A teacher from Co. Mayo has broken the Guinness World Record for the longest ever barefoot walk Eamonn Keaveney walked around Ireland to raise awareness for the suicide prevention center, Pieta House.
Keaveney set out from his home in Claremorris, Co. Mayo on May 1, and by the time he's finished he will have walked more than 1,200 miles (2,000 km) around Ireland, aiming to raise $20,000 (€18,000) for the Irish charity under a campaign named “Baring my Soles for Pieta House.”
“I lost a close friend to suicide in 2014,” Keaveney told IrishCentral. “That, coupled with Ireland's problem with suicide, led me to support Pieta, as they do great work all around the country.”
Now on day 80 of his epic journey, Keaveney is on the route back to Mayo, having already broken the world record for walking the longest distance in bare feet. That was day 74 while he was walking from Ballynafinch to Belfast.
Keaveney is not allowed to wear shoes, socks, or even put Band-Aids on his battered feet unless he takes an official rest day from the walk. He's also barred from accepting a ride from any of the confused drivers who stop to lend a helping hand.
“People have been super supportive and have helped me out all along the way,” he said. “[I] do get a lot of funny looks, but the attitude tends to change when people find out what I'm doing.”
Drawing ever closer to his fundraising goal, Keaveney still has a substantial distance to cover before he finds himself back in Claremorris, where he hopes to be at some point in August.
“Surreal! I can't really believe it,” he said of breaking the world record. “Maybe because I still have to walk home, so I just feel like I'm not really ‘there’ yet.”
Keaveney is camping as he goes unless he's offered accommodation along the way, and the rough surfaces and thorns are taking their toll on his feet.
“Also watching for traffic can be surprisingly exhausting,” he admits.
“Honestly my mind tends to wander,” he says of the long days on the road.
“Thinking about the walk, old memories, plans/worries about the future. Sometimes if there's little or no traffic I might listen to some music or phone a friend.”
First opened in 2006 in Lucan, Co. Dublin, Pieta House is one of Ireland’s most popular charities with nine branches throughout Ireland. They recently branched out to Irish communities living abroad with their New York branch.
Pieta House New York is free to all and located in the New York Irish Center, 10-40 Jackson Avenue, Long Island City, New York, 11101.