Ian’s Epic marathon challenge will raise money for Simon

March 25th, 2022 11:50 AM

By Emma Connolly

Ian McLelland will depart for Morocco on March 25th and after two nights in the desert ‘base camp’, will set off on March 27th to take on the Marathon des Sables.

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A CLONAKILTY-based project manager is getting ready to take on one of the toughest footraces on earth to raise money for Cork Simon Community.

Ian McLelland is in his final days of training before he sets off for the Marathon des Sables, a six-day, 250km race across the Sahara, where temperatures can reach up to 50C by day and drop to near freezing at night.

Originally from the UK, Ian is married to Grainne O’Keeffe, from Skibbereen, who heads up the Ludgate. The couple moved to Clon from New York with their three kids in 2014.

Ian ran his first marathon in Chicago back in 2002, and was instantly hooked.

‘At the time running a marathon was a bucket list item but I knew even before I crossed the finish line I’d be back! The whole energy and buzz of the event was just amazing and I’ve done a few different marathons since.

‘My first introduction to Clonakilty was through the triathlon club when Grainne signed me up for an Ironman race as a surprise Christmas present shortly after we moved here – talk about a baptism of fire!

‘A couple of years later I ended up going to France with a mate to participate in the Haute Route Alps, a relatively famous (in cycling circles) and gruelling week-long cycle race from Nice to Geneva through the French and Swiss Alps covering many of the famous Tour de France climbs.

‘A couple of years after that I was talked into taking on the Galley Head 10k swim.’

Ian, who specialises in IT project management, is also part of the West Cork Underwater Search and Rescue Unit (WCUSAR).

‘I guess with the “big cycle” and the “big swim” under my belt the idea of the “big run” started to take root and I finally decided to bite the bullet for the 2022 edition.’

Naturally he has been  training intensely for a long period.

‘The regime has had different phases and changed over time, starting with a very broad based fitness regime and become increasing event specific ie hiking and running, carrying a pack, increasing distances, trying out food and equipment so everything is tried and tested before you get to the desert.’

He feels that homelessness is a ‘shocking and disgraceful crisis in modern Ireland’ and wants to help in any way he can which is why he’s fundraising for Cork Simon.

‘I can remember when we first moved to Ireland in 2014 the news coverage at the time about the “homelessness

‘I think the numbers were somewhere around 2,000 homeless people including 600 children and growing. While that’s of course an unacceptable figure I distinctly remember thinking that compared to somewhere like the UK that was a low enough figure, that it was an eminently solvable problem.

‘In other words, with swift, decisive government action measures could be put in place to halt that increase, find means to house those people, and stop the problem before it spiralled out of control.

‘Instead what we’ve had is eight years of the same trite rhetoric and lack of action from those in power and figures are probably 300-400% higher now, and still no certainty things aren’t going to get deteriorate further. It’s shocking and shameful.

‘The work the Cork Simon Community does is essential, and provides a literal lifeline to so many people.

‘I can’t think of a more worthy organisation to receive whatever funds I’m fortunate enough to be able to raise from this event.’

Along with his friend, another Clon-based WCUSAR vounteer, Pat Mulcahey, he’ll depart for Morocco on March 25th and after two nights in the desert base camp, will set off on March 27th.

‘The race takes seven days on foot, covering the equivalent of six marathons, carrying everything you need for the week on your back, with the exception of water rations which are issued at camp and various checkpoints along the way, sleeping in communal Berber tents by night.

‘And then, all going well, a couple of nights in a local hotel celebrating with new friends and sampling the local beers!’

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