“When I get asked why I want to walk the length of Ireland over seven consecutive days, my first thoughts are why not?” says Mullingar man, Mark McCormack.
And if in doing so, he fulfils his ambition of getting his name into the Guinness Book of Records, that will be a bonus for the young banker, who hopes the challenge he is setting himself will raise €20,000 for the Irish Cancer Society.
Mark’s plan is to set off from Malin Head on June 21, hitting Derry on day 1, Enniskillen on day 2, Athlone on day 3, Nenagh on day 4, Kilmallock on day 5, Doneraile on day 6 - and then arrive at Mizen Head on day 7.
While there is a world record for running the 546km (339miles) route, there is no evidence in existence of anyone having walked the distance in anything less than 12 days, says Mark (33) who is looking forward to both the physical and mental challenge involved.
Mark has a background in athletics, going back to his days as a child growing up in D’Alton Park.
“As a young lad I had trouble breathing as a kid. I couldn’t run five yards without coughing and spluttering so I did the opposite of what I should have done by taking up athletics.
“I wasn’t much good at Gaelic football (punched the ball into my own net in my first training session down in Loman’s) and wasn’t much better at soccer (ended up on the sidelines out in Mullingar Athletic).
“With both soccer and Gaelic football ruled out, running was the next option,” he explains.
At St Mary’s CBS, John Mulcaire trained him, and through Mullingar Harriers, he received training from Bobbie Begley. The result was that at 18, Mark was offered an athletics scholarship to go to a university in West Virginia. For a number of reasons, he turned down the offer, and headed instead to DIT, winding up in a career in banking.
Apart from the odd game of five-a-side and the occasional run, “athletics, unfortunately, fell by the wayside,” says Mark, who is four months off completing a Master’s degree in project management through the Smurfit Business School.
“Two and a half years ago following the completion of the Dublin marathon I was looking for a new challenge.
“I’d followed with interest Gerry Duffy and Ken Whitelaw’s 32 marathons over 32 consecutive days and running one just didn’t cut if for me then,” he says, going on to explain that inspiration for his Malin to Mizen walk came about following a conversation with his cousin, and he began training for it, walking up to 24 miles in a session.
“Working full-time and studying part-time is challenging and I wouldn’t be able to attempt the walk without the support of my wife Shivani, who has, surprisingly, not once told me I was an idiot for trying this!” jokes Mark.
He adds that project management teaches one to seek out “mentors”, and both Gerry Duffy and Bernie Comaskey have been kind in that respect with their time. In addition, Noel Molloy of the Downs and Mark Carroll of Tower View, have been playing support roles in advance of the event and his father Michael has a week off from his work with the Irish Wheelchair Association to drive the support car in June.
The Guinness Book of Records team is currently reviewing Mark’s application to have the walk recognised as a world record attempt.
• If you would like to donate sponsorship to Mark’s Irish Cancer Society fund, you can do so at MyCharity.ie.
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