Sophie Power Sets Inspirational New Record For Running The Length Of Ireland - The Running Channel Advertisement

Sophie Power Sets Inspirational New Record For Running The Length Of Ireland

BY: Mark Dredge
31 May 2024

Sophie Power has became the fastest female to run the full length of Ireland, completing her challenge in three days, 12 hours and eight minutes. 

The 41-year-old mother of three, celebrated British ultrarunner, and founder of SheRACES, set off from Malin Head, at the very north of Ireland, on Tuesday morning with the aim of beating the record which had been held by Mimi Anderson since 2012. 

To do that she had to reach Mizen Head, almost 350 miles away, at the very south of the island, within three days, 15 hours and 36 minutes, meaning having to cover over 100 miles a day, and only being able to rest and nap for very short periods – she slept for less that two hours across stolen naps and quick pit stops. 

Sophie had a small crew with her, including husband John, and her two sons, who were a big part of her personal motivation on this mission. 

Her children – Donnacha (9), Cormac (6) and Saoirse (3) – are half-Irish, and while the boys would be travelling with her, daughter Saoirse would be with her grandparents in the south, giving Sophie the extra incentive to “run back to her as quick as I can.” Her children have been an integral feature of Sophie’s running career, and they’ve helped to inspire important changes in the running world.

Sophie has run over 50 ultramarathons, and competed for GB in the 24-hour world championships, where she ran 235.7km, but she is perhaps best-known by one of running’s most iconic recent images, where she was photographed breastfeeding three-month old Cormac at an aid station in the middle of UTMB, the 106-mile mountain ultra. 

“I only took part in this event because I’d worked hard to earn my place and there wasn’t, at the time, a pregnancy deferral policy in place,” Sophie explains. That experience encouraged her to form SheRACES, “with a goal to educate races to be more inclusive to female athletes and take their needs into consideration.” 

Her advocacy for pregnant runners helped change the rules at several major marathons to allow deferrals, and then at UTMB. Now her Irish challenge comes “to inspire and empower other women to set personal challenges, and to raise funding for SheRACES so we can continue to break down barriers for women in sport,” Sophie explained. 

Sophie ran over 124 miles in the first 24 hours, through torrential rain, and with just a 20-minute rest in which she wasn’t able to sleep. As the run headed south, and moved into the second day, more people began to follow, and the support along the route increased, but so did the difficulty. A post to Sophie’s Instagram talked about how she was managing through the harder moments.

“When the lows hit, Sophie thinks about the countless women and girls following her progress, looking for a sign that they can overcome their own challenges. She knows that if she can keep going, she can show them that anything is possible. This thought keeps her moving, step by step, mile by mile.”

A video shared by Eagle Athletic Club shows Sophie running into the town of Bruff, still with over 100m to go. She kisses her daughter, who’d joined the crew, before running past a school who had come out to cheer for her. She high-fives every child as she runs past, in tears, with a huge smile on her face. It was one of a number of schools who came out with messages of support, waving handmade signs, or even running alongside her. Sophie’s story is getting straight to the people that she most hopes to inspire.

“I’ve never experienced anything like it. I possibly won’t again. With that kind of support, anybody can do anything,” Sophie said. “I challenge anyone not to have that amazing motivation to keep going when you know there are so many people rooting so hard for you.”

With sunrise on day three (and actual sun, not the rain of earlier in the challenge), there was less than 50 miles to go, and Sophie was ahead of her time goal, but it would still be a tremendous effort to maintain the pace she needed. 

“Weather conditions are challenging, the heat is relentless, no breeze in sight, and the blue skies are rolling out ahead of us. Sophie is really up against it,” was the update we held onto for several hours, waiting for more. But you don’t become an ultra-endurance without having a lot of fight.

Despite now having a heavily strapped knee, she kept up an incredible pace over the final day, coming to Mizen Head to be joined by her children and husband. “Mummy has got a new world record!” says John as they all cheer. Sophie’s final time of three days, 12 hours and eight minutes was more than three hours faster than the previous time. As she tried to talk to camera, Donnacha, Cormac and Saoirse excitedly run around her.

In that moment, the children may not quite realise the full extent of what their mum has just done, but one day they’ll appreciate just what a brilliant achievement it is, and will know that they were there with her as she set a new world record as the fastest women to run the length of Ireland, inspiring many others along the way.

If you want to support and celebrate Sophie than you can donate to SheRACES and the funds will enable SheRACES to continue to break down barriers for women and girls in sport, and get more women on start lines.

And if you want to see more of Sophie, then here’s a video where she took part in a relay run across the UK with some of the TRC team, highlighting some important concerns for women runners:

Lead image: Wendy James.

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