After a night at the pub, director Joe O’Connor asked his friend David “Dave” Paul Cook if he thought he could run 10 marathons in 10 days through Ireland. Though Dave has quite the resume of extreme challenges, none of them involved long distance running.
In 2010, Cook cycled 10,000 kilometers around Europe with friends. In 2012, he rode 3,000K along the east and south coast of Australia. In 2013, Cook rode about 1,000 miles from Lands End to John O’Groats in the U.K., and in 2014, he and his team cycled 8,000 miles from Singapore to Mumbai—raising money for charity along the way.
“A key similarity is having a positive attitude to completing the mission and the determination to survive,” Cook told Runner’s World.
In May 2017, Cook and O’Connor launched their “10 Marathons in 10 Days” project through O'Connor’s film company, Puzzlegass. A small crew was gathered: Cook’s friend from university, runner Chris Jones; producer Sam Walker; Sam’s twin bother, videographer Ike Walker; and driver and “spiritual guide” Tom Carter.
Running Shoes & Gear Dave Goes West.
Cook ran most of the marathons solo. Jones had planned to run the full 10 with him, but a recurring injury prevented that from happening. O’Connor stepped in for a 5K on Marathon Day 6 when Chris had to stop.
“One subtext of Dave Goes West is that it’s relatively easy to do difficult things with the help and support of your mates,” Jones told Runner’s World. “Deep discussions on hamster chariot design, running with a fish head on a stick and midrun half pints made the 169 miles I ran an absolute pleasure.”
Beginning in Dingle, they made their way up the west coast of Ireland ending in Croagh Patrick. O’Connor has a lot of family in Ireland who helped plan the route. “The road we took through Connemara (Day 8) was one of the most beautiful areas we passed through,” O’Connor said. “My second cousin Jim told us to take that route. Otherwise we would have likely never found it and ended up on a busier, less scenic route.”
Like his other feats, Dave used the marathon challenge to raise funds for a charity. “I perform my best when I am completing a challenge for a greater cause,” Cook said. “Action Against Hunger’s mission is to provide food to those in need. The more marathons we completed and the more money we raised, the people we could feed which kept us going through the hard times.”
Runner’s World asked Joe and Dave a few questions about the making of the film and what it’s like to run 260-plus miles in 10 days.
Runner’s World: How did you get into running?
David Paul Cook: Prior to running, the only sport I was interested in was chess. I was an overweight child and often got bullied at school. The first run I completed was up and down the country road I lived on, which was a distance of 200 meters. Over time, I was able to run further and further, which helped me lose weight, make friends, and develop confidence. I particularly enjoy long distance running because it enables me to explore the countryside and nature. I wouldn’t be the same person without running!
Have you run a mile since this massive accomplishment?
DPC: For the first month I didn’t run at all and barely walked because my knees were quite sore. These days I run around 20km-30km a week and normally run 3-4 times a week. I really enjoy running and makes me feel really good and happy. If I don't run for a few days then I am not happy until I get running again, so I have found running to be a really powerful tool in making me feel happy. One thing that I really like about running is that you only need a pair of shoes and some socks to get going and can be done anywhere at anytime.
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DPC: A little bit different to running, but my team and I would like to follow the adventures of Huckleberry Finn and raft down the Mississippi River, construct a 12-person cycling chariot to tow a person playing a grand piano through the Australian desert, and construct an industrial-sized Yorkshire Pudding, using it as a raft to cross the English channel and beyond. (We are still yet to figure out the optimal recipe that would make Yorkshire pudding sturdy enough to ride the waves, yet delicious and edible enough to eat.)
Ultrarunner Breaks 10-Day, 10-Marathon Record?
Joe O’Connor: Crafting the edit. At one point the film was over an hour long and the process of cutting scenes out that were quite dear to my heart was very hard. We ended up settling on roughly 20 minutes as a target runtime, as we wanted to create something that was fast paced and would hold an audience's attention, so I had to make a lot of difficult decisions.
Any fun bits that hit the cutting room floor?
JC: One nice moment was delivering bananas to Dave and Chris via a long stick from the back of the van, unfortunately the banana delivery system didn't quite make the cut!
How did you produce this film, what were the hardest parts?
JC: The filming process was quite simple. We were familiar with the route and had lots of ideas for specific locations for drone shots, landscape shots and little scenes. For the most part we stuck very close to Dave and Chris, ready to start filming at a moment’s notice in case something funny or interesting happened.
Aside from that, with this sort of film you just need to make sure that enough questions are being asked to piece the story together in the edit, and that a big range of different shots are being filmed. It’s no good getting into the edit and finding all of the footage looks the same, as it will result in a visually boring film.
How physically demanding was it for the film crew?
JC: I spent most of the shooting time in a van, either filming out of the back or driving ahead and setting up shots. Sam and Ike spent most of the time on bicycles. This allowed them to always be near the runners in case something happened and not obstruct traffic, which on certain roads was a problem for the van team.
This wasn’t the most physically demanding film to shoot (for the camera crew anyway) even though there were some long days on the bikes. Running is quite slow compared to cycling and driving. It was easy to get far enough ahead of the runners in order to set up shots. This was very important because we didn’t want to have to ask the runners to stop and wait for us to get the cameras ready at any point as I think this would have been really bad for issues like cramping, and would have been very frustrating.
How did you occupy the time?
DPC: For the majority of the run Chris was with me and acted as the live podcaster about the whole journey, which was extremely entertaining. We would also talk to each other about completely random things that I didn’t think would be discussable for such a long time period.
When I was alone running then music definitely helped me keep going and my favourite running music is from Pendulum.
What are you doing now? Anything planned?
DPC: Previously I was a teacher and I used to be able to fit running more easily into my routine one school finished or after lesson planning. Now I am trying to create a food inventory and recipe app called Seefood which has reduced my routine a bit but I still get that run in, even if I am running at 1am!
We’re attempting to create a food inventory management mobile application called Seefood. The aim of Seefood is to help people manage their food more effectively, creating healthier eating habits and saving users money by reducing food waste.
Any advice for someone wanting to tackle their own 10 in 10?
DPC: It was the team that made the biggest difference. Without them I would certainly have failed. Running with a team significantly reduces the mental challenges and helps you keep going. Also doing some training before the run certainly does help.
Bonus tip from Chris: My injury could have been avoided with better conditioning. I was ready to run a long way but not day after day. Increase your weekly mileage gradually, practice running well within your limits so that you're ready to do it all again tomorrow. I have a bad habit of leaving everything on the pavement every run!
Check out some of Puzzleglass's other creative projects on their Vimeo page.