Reflecting on an Incredible Achievement

Hey Everyone,

I’ve had a couple of weeks now to reflect and to try and settle back into normality. However, normality still hasn’t hit as in my local community in Youghal and in Cork city people are still coming up to me congratulating me on the achievement. Many people have asked me - how my recovery has been going and how are my feet. To be honest my legs recovered very quickly. I put this down to the Normatec recovery boots that I have been using. Also I have good leg strength which is one of my advantages. As for my feet they have healed and the swelling and blisters are gone. My toe nails haven’t grown back yet – that will take a while. I won’t be wearing any open toe sandals anytime soon for any event.

Within a few days of the World Marathon Challenge finishing I actually wanted to be out running again and so obviously it didn’t traumatise me too much. I didn’t start back running until two weeks after the event and the only reason for that was because I was too busy re media stuff and meetings. When I started back I did short runs of 6.2miles which is 10km. I then increased it to a few 10mile runs and 12 mile runs. I did my 1st long run yesterday – 19th of February – which was a 4hour run. I suffered on that run and didn’t enjoy it. My mind kept telling me to give up and stop. My heart rate was showing a lot of signs of fatigue. However, the determined girl in me didn’t give up and I stuck out the 4hour run as I knew I had a job to do and the job was to get a 4 hour run done as my training. I needed to do this as I have another race next weekend. I will tell you all about that race in my next blog post – later in the week. Hence, keep an eye out for the blog post. I should have done more of these 4hour runs since returning home but I just haven’t had the time.

The World Marathon Challenge was a life changing experience for me and I would do it all again in a heartbeat if I had the chance – does anyone want to sponsor me :) What have I learnt from the taking on this challenge? I have learnt that any of us can achieve goals so long as we put our mind and heart into the goal. Boundaries of what is and isn’t possible have shifted for me by completing this challenge. It has boosted my confidence.

I have learnt that achieving greatness is a lonely journey but the journey is worth it. In the lead up to the World Marathon Challenge – all throughout 2016 there were many times I wanted to give up on the goal – there were days that I didn’t want to be out training in the rain. Everybody sees my glory in the media but they don’t see the loneliness I encountered to get there. Hence, you have to be prepared to be patience and you have to make sacrifices to achieve big goals such as running 7 Marathons on 7 Continents in 7 Days. Since coming home from the World Marathon Challenge. I have learnt that my definition of tiredness and exhaustion has changed. Before going on this challenge I was never a great sleeper and I thought to myself that this would be an advantage for me. When at home I find it hard to sleep at night-time. When on the challenge I rarely slept on the plane. You would think my lack of sleep at home each night would have prepared me for not being able to sleep on the plane but it didn’t. The difference between not sleeping at home and not sleeping on the plane is getting up to do a marathon without sleep. At home I don’t do that. I have learnt that this challenge would not be possible without the supportive people in my life. Most people in life find it hard to ask and accept help. However, you can’t do a challenge of this enormity without the help of others. I needed the help of my guide runner, John O’Regan. He is an extremely experienced elite ultra-runner and I felt privileged that he sacrificed his own training to be part of this project. I needed the help of the race director, Richard Donovan. Richard has believed in me when other race directors haven’t. I first became aware of Richard when he offered complimentary entry for myself and guide runner, John O’Regan, into his race the Volcano Marathon. He offered the entry because an Irish race didn’t want John going in because of his gender and Richard thought that was unfair and so offered the race entry. After that race I decided to challenge myself even more and that is how the World Marathon Challenge came about as Richard organises that race. We all need help in life – the question is are you willing to ask and accept it. I asked for the help for a sponsor and thankfully Allianz came on board and have been very supportive to me.

Have I any regrets about the World Marathon Challenge? Could I have done better? Could I have eaten better? Could I have trained better? Could I have been smarter in my approach to the races? It would be easy to answer yes to any of the questions. However, for me I just felt so privileged to be on the trip and to experience. I don’t know how Richard does it because to organise an event of this nature is a serious logistically challenge. I have the utmost respect for anyone who can organise a group of people to remain together and on time and to run 7 Marathons on 7 Continents in 7 Days. Anytime I go out with friends to the pub it is a task to get the group to stay together from one pub to the next never mind from one continent to another.

My three highlights of the World Marathon Challenge:

  1. Getting to Antarctica – this is an extremely difficult place to get to and so I feel privileged that I am one of few people who have got there.
  2. Coming Joint first with Silvana Camelio in Dubai. That was a very special moment for me. Silvana is a fantastic runner and the fact that I was able to win a race with her proves my ability. Towards the end of the race in Dubai all the other runners kept saying to Silvana – well done – is this your last lap. I was running alongside her. None of them acknowledged me. That is because they thought I had a few laps to go. None of the runners expected me to finish joint first. But I did and it was a very special moment for me.
  3. Getting $10,000 sportsmanship award which I have donated to the Irish Guide Dogs.

Overall, my experience of the World Marathon Challenge was life changing and character building and something that will remain with me for the rest of my life. The other runners on the challenge were a very inspiring group of people and a very diverse group which was great. We were all there for our own personal reasons. We all had a story to tell. When we were in Antarctica we had no internet and so people weren’t glued to their phones – that was nice as we all interacted with each other and got to learn about each other experiences. We all lived the same experience of the physical and mental fatigue. The group was competitive but supported each other. There were many times I wanted to give up because I found some courses too mentally draining being a visually impaired runner – it was hard to listen to John’s instructions when feeling sleep deprived and exhausted and hungry. The courses for fully sighted runners were fine because they could distract themselves from the pain and fatigue by listening to music – I couldn’t do that as I needed to be listening to John for instructions as to where to run. Other runners could look at the beautiful landscape and be distracted from pain by the looking at the scenery but my lack of vision didn’t allow me do that. Hence, there was lots of times I felt frustrated and wanted to quit. There were times when I felt very sad because I couldn’t see the beauty around me. For example, in Antarctica John tried his best to describe the landscape to me and I was a bit emotional and said I just wish I could see it. He didn’t know what to say to me and so he just listened and sometimes in life having a good friend like that to listen makes the world of difference. John is very patient with me which is helpful. Even during the races when I kept saying I wanted to give up he knew that it was just the frustration building up inside of me because of not being able to focus on anything and because of needing to use my mental visualisation so much to keep me going. In life we all need team mates to support us and keep us positive. The race director Richard tried to help me in my down moments on the races and so that is important to have people in your life that believe in you. At the end of my Marrakech race I was happy to have it over because I found it difficult. But the feeling at the end when the race medal was put around my neck was immense because I knew I deserved that medal because I worked so hard in that race and gave it everything I got to get to the end.

Through doing this challenge I have shown that I have dared to be different and you can to. If I can run a marathon on little vision, little sleep, little food and a few marathons in the days previous then we all need to shift our boundaries for what is and isn’t possible. We need to Dare to be Different. The choice lies with you. You are the one who is responsible as to whether your goals are achieved.

So what’s next? Well read my blog post later in the week to find out about my next race which is next weekend in Finland. I will give you a hint. It involves running for 24hours.

Sinead


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