“Having run Ireland during Covid I decided to take the Running Britain idea and started training around Christmas 2021. I wanted to do it to really test my mental and emotional health through a physical challenge. I find it interesting to see what the body is physically capable of and try to push the limits, so ultra running seemed like the best option as it just requires putting one foot in front of the other and to keep moving.
When I took on such a big challenge, I knew I had an opportunity to help people who needed it. I didn’t know who to do this for until I came across Join Our Boys, a charity founded by Paula and Padraic Naughton, whose three sons were diagnosed with Duchenne muscular dystrophy and whose eldest, Archie, recently died.
After hearing her story, it was heartbreaking to spend time with Archie, Isaac and George and hear what Paula and Padraic go through every day as they try to find a cure for Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy. I just wanted to help them with my challenge and try to take some of the weight off their shoulders by raising funds and awareness.
I also did the run for Mental Health UK after dealing with my own mental health issues growing up. I just saw it as a good opportunity to raise funds and awareness for something that is important to me and which has rightfully been getting more attention since the Covid outbreak.
In March 2021 I ran Mizen to Malin which was 550km in seven days for Mental Health Ireland and also for Alannah Sheehan who is dealing with Stage IV Brain Cancer. How I prepared to govern Ireland and Britain was quite different. Both had pros and cons, but what got me through was the time I spent training, running and generally on my feet which gave me the confidence to do it.
The run was 1,350 km long and lasted 19.5 days. I broke it off and mentally overcame the challenge, being aware of the total distance left to run but focusing on what was working for me in that moment. I averaged 71km a day but one day I had to stop at 46km to deal with an injury and another day I only managed 50km due to weather conditions – but those days ended with an 82nd -km day and four 75 km days balanced.
I did Running Britain with a support crew of three guys who were with me for the full 19 days – Ethan O’Brien, Daly Tucknott and Kam Boora. In addition to these guys, Oisin helped Fitzpatrick in the first week, Oisin Fahy in the last week and Ross Hughes was also a great support throughout.
For the duration of the run, my day typically consisted of two hours of morning preparation—preparing my feet and body and having breakfast—before heading out to start running. I split my runs into 25K for the first week, then 20K, 15K and another 15K until after just six days of running I sustained a knee injury and a first degree knee ligament tear. The day after was my biggest physical challenge as at the end of the day I couldn’t even lift my leg into the shower due to the pain and swelling.
After that I had to take it a day or even half a day at a time and tell myself every morning that I have to do the first few miles. So after the injury I went about my days on a 20k, 20k, 20k and 10k pattern – adding a few miles to each run if I was feeling good, or removing a few if I wasn’t felt able. I had a big breakfast, a big lunch, and a big dinner and was given drips, gels, and liquids throughout the day while running. Our accommodation, mainly in the Highlands of Scotland, was mainly in a (rented) motorhome, but it wasn’t great for me to relax, so we stayed in a few Airbnbs and hotels throughout the trip as well.
The hardest part of the run was going out each morning knowing that we had 70 or 75 km to go and the distance left to finish the run. Another difficult point was when I was physically at rock bottom at the end of an evening in the driving rain. I knew there was nothing more I could do to raise awareness or raise funds for my Join Our Boys fundraising page, and at the time I felt like I wasn’t enough.
But the most heartwarming aspect of the run for me was being surprised by Paula, Sinead Gannon (a friend of the Naughtons’ family) and Loic Jourdain (cameraman who is recording for the Trust) on a bridge that spans the Wales to River Severn. It was a moment I will never forget. Another enriching aspect was seeing all my friends who didn’t know each other before this trip grow so close. Also, it was very nice and encouraging to bring my family home for the last few days and help me cross the finish line.
That part felt great, running to all my friends and family waiting for me was quite a powerful and emotional moment after running non stop with very little sleep for the last 19 days. Making it and dealing with all the injuries and hiccups along the way was the reason I chose this event. There were some extremely hard moments that could have broken me, but now it’s done, I wonder what the body is capable of.
I still have to deal with a couple of injuries I picked up along the way as my knee band and feet are still swollen, the skin is torn and dissolving from hitting the ground and all the band-aids and tape that were on my feet and toes for so long. But other than that, the rest of the body feels relatively good aside from general fatigue.
I celebrated the end of the run by spending the night in St Ives, Cornwall having drinks with my support crew, family and some friends. After the few weeks we had, alongside battling physical injuries and dealing with the mental and emotional side of running, it was great to be able to spend some downtime with everyone.
But I want people to know that the 10 months of training and three weeks of non-stop running was a choice – something the Naughton family and Join Our Boys Trust don’t have as they search for a cure for Duchenne muscular dystrophy.
We hope research and medical intervention will save countless lives, including those of George and Isaac following the heartbreaking death of their brother Archie in July. All donations are matched by my employer ISG. So if you have money to spare and donate, please go to the site and click the donate link.”
As Arlene Harris said
https://www.independent.ie/life/meet-the-tipperary-man-who-ran-the-length-of-ireland-for-charity-and-then-did-britain-too-42055834.html Meet the Tipperary man who ruled all of Ireland – and then Britain – for charity