It was a childhood spent boxing. Teenage years were occupied playing futsal. In adulthood, it escalated to become completing 52 Ironman races in 52 weeks and preparing for the world’s longest triathlon consisting of a 50-kilometre swim, 4,500-kilometre cycle across America and a 500-kilometre run through the Death Valley, California.
Ger Prendergast’s is a life less ordinary.
His journey is a remarkable one. The Ballymun native started out seeking a new challenge and ended up targeting world records. Along the way he blitzed the field in the DecaUK Ironman Ultra Endurance Race and completed that monster Ironman challenge.
His father was responsible for the first gym ever set up in Ballymun and it is there, alongside his six brothers and sisters, where a lifelong relationship with sport would commence. St Paul’s Boxing gym played host to the community, but Prendergast was only ever able to train due to a childhood accident.
“I was unlucky early on. I got an injury when I was eight, a stick in the left eye which left me half-blind and I was unable to box competitively. All my brothers were competitive boxers so it was unfortunate at the time.
“I still boxed and trained in the gym with my brothers, but my interest turned to soccer.”
Futsal became his game and much like he would later with running, he excelled. Due to his visual impairment and ability Prendergast qualified for the Republic of Ireland Futsal team. Some time later, he began dabbling in 11 a side football but it never quite clicked.
“It wasn’t the same with the eye and not having a background in it from an early age, I never really had it explained where I position myself on the pitch and that. So, I started doing a bit of running. I was still involved in the gym and football and I had decent fitness. I was 31 or 32 at this stage.
“I found I was half decent at it, I started with a 5k, then a 10k. The natural progression is a half marathon. Then I did my first marathon.
“it went really well. I really enjoyed the running at this stage.
“I started looking for bigger challenges. I saw these things called duathlons; running, cycling and running again. I was aware of triathlons, but I couldn’t swim. I did a few duathlons and quickly realised a bigger challenge would be a triathlon, so I bite the bullet and got a lesson off a guy in swimming. You just have to fully commit, that’s what I did.”
This ignited a fire that needed to be constantly feed. With every step forward Ger Prendergast set his sights higher again. Within a year he completed a full Ironman, made up of a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bicycle ride and a marathon 26.22-mile run. Then ultra-races. Soon it became 24-hour adventure races; running, cycling, kayaking, swimming. Racing from one coast of Ireland to the other until eventually, the stakes were upped again.
“I was always trying to find that next challenge. I was online looking for something in 2017 and came across this thing in England called the UK ‘Deca’ Ironman. Ten Ironmans, one every day for ten consecutive days. That blew my mind, I wasn’t sure if it was even possible or if I would be able to do it.
“There was an option to do five in five days but I couldn’t turn down the opportunity of at least trying to do ten. I had a feeling I might be able to do five but ten seemed way out there. That is what I wanted; I wanted a challenge that I was not sure if I was able to do.”
After the first day he finished last. There was no panic, this was quite literally more than a marathon and certainly not a sprint. Step-by-step, he kept going. That process paid off. In the end he finished four and a half hours clear of his nearest competitor.
The Dubliner takes a moment when asked the obvious question, why? Why put yourself through such gruelling competition and mammoth length races?
The answer is as clear an insight into the power of sport and its everyday importance as you will find.
“I discovered my mental strength was my best asset. I really relished the fact everything was on me. When you are doing an individual sport, there is no excuses. You can’t blame your goalkeeper, your defenders or your forwards. Everything is about you. I knew if I needed to get better, I had to do everything in my power. Training, nutrition, getting out for a session, it is all on you.
“For me, I really relished everything being on me. No excuses. Being out there on my own.”
Upon winning the Deca Ironman, there was a joyous welcome awaiting in his hometown. One of their own was excelling on a world stage and Ballymun wanted to mark that.
“I was getting little glimpses through the crew members about the buzz in Ballymun and everyone being behind me, I got a real sense of that when I came back. I was overwhelmed.
“I came back on a Saturday and I was brought up to where I work in the sports hall in Ballymun. When I arrived, I knew something was up because the car park was buzzing. There were hundreds of people there congratulating me and cheering me for what we did.
“It was brilliant. I got a great sense of positivity in the area. It gave people a real lift.”
It did not end there. Last year Prendergast finished 52 Ironmans over 52 weeks. At the same time, he raised €12,000 for Mental Health Ireland, a noble nod to a family member who passed away by suicide during his prep. His next target is breaking the world record of 41 Ironmans in 41 days and the ultra-endurance race in America while continuing his fund-raising.
“The mental challenge is something I love, it is easy to say that is enough now today, but I relish trying to improve. I will keep going. I want to do more,” he says with a laugh. Overcoming bigger and better challenges, one step at a time.
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