Interview with Ultra Runner Jo Kilkenny

I havent met Jo yet but was made aware of her as she was attempting to set a new Womans record for most miles on a treadmill in 24hrs. Since getting to know her a little better I have been impressed with her commitment to her sport and he ability to juggle a challenging job/education with training and racing.

 Here we listen to Jo discuss the human aspect of running and why she decided to get fit.

Jo in The Gobi Desert on an Ice Gorge?!



Name – Jo Kilkenny


Age – 31

Hometown – Dublin
Brief Bio – Born in Dublin, moved to London in 1997. Took up running in 2004 to get my fitness back and never stopped running since.

I use my races to raise money for the Yamaa Trust

To donate to this cause please visit


How long have you been running for?


6 Years, did a 5km in 2004, my first marathon in 2005 and my first ultra in 2006


What attracted you to it?


I initially just wanted to get fit, wasn’t actually keen on running but a fitness instructor pushed me to train for a 5km race back in 2004.

Now it’s the feeling of freedom it brings, I was in essence using my first runs as an escape from an unhappy relationship, running further and faster as time went on 



What do you think attracts people to these extreme races?


Varies for people. For some it’s a need to prove themselves, for myself it was doing something I would previously not had the freedom to do – the MdeS was an extreme way for me to prove my independence

Now I am addicted to racing and love the fact that the people you meet on these events are normally genuinely nice people. I also love using these races as a way to see parts of the world I might never have seen otherwise.


I am relatively new to the world of Ultra running, what advice would you give to someone just starting out or thinking of making the switch from regular running?


Time on your feet is very important, get used to doing some run/walking or else you may suffer during an event. Most ultra runners will walk  some sections of a long race.

Advice from seasoned ultra runners is a good idea but the only way you will learn is by going out and training/racing and making mistakes. What suits one person will not always suit another.

Get your nutrition right – this is something I am still working on – and find the kit that suits you. Make sure you train with the kit/food you will be using during the race.

Practice navigation, it is not compulsory for most races to be able to navigate but it is useful. While I am still not particularly good using a compass I can navigate with a map but was rubbish during my first ultra Marathon of Britain. To learn I used to get a train somewhere about 40 -50miles away from home armed with a map and find my way home.


There must be other things to Jo Kilkenny, what do you do for a living?


I am a Research Scientist in the Institute of Neurology. I am currently doing a research project on variant CJD.


Has it only ever been running you loved or do you take part in any other sports?


Swimming was my first sport, I competed at a club level until the age of 16. I actually hating running anything except sprints when younger


What is your most memorable running memory?


Running across an ice gorge in the middle of the Gobi Desert. Bizarre!


Best achievement? Sporting and non-sporting?


Sporting – 2 stand out

Winning Marathon of Britain 2007 was a big deal for me, I had DNF’d the previous year and was gutted. I became obsessed with the race and with finishing so I probably overdid the amount of events I did leading up to it. It worked though and I took the ladies title.

Taking 3rd overall, and first woman, in the Gobi is my best placing so far and I was delighted with that but would love to better it.

Non sporting

Doing my BSc(Hons) Degree in Biomedical Science while holding down two jobs and training for my ultras – hard work but worth it.


Any heroes? Sporting or Non?


Scott Jurek, Lizzie Hawker, Mimi Anderson & Eddie Izzard – the man is a comedic and ultra legend. 


What is next for you?

 I will be doing two of the mightcontainnuts series. I am running the Scottish Ultra again next year, it’s an all new route this time. But the biggie for me is Enduroman Arch to Arc next September


Aspirations in life? Future plans?

 Sports wise I would love to be able to run around the world – the record is there to be broken

Work wise after my current project I hope to get involved in Stem Cell research to try and find cures for diseases such as Parkinson’s etc

If you could change one thing in the world what would it be?


I’d get rid of all the twats in the world that want to start wars over meaningless crap – life is too short

Finally, if you were to sum up running in three words, what would they be?

Freedom, Freedom, Freedom

To find out more about Jo and the races she competes in follow these links below!

Thank you Jo!


About Mark Cooper

My name is Mark Cooper, I am an ultra runner, motivational speaker, expedition consultant and public relations rookie. I help people achieve greatness in their lives. For bookings or more information you can email
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