”

Mr Donovan, who represented Ireland as an ultra-runner, is now setting his sights on the almost unfathomable idea of running 1,000 miles across the frozen wastes of Antarctica.

“Antarctica is obviously a very big logistical undertaking with many parts. I had originally hoped to do it before this year and am currently in talks with a view to attempting it in December,” he said.

The aim is to start on the Ross Ice Shelf and move up the Leverett Glacier, ascending to more than 9,000ft on the polar plateau to the South Pole, before turning to finish at the Hercules Inlet on the South American side of the continent.

Mr Donovan has a number of records to his name having entered the history books as the first person to complete marathons at both the North Pole and on Antarctica and in 2012 he set the fastest time for seven marathons on seven continents over four days 22 hours three minutes.

Every year Mr Donovan takes thrill-seekers to the North Pole, the Antarctic and the Atacama Desert to compete in extreme marathons.

For the South American run he set off from San Clemente del Tuyu south of Buenos Aires before crossing the Mendoza region and the Los Libertadores Pass in the Andes and arriving north of Concon in Chile.

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