Mark Conlon’s latest Marathon mission

by James Hendicott

Seasoned marathon runner Mark Conlon will start his biggest challenge yet on June 3 in Clontarf as he powers into a campaign to run a marathon every day for an indefinite period.

As is usual for the Bawnogue man, the aim is to raise awareness of growing homelessness issues in Dublin.

Conlon finished his 150th marathon in Donabate recently and has previously undertaken challenges that have seen him complete 20 marathons in 20 days and also complete a full circuit of Ireland in order to raise money for charities such as the Simon Community and Pieta House.

He works with luas security firm STT, and has become increasingly concerned with his experiences early in the morning and throughout the day with the homeless community.
“It’s horrible to see what people experience,” Conlon told the Dublin Gazette.

“I see people every morning leaving shop doorways, temporary accommodation or hostels, and then just moving around all day as they have nowhere to go. I hope I can raise some awareness of the problem.”

The indefinite aspect of the project links to this awareness raising. Conlon has taken leave from his company – who he thanks for their support in his plans – for the first 10 or so marathons.

But after they have put their weight behind him, he feels they will support his project for an extended period.

A possible figure of as many as 50 consecutive marathons is mentioned.

“I plan to run with anyone who will join me, homeless or otherwise, but particularly with homeless people” he says.

He thinks the challenge might appeal to people who are often stuck just moving around all day and want to do something bigger with that time.

“I want to capture their stories. It’s not about me talking about homelessness, it’s about homeless people having their own say.

“I’ll slow down on any day that anyone wants to join me, for however long they want to join me. I might run a bit faster on other days when I’m alone.

“But I really hope that I can persuade some of the homeless community to join me and that I can organise some way of filming and conveying those stories to the public. I hope to reach out to some student filmmakers who might be interested in collecting the stories and perhaps making a documentary later.

“I want to hear everyone’s ideas and stories to try and solve this problem,” he continues, before thanking his friend Ger Copeland, who runs East Coast Marathons, for his contribution on the practical side of things.

Copeland will post Conlon’s GPS maps and times from his daily runs on the Dublin Bay Running Club site, and has been key in helping Conlon develop his running so far, in particular through his series of affordable events, put on through East Coast Marathons.

“I really want something to change. I’m not sure what I want done yet, that will come from talking to the people affected,” Conlon says. “We need to stand together and make it clear to the government that we won’t let this happen anymore, and we want changes. I hope anyone at all interested does come along and join me anytime they can.”

If anyone’s capable of completing the planned distance of just under 300 kms a week, there’s little doubt Conlon has the pedigree to do so: his loop of Ireland averaged further on a day-to-day basis.

Consistently covering distances like this comes down to nutrition, avoiding injury, and physical preparation (of which Conlon has plenty).

You can track down his iDonate.ie fundraising page by searching ‘Peter McVerry Trust’ and ‘Mark Conlon’ on Google, and get in touch through the fundraising or Dublin Bay Marathon Facebook page to join Mark, or make suggestions.

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