A 65-year-old athlete is appealing to East Antrim runners to join her “lap of the map” in aid of the RNLI tomorrow (Friday).
Mary Nolan Hickey will leave from the Titanic Centre in Belfast at 9.00 am on the next leg of her 5,000 kilometre circuit around the island of Ireland.
Mary’s epic run is in aid of the RNLI lifeboat charity.
She will pass through Newtownabbey and Carrickfergus en route to Larne which she hopes to reach at teatime.
She is hoping to be joined by local walkers and runners along the way.
Her location can be tracked on Facebook.
Mary is running around the entire coast of the island of Ireland to raise funds and awareness of the RNLI lifeboat charity.
She is the only woman to have completed all of Dublin’s 38 marathons.
She has also completed the gruelling Marathon des Sables in the Sahara Desert known as the “toughest race on earth”.
Mary says the circuit of the island of Ireland is her toughest challenge yet and marks 50 years’ involvement in athletics.
Previously, she had considered that she had completed this feat when she took on the Dublin Marathon when she was more than six months’ pregnant.
Commenting on her circuit of Ireland, Mary said: “I wanted to prove that age is not a barrier. Coming from a coastal town, I have a deep affinity with our local RNLI station and volunteers and have huge admiration for the brave men and women who risk their lives to save lives at sea.
During her visit to Larne, Mary will drop into the RNLI station at the harbour to meet the local crew.
“The support has been overwhelming. I have met the most amazing and encouraging people along the way”.
Mary’s epic adventure got underway in Arklow, in County Wicklow, on New Year’s Day and is expected to take five months to complete. She is depending on the goodwill of communities along her route for accommodation and support.
However, it is not all plain sailing.
“At 65, I have aches and pains. I have bunions like onions but the next morning I am up and out again.”
Mary went to to say that she is hoping to raise approximately Euro 20,000 for the RNLI.
“I know people are strapped after Christmas but if they have anything at all they could donate, every pound counts.
“People have asked why I am doing this in the winter but the RNLI crews have to go out whatever the weather.
“Every single RNLI station has had people out to meet me. It is amazing to have their support. Everyone who has come out along the way has been part of the journey with me.
“It has been going better than expected. I have not had to put my hand in my pocket once. I am overwhelmed by the support I am getting.
“I carry on each day no matter what the weather is doing. During Storm Eleanor, I just kept ploughing on, but I couldn’t run. I had to walk but I just kept going.”
Mary went on to say that she tackled the Sahara run, just eight or ten years ago.
“The Sahara was a seven day event. This is going to be a lot longer. So far, so good.
“I have been in sport 50 years. I just love it. I just keep going. I would not be doing it if I did not enjoy it.”
Mary indicated that she formed a running group in 1979 which has continued ever since which she combines with a love of rowing coached by the local RNLI coxwain.
“I have got thousands of people out into the roads. This is time out for me.”
Mary arrived in Belfast yesterday (Wednesday) from Donaghadee and will continue on the next leg of her journey to Cushendall on Saturday.
To donate or follow Mary’s progress on Facebook at rnlilapofthemap2018.