Struggle is very real for marathon man

by James Hendicott

Charity focused distance runner Mark Conlon has passed the midway point in his Peter McVerry Trust fundraising challenge, a marathon opus designed to raise awareness of Dublin’s growing homelessness problem.

Conlon had originally set his ‘marathon a day’ challenge at an unlimited length, with the hope that he could fundraise substantially as well as drawing a huge amount of awareness to the cause by simply carrying on. Of course, life was always going to get in the way at some point.

The Bawnogue man reached the 16 marathon mark on Sunday – 419 miles (674 kms) – in just over a fortnight. The experienced athlete is running most of his marathons around the same course: a loop heading from Clontarf towards Howth, past North Bull Island, circling the Howth Summit route a couple of times, and then heading back to his starting point.

He describes his attempt as “rustic”, in that he’s living his life around it with a minimal support team, and making it intentionally more difficult by including the hills around the Howth route. The typical marathon is taking him between four and a half and five hours to complete the 42km route.

“It’s about struggle which is why I’m trying to make it that little bit more difficult,” Conlon says of his already extraordinarily ambitious plan.

“I haven’t seen a physio during this so far. I’m having a bit of trouble with my achilles and with my knees, so I’m going really slowly up the steep hills around Howth. I’m tired, and I wake up with a lot aches every morning. But it’s going okay, and I can start to count down instead of up now.”

Conlon plans to finish with a reception on the night of the final marathon of 30, which falls on Sunday, June 30. He hopes to have the opportunity to speak about homelessness to the Dail through his endeavours, ideally before the summer break.

“It’s about awareness, and I really hope they’ll let me speak to them about the problems,” he says, adding that he hopes to raise a substantial sum for Peter McVerry through a couple of events towards the end of the month.

“I’ve set it at 30, I hope I get the chance to say my piece before it loses momentum.”

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