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Dublin: 17°C Wednesday 16 June 2021

'I just need to keep the sea to my right' - Meet the 65-year-old Wicklow woman running the coast of Ireland

She’s raising money for the RNLI – keep an eye out for her, if you live by the sea!

Source: TheJournal.ie/YouTube

ON NEW YEAR’S Day, Mary Nolan Hickey left her home in Arklow, Co Wicklow and began to run.

At 65 years of age, the long-time marathon runner is hoping to raise funds for the Irish RNLI by running the entire coast of Ireland, christening the campaign the ‘Lap of the Map’.

“I live in a coastal town and I do some rowing and the RNLI station is next to the rowing club,” she tells TheJournal.ie

When you live in a coastal town for years and hear the alarm going off it always touches you.

She said the town lost someone in the water last year – a devastating reality that highlights the importance of the service.

“It really affects the community,” she says.

And those boys and girls going out in the middle of the night in a bad storm … their whole heart and soul goes into saving peoples lives. They’re always trying their best.

As she planned her epic run, she decided to set out in winter - because RNLI crews “have to go out whatever the weather is”.

Before beginning her journey, she raised a little money for her expenses on the road, put her coffee-shop business in the hands of some friends and family, and then set off.

She aims to raise €20,000 and was expecting to be walking into towns looking for cheap hostels and B&Bs along the way.

Instead she has seen a outpouring of kindness as people and businesses have gone out of their way to put her up for the night, organise getting her bag from location to location, and even run along with her.

DUYWLDpX4AANjDf Runners accompanying Mary through parts of her journey. Source: facebook/Rnli Lapofthemap2018

Since her journey began in January she has raised over  €10,000.

“It shows the good in people,” she says.

It’s very touching to see people react like this.

She says it’s been amazing how easy conversations have been with the different communities she’s traveled through, and that the runners that join her feel like people “I’ve known all my life”.

Mary’s passion for running started when she was sixteen, when she was growing up in a “small town without much to do”. She entered a track race, enjoyed it, and from then on became hooked.

To date she is the only female to have run all 38 Dublin Marathons since they began in 1980 – and hopes to be back from her coastal journey to compete in this year’s one.

“I hope to be back in Arklow for April,” she says (ahead of her 66th birthday in June).

27067099_2130203893879153_8655843314064563965_n Mary entering Sligo with some of her supporters. Source: facebook/Rnli Lapofthemap2018

Asked if there were any negatives about her journey so far, she says:

“The scenery and human contact have been amazing. But the amount of rubbish on the roads is dispiriting.” She says that’s the only blip in what has been an amazing journey.

She has a team back in Arklow that keeps track of where she is and organises where she will be staying and going to next. This is important, she says, because as a good friend once told her:

Mary, you get lost in a supermarket. How are you going to do this?

“The sea just has to stay on my right,” Mary recalls telling her. “If I don’t lose sight of the sea, I’ll be fine.”

And even in spite of the heavy rain, hail and snow she has experienced so far, she says that as long as she keeps her heart rate low and doesn’t work herself too hard, she will be fine – adding that a bit of stubbornness helps.

She is currently passing through Glendalogh to Belmullett in Co Mayo.

You can donate to Mary’s cause here and follow her progress on Facebook and Twitter and on her tracker.

Read: ‘Father vows to run marathon while pushing daughter in wheelchair’

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