'I woke up 3 hours later covered in ice, down my pants, I’ve no recollection of it'

Cork native Pádraig Mullins took on one of the world’s toughest endurance races and lived to tell us the amazing tale.


PÁDRAIG MULLINS BECAME the first Irishman to finish one of the toughest ultra-marathons in the world last week, a gruelling test of mind and body known as the Badwater 135 on America’s west coast.

The 33 year-old Corkman initially told that he hoped to finish inside 30 hours and possibly challenge the top 10 but from an early stage it became clear that simply finishing would be his only realistic goal.

The 217-kilometre endurance event accepts just 100 applicants drawn at random from thousands of entrants who applied at the beginning of the year and Mullins, courtesy of previous experience, was lucky enough to be invited.

But nothing he’s done in the past could have prepared him for the horror of what unfolded over the course of the 43 or so hours he took to complete the journey from Death Valley to Mount Whitney in California.

Mullins’ ambition outweighed his talent so he put himself in the last ‘wave’ of runners that would start on the day, ie. The fastest group. It would prove to be a costly mistake.

The race started in Badwater in the Death Valley on Tuesday July 28th, the lowest point in the western hemisphere at 280 feet below sea level.

The competitors faced three mountain ranges in a non-stop race to the finish.

Mullins’ wave started at 11pm at night which meant he had little sleep during the day and would get very little in the two days that followed.

And the misery was only beginning when he took off with his ‘wave’ and support crew of mother Helena, girlfriend Wendy and brother Brian.


“The night start was a struggle,” he said, “because you’re up all day and you couldn’t sleep or rest.

“I probably got 10 minutes of sleep and I definitely went out too fast; I was with the leaders for 50 miles but I was having trouble with my nutrition, I was having trouble with my appetite and I realised I was in big trouble.”

With 55 miles completed, the sun became particularly intense and Mullins could feel himself weakening; the tightness in his muscles coupled with dehydration and nausea set in.

“I got over the first mountain pass at 55 miles but it was just the worst. I was out of it, I was wobbling for 10 feet, throwing up, going again….that went on for 12 miles.

“I got to mile 72 which was a check-in stage and thankfully, there was a room set up there for medics.”

Mullins was diagnosed with heat exhaustion and when woke three hours after passing out he was covered in ice to help lower his body temperature which rose dangerously high.

“I woke up 3 hours later covered in ice, down my pants, I’ve no recollection of it and I just thought ‘what the hell will I do?’.

“I took the ice off, got my head back in the game and at that stage it was a case of getting to the finish line.”


But when he exited the tent his next challenge peered down at him – an 18-mile high mountain pass.

“I thought I was done at that point,” he says, “but it actually wasn’t too bad; once I got to the top I was able to run down. I had planned to do it in 30 hours and the worst case scenario was 36 but I knew I was just in a battle to make the finish.

“There were cut-off points along the way and I knew if I made mile 90 inside the time limit I’d make it. So I got there with an hour and a half to spare and things began to look up.”

He was going for nearly two and a half day and managed to soldier on to the finish in a time of 43 hours and 18 minutes.

“It was a lot longer than I anticipated it taking but there were a lot who didn’t finish this year; I’m just delighted I didn’t throw in the towel.”

It was his 10th race over 100 miles but by far the toughest.

“I lost a pile of weight in it; I was a 32-inch waist last week and now I’m probably down to 26! I lost around 20 pounds so it took quite a toll. It was just a sheer relief to finish,” he says.

“We made a pact at the start and decided under no circumstances were we to stop…I’m just surprised my girlfriend or my mother didn’t tell me to stop, I was in bad shape.”


There were plans for a big night out in Las Vegas afterwards but such was his state that they were quickly binned.

“I think all I managed was three-quarters of a bottle of Corona. I just fell into bed.”

Mullins plans to take a “bit of a break” now before his next big one; another 100-miler in Virginia in October.


The former Cork hurler who swapped All-Ireland medals for 100-mile trail runs

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