By Paddy Mulchrone
WEST Cork opened its hearts, homes and wallets to an extraordinary woman running and walking around Ireland for charity – at the age of 65.
Mary Nolan Hickey recently ‘turned for home’ at Mizen Head with the help of a group of West Cork girls embarking on their own charity challenge.
Multi-marathon hero Mary had already smashed her €20,000 target for the RNLI as she hit the half way mark of her four-month Lap of the Map of more than 3,000km, at Mizen Head.
Emma Jepson, Carolyn Daly, Gillian Newman, Nuala Hodnett and Karen Hegarty will run their own 330km 5 for Life relay in June from Tarbert, via Dingle, Killarney and Clonakilty to Crookhaven, in aid of Marymount and Bantry Hospices and the West Cork Feel Good Youth Programme.
The girls from Goleen and Crookhaven welcomed Mary, from Arklow, at Toormore and ran with her to Goleen and Mizen Head as the long-distance runner completed her run down the west coast of Ireland. Shadowed by Goleen’s own coastguard staff, they were welcomed at the village’s Mizen information centre, then cheered on their way by flag-waving children at the local National school.
Superfit Mary, who runs a café, is the only woman to have completed every Dublin marathon since its inception 38 years ago. She has also completed the gruelling Marathon des Sables in the Sahara desert and is undertaking her Lap of the Map unsupported, relying on volunteers for support and accommodation, and visiting every RNLI station on her coast-hugging route.
Now she is heading for home, along Ireland’s eastern shoreline and ‘keeping the sea on my right’ all the way, while carrying best wishes from West Cork.
She told The Southern Star: ‘I’ve had a wonderful West Cork welcome. The scenery is stunning and the welcome so warm. I’m so grateful to everyone who has supported me and the RNLI.’ Emma, who runs the Crookhaven Inn, said: ‘She is an inspiration to us all. If she can do all this, we can certainly do our relay run in June. We were happy to welcome her.’
You can support Mary at www.rnlilapofthemap.com and the girls 5 for Life campaign on Facebook and gofundme.com.