“I just wanted to be in the fells,” says Tierney. “It’s no more beautiful than Kerry or Connemara but it’s the community of people. Fell running there is like hurling in Cork: even if you don’t do it you’ve heard of it.”
He has lived there ever since with his girlfriend Sarah McCormack, an accomplished international mountain runner, and together they run an online coaching business, Missing Link Coaching.
The Wainwright run had been on Tierney’s mind for years. It consists of 214 hills made famous by Alfred Wainwright, who was so taken by the beauty of the Lake District peaks that he wrote guidebooks about them and made them a Mecca for British outdoor enthusiasts. “People started to tick them off, doing three or four on a long walk,” says Tierney. “But they’d try to do them over 20 years, not six days.”
He had already done two 200-mile races in the Italian Alps in recent years so knew what to expect. “That gave me the experience of what it’s like after three days of very little sleep,” he says.
From February, all his long runs were done over the peaks he would cover during the challenge, using the opportunity to work out the fastest routes between them. It often meant leaving behind the well-worn trails and running over rocky, steep terrain.
He divided it into 24 sections, covering three or four each day. He would start running at 4:30am and finish between 1am and 2am the following day. At each changeover point – usually a car park – he would climb into his support van and collapse.
“Even when I was lying down, it was difficult to get restful sleep because I was too sore,” he says. “I remember sitting in the van during a bad storm and the van was shaking and my knees were throbbing. I wanted to get up and go because at least they wouldn’t have been as sore if I was moving.”