Dave McGowan

Local freediver walks 100km in 24 hours across Egypt

Irish freediving record holder Dave McGowan walked 100km in 24 hours last week, raising over €1,000 for Pieta House.

Dave, who hails from Mullingar, has lived in Dahab, Egypt since January 2020. There, he trains for freediving championships and runs his own freediving teaching school.

Dave holds the Irish record for depth freediving at 71 meters, and has been competing in the sport for five years.

He set himself the personal challenge of walking 100km in 24 hours for his 33rd birthday this year, which he completed at seven minutes to midnight on Friday January 29.

Dave said the walk “took a lot of mental strength” and that afterwards he felt like he could barely stand.

The route he chose was a 2.5km local beach, which he walked up and down 23 times in hour-long laps.

There weren’t many breaks. “Once you stopped, it was hard to keep going, so better to stay on it.”

Joined on the route by friends, and with well wishes constantly pouring in on his phone, Dave said it was the company that kept him going.

Beginning the walk just after midnight, he covered 20 kilometers alone, listening to athletes’ podcasts and contemplating in the dark silence.

Knowing people would be joining him soon, he savored the solitude, under the glow of the full moon.

“One friend joined at 5am. She stayed for 12 hours with me and did 50km herself. It was totally unplanned.”

Throughout the day, more and more friends showed up to keep him going and bring snacks. Although he said “there was no other real stop”.

“Any rest I took was just stopping to fill water, to change my socks, to use the loo,” he explained.

With people coming and going, he was always kept in conversation. “That kept my mind off the pain in my legs, knees, muscles, feet.”

The beach he traversed is on the eastern coast of the Sinai Peninsula, the region of Egypt closest to the Middle East, where he lives.

Just across the Gulf of Aqaba, are the mountainous regions of Saudi Arabia, which occupied Dave’s viewline as he trekked.

“It really was an incredible view. Saudi Arabia is very mountainous, so it’s super nice to watch sunrises and sunsets over,” Dave added.

A few weeks earlier, he had covered the four highest peaks in the Sinai Peninsula.

“That’s the closest I would have done to something like this. 100km is a stretch for me.”

While out of his comfort zone, Dave explained why he committed to this physical endurance.

“On my birthday the last few years, I’ve always done a challenge for the body and mind, to mark the occasion that I will remember.”

Moreover, it had to be within his 5km.

“Seeing people struggling in Ireland, I wanted to do something in solidarity, as well as prove what you can do in five kilometers from home.”

– Claudia Dalby

Pieta House, the charity he supported in his fundraiser, had long inspired him in their work for mental health. “They give incredible support to anyone who’s struggling with depression or mental illness, and they really focus on getting outside.”

Finishing up the 100km just seven minutes shy of midnight, he didn’t want to stop.

“I felt pretty good when I finished. I felt I could have carried on!”

After a glass of juice and a sit down, it was clear carrying on was not an option. He could barely stand. By the end of the 24 hour walk, his feet were badly blistered and swollen, and his leg muscles were tight.

“I underestimated it to be honest. It took a lot of mental strength, which I’ve built up over the years to be a good freediver.”

Dave admits that in the days leading up to the walk, he had barely left the house.

“I had this low-level anxiety for two or three days, I wanted to run but I felt I was too busy and didn’t have the time. The second I started the walk, all of that immediately lifted.”

Now, days later, he is still feeling the results of the positive endorphins.

“I’m really buzzing to have finished it. Once I got a few days’ rest, I woke up like I’m ready for the next big thing!”

With over €1,000 raised by Dave’s fundraiser for Pieta House, he is happy with the impact of his 100km run. “I just want to say thanks to everyone who was involved. Anyone who donated, big or small. We had incredible support on the day. It was partly about raising awareness and funds for Pieta House, but also about encouraging people to get outside, get active and breathe some fresh air.”

“I don’t think they need to go and do 100km to feel benefits,” he laughs, “But I don’t regret it,” he concluded.

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