Monday, May 31, 2010

No sleep 'til Mizen!

The dust is now starting to settle on what was an amazing adventure for Jo and her crew. I worked it out that in a period of 144 hours, we had about 18 hours sleep! I didn't seem to notice how tired I was at the time and I think I am still catching up now.

As a non runner it was a totally unique experience for me to be part of the support crew. I drove the Campervan, prepared Jo's food, drink and meds, spoke to the media, liaised with support runners and worried continually about Jo and her feet.

We met some amazing people along the way - staff in hotels, massage therapists, witnesses along the route and especially the support cyclists and runners. They were very generous with their time and energy and made me laugh. It was clear that many of them were in awe of Jo and the challenge she was undertaking - as we all were. Jo was so focused in spite of her obvious pain.

We were fortunate enough to have much of what we needed for the trip provided by sponsors. Jo went through about 50 or so Lucozade Sports drinks, several Nuun tablets to replace her electrolytes, several packs of Physicool to cool and treat her poor feet, lots of fig rolls, ham and jam sandwiches - the campervan really did serve as her mobile base camp and for that we are extremely grateful to Vanderlust.

In the last 48 hours, when we were really working against the clock and Jo must have been running on less than empty, the pressure was really on. The event went through the night with the end goal finally in sight. I cannot describe the feeling, as just a crew member, of getting to Mizen Head. Half elated and half wiped out. We had to go through a site safety briefing and wear a hard hat, glasses and hi viz vests before being led out to where the bridge once was - it had been demolished and was now a construction site. We made our way across scaffolding 45 metres above sea level. Over 3 foot girders and under 3 foot girders, down planks, up planks - at the time I had no concept of how high up we were or that there was just rocks and sea below. There were 99 steps down and a winding pathway before the final few steps to the beacon. Jo must have thought the end would never come! Don't forget she had to retrace this route on the way back - except the 99 steps were now up!

For any of you who haven't been, Mizen Head has the most amazing view and the visitors centre(we had to revisit from Limerick last weekend due to the bike being left behind - long story) was fabulous, especially for kids. They couldn't have been more helpful.

The event had great media coverage, especially from the Irish speaking press, the Carers Association really have benefited both from the money raised - thank you if you donated, and from enhancing it's profile.

Would I do it again? Not this year, but I have ideas for next year!!!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

We did it!!!

We set out with an very, very aggressive target. And when the weather was with us on the first day that target looked achievable. But who would have predicted a heatwave in Ireland in May?! The heat played havoc with Jo's feet and there were times when I wondered how she did it (usually when Niall was using his trusty campaign knife to hack away the excess flesh from the blisters before....well I'm sure you get the picture and don't need me to carry on!)

We ended up settling into a routine - Jo would go as far as she could and we'd then take her into the campervan and get her off her feet. First priority was always to cool her feet down (I had never used Physicool before but my God did it work!) and she often napped with the bandages on. After that was blister care and taping of the feet before she strapped up the trainers and ran on.

I see that our last proper update ended just North of Kilmallock. I'll try and give a rough highlight of the last - insane - branch of the journey from memory (Jo has all of the GPS data).

We stayed at the amazing Deebert Park Hotel - the thing that made the Deebert Park special was just how out of their way they went to make Jo feel special - even to the extent of the owner running Jo's shower for her! Not that we enjoyed what the hotel had to offer for long - we arrived at 11pm, ate, wrote up what we could, made our plans and went to bed between 1 and 2 before getting up at 4:00 ready to hit the road out again...

I had received a message through Boards that someone wanted to see us off. Can't be possible I figured - not at that time. But there was "Rainbowdrop" to say hello and good luck in the lobby despite having an exam at 10:30!

We had to detour for diesel for the van on the way to the drop point but got going again with a plan to stop when...

Well we didn't really plan to stop properly again until Mizen. We were going to run through the night, for 48 hours straight to claw back our lost time. A plan that only the chronically sleep deprived could consider to be sane.

There were some great highlights early on in the day - Jo running into Kilmalock to find all the local schoolchildren lining the street and chanting her name is a sight I'll never forget. We ploughed on all day with just breaks called as needed - 5 minutes here, an hour there. Once more we were joined by great support at various times - Andy, I never did fall off that bike for you! - and they made all the difference. Emmet, Juliet, Lisa, Sinead, Andy you really helped take Jo's mind off the pain.

A special mention though to Ger, the man who sorted out the Pearl Izumi gear for us. What a gent - up at the crack of silly o'clock and covered a huge distance with unfailing charm, wit and good grace. A great guy to have around and he still owes me a pint!

All the towns are blurring into one now but when we were joined by Andy and Juliet Jo was feeling hungry and with very specific cravings so Andy and I set set off on a mad hunt through the town for... a chipper! We must have looked totally demented, two lads in running gear belting through the town before skidding to a halt at a kebab shop. We dived in and waited for the chips then hopped out and legged it back, bag of chips in hand! I have no idea what people watching us must have thought was going on...

Into the dusk and the camper van was parked for two hours while Jo slept. It then stayed behind while Ray O'Connor drove down from Galway, allowed his beautiful BMW 6 series to be trashed as a support vehicle while he drove behind Jo through the night. He then left us before 7am to return to Galway and start a days work. How constructive the meetings were after that, who knows?!

At this stage we took over with the van and I replaced Niall to accompany Jo for a short stretch of the road. It was amazing - we jogged along at a gentle pace, walked the uphills and chatted away. I had a vision that this is what our future holds - when we are in our 80s that's exactly what we'll all still be doing, plodding along and talking rubbish. Stunning scenery but narrow roads with complex navigation were raising thier own challenges now and the hills were sometimes quite sharp. Jimmy (Niall's Dad) and Don deserve special mention on plotting the route and in particular Jimmy did a great jo of getting us through there safely.

Despite the pain he was clearly in himself it soon became clear that Jo needed Niall with her and it became increasingly clear that we would not only come home inside Jane's time (see below, Jane Porter ran M2M previously and so had set the marker to beat) but we could well come home faster than the best time reported anywhere by anyone for M2M.

The last few kilometres were excruciating. Watching someone endure so much pain at close quarters and knowing that you could end it instantly by telling them to stop but knowing that the right thing for them to do was to force themselves on, is difficult. Ultra running is all about endurance and we saw Jo enduring some ferocious agony as she closed in. The Ordinance Survey came up trumps by reporting out accurate distances between the various towns and if Jo could only sustain the pace we'd be on target. In truth there were times where we just hoped for her to be able to stay upright never mind mobile.

And of course the bridge to the lighthouse is currently down for repairs. Which is a polite way of saying that it's been entirely demolished and a temporary scaffolding bridge is now in place and so the lighthouse is sealed off to visitors and tourists.

Would this destroy the attempt? Defeated at the last hurdle?


Enda - Site Engineer for Carillion who are managing the project stayed behind. Poor Jo had to stand while she had a site safety briefing (I believe I am safe to say that is a first for a M2M record attempt) before she donned a hard hat and safety glasses and was led away.

They hadn't joked about the bridge - we have photos of it but it was an obstacle course. Not that Jo would let that stop her. Over it, around the path and onto the lighthouse itself.

Her time?

5 days, 13 hours, 44 minutes and 45 seconds*

A new fastest time for crossing Ireland on foot, male or female.

Now doesn't that feel good to say!

* (pending review of the GPS data and verification)

Monday, May 24, 2010

Brief update...

95 km done today and stopped north of Killmalock (I wasn't with Jo at the end so exact point I don't know at this point).

Full report later but we are making one last heroic effort, we'll probably be in Kilmalock around 9 - 10 and if anyone from anywhere is around please please please come and watch. The moral boost we get from support is unreal and we need independent witness to complete the book of evidence for GWR.

I'm pretty confident that the next 48 hours are going to be the most intense of Jo's life. Do you want to be part of it?

A word from Niall...

Ok the personal report from today. Just my ramblings.

We got up and headed to the start and Joanne and I along with Sinead on a bike pushed
out some nice miles. We were met by Sarah who also was on a bike and it all went well
till the sun came up. It got even hotter than yesterday. High twenties and at one stage
it hit 30 deg in Athlone we think. Long before Athlone we had issues with the heat so Jo
stopped in Ballymahon between Longford and Athlone for a nap.

After the nap all went well for awhile

The feet were in a bad way from the pounding and all the blisters and the started
getting worse, a trend that my rusty knife and I arrested. I am not sure how much more
of this heat we can actually take. If we had wanted heat then we would have planned to
run in July. I have a lovely photo of the underside of Joannes runners with so much
tarmac attached to the sole that they started to resemble the road. All from a little
heat this weekend.

As the day wore on and we wore out, I went off to recon the route through Athlone by
bike. I made it back to meet the first carload of Cork people to turn up. My father had
decide it was time to show his face and I didn't pre warn our victim (ahem) athlete. It
gave a much needed boost and she was then joined by a couple of Army marathon runners
(Pat/ Jimmy and Tom) who took turns keeping Joanne company. I was wrecked and needed the
support and I left Steff and Andrew the job of training in the newbies.

By now we had made it to the other side of Athlone and the second Cork carload arrived.
Don, Lisa and clan had landed and spent a few hours treating Joanne like royalty.
Complete with a golf umbrella over her head. Everyone who arrived today brought
something to the game. And we needed it.

After making it as far as Doon we had to call it a day. 'Only' 70km done today. I never
thought that would sound bad (ONLY). We are now around 290km into the run and we are
already a day or more down (slower). Any harder in this heat would have resulted in a
premature end to Joanne's run.

Now the plan is to survive! Pure and simple. Hold the feet together and make it home.
After today we had a Carer's fund raising do. The line of well wishers picked up
spirits, people who genuinely needed this money to support others, helping them to care
was a huge boost.

Something as simple as a child realizing nothing is impossible or looking at a big map
of Ireland. Seeing not the long road but sections of roads traveled, identified by the
strangers that surrounded you, picks up the lone runner's spirits. You would be
surprised how the little things count.

Onward and downward.

PS: Sorry for not updating facebook or answering text messages. It is just so much
effort keeping it together as the support team that I just can't get around to you all.
I will try though. I have passed on all the wishes to Joanne.

M2M - Day 3

Do you know where the hottest place in Ireland was yesterday? I was told it was Athlone with a sweltering 30 degrees.

Guess where we were running yesterday?

That’s right, Athlone!

Yet another difficult day. We made a good start, straight to our start point, grabbed the photo and off we went. Again the food plan was going well and we started confidently. But even by 7am we could tell it was going to be a scorcher and the heat was hitting Jo hard. At one point (while being filmed by yet another TV cameraman!) the tarmac under her had actually melted and was sticking to her feet! We ploughed on mixing walks with runs and just making sure that we were getting as much fluid and food into her as was humanly possible.

We made it as far as Ballymahon by 11:30 and the heat was steadily building. The pace was dropping steadily so we made the call to get her in out of the sun. We were probably stopped for around 90 mins during which Niall sorted out her feet and Jo rested. The support crew was amazing – first thing we had Sinead and Sarah who drove out to bike with us, great dedication considering the time they had to get up at! They handed over to John (who drove up from Dublin) and Siobhan / Simon (a husband and wife team who sacrificed a day on the beach with there kids to come with us!)

After the break Jo set off strong and in great spirits – we are obviously running behind our original target but that was a very aggressive one anyway so I think the entire camp are comfortable with where we are. Given the conditions and the terrain I don’t think anyone could have got here faster and Jo is in great spirits.

Our frustration at this stage centres on her feet – her legs (and everything else) are fine but her feet are in ribbons and require care more or less every hour. We are wrapping them in the Physicool bandages, which are doing a great job of cooling them down but blister management is now a major issue.

Again though the support from all around was gob smacking – Nialls’s father Jimmy and Jill his partner, another Jimmy who I think just turned up at the side of the road to run with us, Tom and Pat who drove from the depths of County Clare and did nothing but abuse me all afternoon (Tom is the evil individual who lent us the bike and he just sniggered about my sore backside having watched me wobble around on his bike on the news). We also had Don, Lisa and clan (including doggie Sam!)

At this stage it was early evening and we were on the far side of Athlone but the sun was still direct and strong so Jimmy Crowley had the bright idea of using a golf umbrella as a parasol. So we had the insane looking procession of Jo walking along the road under an umbrella being held for her by one of the lads followed in procession by all the kids and the dog!

At this point as well Steff proved what a bright spark she is by introducing some livewire conversation while on the phone… She was waffling away happily on the phone when she reached out to rest her hand on the fence she was standing beside. Which – naturally – was an electric fence! She just got a bit of a sting on her finger but being mean it gave us all a laugh!

Shortly after that at a place called Doon Cross we called it a day and headed into Nenagh to bed down for the night but before we did we showed our faces (briefly) at a fundraiser. Niall has a personal post I’ll put up here after this one that covers it but it was great to see familiar faces (Bridget, Ray) and for Jo to meet some of the carers that will benefit from her efforts. Anna, thank you for organising, it was great.

And that’s about it! “Only” 70kms done but 290ish in total. I’m writing this at 8:41 am and she’s already covered nearly 20kms and the cooler weather has made such a difference she’s just churning out 9 min / kms like she’s out for a gentle recovery run – you wouldn’t know to look at her how hard this has been.

Thanks again for the messages of support and please I’ll stress again if you want to come out and watch get in touch either with us or the Carers Association and they’ll give you a heads up on where to come to. And please remember this is all for a good cause, if you can’t make it to cheer us on in person a contribution to The Carers Association would be greatly appreciated.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

On mobile broadband so no pictures this time but I have some crackers for you when I'm back in a proper base!

Day 2 was an utter nightmare. I think that we may have been the only people in Ireland hoping for a cool, damp weekend! Instead we got hot, humid and hotter. What didn't help was the terrain which was consistently hilly - I had a bad feeling when the very first street sign we saw was for the "Longhill Road"! And it was...both long and hilly...

Anyway, there was a bit of a faff in the morning, we were about a 45 minute drive from the end point and because it was a spray painted marker on the road surface down a boreen it took longer to find than anticipated so we were late starting, probably 6:45ish. While it was cool early on the hills were savage and it took a lot out of Jo. As crew we were also having trouble with the navigation, narrow country lanes with unmarked junctions and roads that simply weren't on maps meant that we were constantly scouting ahead and trying to double back in time to update Jo before she took a wrong turn.

Once we got onto a major road things got easier but of course by then it was hotter. And thats when I made my boo-boo (sorry Jo!) We were in the van sorting out the next feeds and planning when she ran by and I hadn't spotted a junction a few hundred meters ahead. "Right or Left?" yells Jo. "Right" says I, then dashed off to verify on the maps... You know what happens next, don't you?

Of course it should have been left so we caught up with Jo and yelled at her to stop. Now we have been living and breathing Guinness World Record rulebooks for a few weeks and the rules are pretty clear that a competitor can leave the course and if they do they can be driven back to it. My panic though was that if Jo's Garmin (the GPS watch tracking her distance) was driven in the van it might go nuts, lose the signal or otherwise misbehave. Call it paranoia but I just didn't want to take the risk. Additionally by running with it I could run to (and tell Jo when I was at) the correct spot for the hand-back when she was back where she should have been. It probably seems silly to someone reading this that we would drive her a few hundred meters rather than just let her run it but any wasted effort was too much as far as I was concerned.

So I got to run with the famous Malin to Mizen Garmin watch! Hurrah!

Steff drove Jo back to the correct point on the course and I handed over the GPS for her to carry on from there. I'm trying to make light of it now but at the time I was worried about Jo - there had been a few minor niggles but stuff like that can erode a runners confidence in the team and feeling stiff, sore, tired and with so far still to go I was concerned about the impact it might have on her state of mind. This kind of thing is as much mental as physical and I felt bad that I could have put more pressure on her than been a help.

(Para regarding witness removed due to subsequent developments)

The rest of the day progressed with more and more walk breaks and a constant battle to manage Jo's feet, which are swelling and blistering in the heat. Which is fustrating because her legs feel fine. The feed strategy (thanks Tony!) is working brilliantly and Jo has had no tummy trouble but obvioulsy the day was taking it's toll on her mentally. Thankfully just as she was fading David arrived to run with her and he kept her in good spirits until Drumlish, County Longford (thanks to the pub patrons who gave very vocal support by the way!) where we called it a day. 96kms run day 2 with 221kms in total.

Keep an ear out on the radio news and an eye on the TV because we're hoping for more press today and tonight (Sunday) we have a function in Long Charlies pub on Kenyon Street in Nenagh, so if you are there come along and give a shout hello!

Some quick clarifications

Wow, talk about a media whirlwind! The support from the press has been great but unfortunately sometimes when sub editors get hold of things they can make small changes that can have unintended changes in meaning. It seems that has happened, in at least one press report we saw yesterday it was reported that Jo will be the first person to run Malin to Mizen

This is not the case!

M2M run has been completed by many people, several of whom either run / walked or ran. Jo is hopefully going to be the first person to set a Guinness World Record. This is a very, very important distinction. There have been any number of talented people who's footsteps we are following in, the key difference with us is that we are documenting to the GWR verification standards, not least so that a consistent benchmark and measure can be laid down that others can compare and in time (but hopefully not too soon!) beat our marker.

Lastly it has been brought to my attention that a lady called Jane Porter has already run Malin to Mizen. This is information that didn't turn up in our research for this project. If anyone has further details on Janes run it would be great if you could get in touch so that we can update all the press releases and make sure we are clear and accurate going forward. In fact if Jane herself could give us a shout it would be brilliant as we can make sure we have all the info direct, so if anyone knows her please let her know we are looking for her.


Friday, May 21, 2010

M2M - DAY 1!!

Oh my God that was a long day! We were up at 5am and left the hotel at 5:45 to be at Banbas crown for 6. There we met the worlds nicest press photographer and Jo did her now familiar model gig. (Apologies for the quality of our photos, we'll tidy them up later)

Bang on the turn of 6am we fired the (imaginary) gun and off we went. Steff and I followed in the camper.

We quickly settled into a fairly steady routine, at 3 or 4 K I would grab the feed bag and jump out and run up to Jo and hand it over. I'd run with her until the feed was finished and then jump back in the van. As we were up in the wilds going at 5 or 6mph wasn't an issue.

We tipped along pretty handily until the City of Derry where a swap in the routine was forced and I jumped on the bike. There was a bit of a delay at one feed stop and Jo had to navigate herself across a roundabout but we were met by some briliant guys from the City of Derry Athletics club. Hopefully more details later but a stretch with Irelands fastest miler felt good! At this stage we were also being stalked by the TG4 camera crew, I hope you all saw it!

After that Charlie (Jo's brother) turned up and helped share the load, he and I taking turns running and biking beside Jo to keep the feed routine going.

There was a small glitch first thing - Google seems not to be too hot on the extremities of Ireland and our timetable was based on leaving from 15 - 20kms further south than we actually did. It's a shame but we were more or less bang on the revised schedule but it does mean we are going to be starting from around an hour north of Eniskillen. If anyone is thinking of joining us please phone or mail Steff for an accurate schedule. And you really have no idea how great it was to meet the Derry runners and Charlie, it lifted so much pressure off me and gave Jo a great boost.

Headline numbers 42.2 in 3:52ish, 84,4 in 8:13ish, 100kms in 9:59ish. Full details available when we do the Garmin upload, obviously that will be made public!

Jo is now back from the massage and feeling good (who feels good after 125kms?!)

Keep up the texts and emails of support (they help to!) and a *vast* and *huge* thank you to everyone who has given so generously. You rock! (kind of like I did on that damn bike...)

Thursday, May 20, 2010

M2M - minus 1...

Well *that* was a long day. And we haven't even started running yet!

Up and out to Garveys SuperValu in Corbally, Limerick first thing today. They have been brilliant and handed over a four foot high stack of groceries. Then off to David in Vanderlust again for the Camper collection. Poor Steff had coniptions at first getting used to the size of it but soon settled into a rhythm.

We stopped in Bunratty for Tom of who not only handed over a bike but entrusted one of his own cycles to me. I think it's an old one but I still feel honoured! Not so enamoured with the (very small) saddle which makes me think that running may be more comfortable... Tom is also a running coach so he had a lot of valuable advice for me on how I should manage the mileage I'll be doing and structure it into my training.

Down to Richardson Fresh Fruit for a huge box of apples, bananas and oranges and then we hit the road.

In truth the camper was a lot faster than we had expected. Was this down to Davids excellent camper van stock or Steff getting the hang of it so quickly?

Quick pit stop at my Parents in Donegal and off to Derry to collect Jo and a quick photo call with the press (she'll be a professional model by the time this is all over)

After that it was a short run to the excellent Seaview Tavern. The staff have been brilliant phoning us to make sure we knew where we were going and keeping the Restaurant open late so we could eat. And now Jo is in bed, Steff is setting up the camper and I am sleepy...

Apart from that it was a frantic round of phone calls and last minute organising. Thankfully there were no serious last minute glitches and it looks like we are all systems go. Tomorrow morning at 5:45 Jo sets out to attempt to establish a Guinness World Record for runing from Malin Head to Mizen Head. Updates as we go!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

M2M - 2 days

When we woke up this morning we had 48 hours before the while thing kicks off. A bit less actually because we are planning on starting at 5:45am and I don't wake up at that time normally - Steff has recently though, in a cold sweat and whimpering about needing more baskets of fruit or getting lost....!

I have far and away the easiest job (Jo keeps trying to give me graphic descriptions of what this could do to her insides and how as support I'll have to deal with it but I'm not listening). All I've had to do over the last day or so is listen to the (long) lists of stuff that needs to be packed and jobs and tasks being ticked off. Steff has been running around like a hyperactive bunny. You wouldn't believe the sheer amount of stuff that is needed but on the left there you can see the initial pile. This is the sports nutrition, water, some (not all!) of Jo's packing and sports kit, collection buckets and Hi-Vis vests. Not included is my running gear, the bike, my clothes, Steff's clothes, the food, the fruit... It all reminds me of that scene in Jaws where Brody says "I think we need a bigger boat"!

And Jo? Well apart from a couple of cycles to stretch her legs she is in taper mode; that means resting up and ensuring that all the little niggles have time to heal. At this stage it's all nerves and energy - worry if we have the right food strategy, the best route, concern about our ability to follow that route down country roads and through busy towns with camper van and runners intact. And a fear that we all share; that 5 days with Jo, Niall, myself and Steff (four fairly strong personalities, it must be said) all in close proximity and in testing conditions could lead to a fall out of nuclear proportions!

I keep telling Steff that what's done is done and nothing we do now will have a huge impact on how this all pans out. Now we relax and rest ready for Silly AM on Friday. And I'm saying, don't worry, it will be an adventure. Of course last time I told her that we got stranded in Holland and ended up sleeping in a hotel above a building she suspects may have been a brothel...

But this will be better than that!

Won't it???

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Reality Check!

Last Thursday Jo and her husband Niall paid a visit to our offices in Limerick. We sat down to plan in detail the support that Jo will need, the route and generally the plans in fine detail it was, shall we say- sobering!

Jo will need to eat every 5k that she runs and each time she will have different requirements. On top of that there will be pills and potions all designed to legally (!) maximise Jo's performance and prevent injury over the long, hard 5 days.

Still, she won't be alone, she will be well supported. Andrew and I will be with her from start to finish, Niall will join us in Athlone and there will be numerous friends and runners joining at different stages of the route to support and encourage Jo.

So now there is only 4 days left. In the remaining time I am sure there will be many more media interviews for Jo, photo requests and general mental and physical preparation - lets not forget that whilst this is a physical challenge for her, she will also need to be prepared mentally and carry on in-spite of the voices in her head telling her to stop!
Now the pressure is on, everything is organised and we really need to step up our fundraising efforts and ask you to please dig deep, encourage Jo by sponsoring her and also show your support for the Carers Association. Remember, if you care for someone, who will care for you?

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Here's one we prepared earlier...

Steff has asked me to outline what has been happening in the background in terms of organising and preparing for Jo's run.

If you ever watched Blue Peter as a kid you'll have seen the presenter faffing about with an empty toilet roll holder and some tape before pulling out an amazing knights castle from under the table and saying "Here's one we made earlier!"

And we're all hoping that this event will be a bit like that - we want Jo to turn up on the 21st and start running with seamless support all along the route, great media coverage and lots of money raised for a great cause.

But there is a huge amount of spade work that goes into simply getting into position to run those first few steps of the 350 miles. This all started out as a nagging idea with Jo that wouldn't go away. Several months ago she asked a few friends if they thought it was a totally ridiculous idea. She selected the friends carefully because instead of recommending a long lie down in a darkened room they took the idea seriously, made some suggestions and the idea slowly took root.

Next Jo sought advice on the route from the cycling guys on Boards, who have a lot of experience of Malin to Mizen and back again routing. So now it was starting to get a bit more real...

Next thing you know Steff, Jo, Niall (Jo's husband) and I are having a general conversation and Steff was talking about fund-raising and before you knew it provisional plans were made. Jo would run Malin to Mizen before the summer to raise money for the Carers Association.

And that is when Steff's organising brain went into overdrive. We brainstormed out the requirements for pre-event, during the event and post-event. We tried to visualise what Jo would be doing each day and what she would need to do it. From that we generated a list of support items, this was reviewed and added to by Jo.

Since the beginning of April, Steff has sent out almost 400 emails and made hundreds of phone calls. Transport (bikes and a camper van) had to be found. Hotels along the route had to be persuaded to let Jo stay for free. Massage therapists have been lined up for overnight stops. Sports nutrition companies had to be persuaded to hand over product for free, bottles of water had to be found and boxes of fresh fruit and pasta are still being looked for. Medical supplies and first aid equipment had to be sourced and a sponsors for the diesel are still being looked for. Permits for street collection had to applied for and a celebration night and fundraiser planned for Nenagh thanks to a Respite Worker called Anna. Magnetic signs to stick to the van to promote and thank the sponsors were needed. And media contacts had to be primed and pumped - local and national print and broadcast media have all been approached and we have been doing well on getting coverage so far. And of course blogs and charity donation webpages needed to be set up and maintained! Emma J (National Fundraising Manager) in the Carers Association HQ and Catherine (Steff's line manager) have been roped in, as have their PR company. The whole point of course being to ensure that as much as possible is provided to us for free so that every single penny raised can go towards helping provide much needed services for family Carers, like training and in-house respite.

And it's been a resounding success - socks have been worked off and all the indications are that this will be a really successful event, both from a fundraising point of view and in terms of raising the charity's profile.

Of course all that hard work is just a framework for Jo's efforts come the 21st (and all the training miles she's been logging up till now). And in a very real sense the work will only begin then - there is a vast amount of verification required for an official Guinness World Record. We need to photograph and videotape Jo at key points on the journey. We need to provide a GPS record and have independent witnesses signing off that she was in location X at day Y.

And that is where you might be able to help!

A huge number of people have stepped up and offered to run some of the route with Jo. For safety reasons we have to limit it to one or two at a time but it will be a great boost to her and their sign-off is vital for the record. Even if you can't run it with us your presence and sign off could well be useful. Or maybe you have something else you could help with? For example we have had an offer today from someone who will use the GPS data to update a map frequently through the day so that people can keep an eye on Jo's progress. Do you have a skill you think we could use? Or contacts who could help? Do you have any creative ideas on fundraising? Anything you can think of that will help please drop a note in the comments or email us directly on And if all else fails you know where the donation page is!

9 days to go, the countdown starts here...!


Sunday, May 9, 2010

Ker Ching!

Bridget Riordan is a formidable woman.

When I first met her I was a little bit in awe of the sheer force of her personality - she is very much someone who believes in saying what she thinks, and has no fear of who hears her. But she has an absolute heart of gold, would do anything for you and is totally front and centre when it comes to fund raising for the charity she works for.

So the Malin to Mizen run was always going to be an opportunity for her to show just how good she is!

Now one of the (many) things I have learned about Bridget is that it is very hard to say no to her. Mainly because she won't listen to no one but instead keeps going until you say yes! So it didn't surprise any of us when she landed into the Carers Offices on the Dock Road in Limerick with an idea to raise money...

At this stage we are fighting on two fronts - we want to create a bit of a "buzz" around a world record attempt but we also need to make sure that this is a financial success. Bridget - as usual - had a great idea. She had booked a slot packing shopping bags in a major local supermarket. It was a great opportunity to promote the charity and it's services as well as telling people all about Jo and what she was attempting to do.

"The response has been phenomenal" a volunteer reported afterwards. "We had staff from all around Limerick City & County volunteer to man the bag pack and everyone we spoke to about the run was totally behind it and just amazed at what Jo is attempting to do"

So good news on getting people talking, but how did the fund raising part go?

How does an extra €1,310 for the fund-raising pot sound?!

A huge thank you to Bridget and to all the people who helped and contributed, both financially and their time, it was really appreciated.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

We have a home!

Well as you know David from Vanderlust was the very first person to step up with an offer of help and he is giving us - free of charge - a HUGE 6 berth camper van for the duration of the trip. Steff (my wife and the Manager of the Limerick & North Tipperary Carers Association) and I went out to the Vanderlust offices in Ennis for a bit of a look and we are really delighted with what David has sorted out for us.

The camper looks like it could have been built for the job - plenty of room for us to chat to journalists, supporters, fundraisers and collectors in the main cabin and lots of storage space in the back for all the food supplies we are going to be taking. There is also plenty of sleeping space - obviously we are still working on sorting out hotel accommodation for Jo (and a huge thanks to the hotels that have already come on board; or bed and board!) but it's good to have a fall back. And of course it has a small but fully functioning kitchen so no excuses for not cooking up pots and pots of lovely pasta...

As for other stuff provisional placing look like they are placing Jo as the 10th woman home in the Great Limerick Run marathon. The main focus in the training at the moment is lots of long slow miles, back to back long runs and really just getting the body used to running and maintaining an even pace even when tired. Plans are also being drawn up around how to best maintain fuel and hydration and again all of this will need to be tested before the day.

In other news we had a really good time working the Limerick Expo and hope to have some really exciting sponsors confirmed in the next few days; injury prevention products, energy drinks and a shiny bike so that we can keep up with Jo, should all be in place by this time next week!

Anything else?

Of course!

Plans for a big party in Nenagh the day that Jo gets there are well advanced. Organised by Anna, a member of Steff's staff. Music, a meet and greet with Jo and the rest of the team and maybe even a bit of of raffle or competition are all planned. We have bucket collectors lining up at various locations and we are hopeful that a local emergency service might even do a sponsored car wash (this may be one for the ladies!)

As always this is aimed at raising vital funds for Carers - every penny raised will go directly to the charity as all costs are either being covered by sponsors or directly by Jo. And just €75 will provide almost 5 hours of respite care for a family Carer, something that they literally couldn't put a price on.

So please grab your credit card and head on over to our charity page!


Sunday, May 2, 2010


So, what has Jo been doing to train for such a challenge?

Well on Saturday she took part in the Ballyhoura Mountain Marathon, it is extremely hilly with a certain amount of navigation and Jo managed to get herself lost - which hopefully won't happen from Malin to Mizen!

So what do you do the day after a marathon - most people take the day off and ice their aching limbs, but not Jo, today (Sunday) she completed the Inaugural Limerick Marathon, she promised us she was going to complete it around 4 hours as a training run, but got fed up with the crowds and sped up to finish in under 3 hours 45 minutes!

She still had time to then pop into The Carers Association office here in Limerick to have her photo taken.