HERO MARY IS ON THE HOME STRETCH

CEL­E­BRA­TIONS PLANNED AS MARY DUE TO AR­RIVE IN ARK­LOW ON SATUR­DAY

Wicklow People - - NEWS - By DEB­O­RAH COLE­MAN

ARK­LOW ath­lete and lo­cal hero Mary Nolan Hickey is on the home stretch of her Lap of the Map fundraiser and her sup­port­ers and friends are plan­ning a wel­come home fit for a queen.

Since Jan­uary 1, Mary has run al­most the en­tire coast­line of Ire­land to raise funds for the RNLI and she is due to ar­rive back in her home­town this Satur­day, April 14.

By the time she ar­rives back in Ark­low, Mary will have com­pleted the equiv­a­lent of 57 marathons – or over 1,500 miles – through 18 coun­ties and raised over €30,000 for the vol­un­teer lifeboat ser­vices in Ire­land.

It is hoped that as many peo­ple as pos­si­ble will line the streets of Ark­low to wel­come Mary home on Satur­day.

On the day it­self, Mary will make her way from Cour­town RNLI sta­tion to Ark­low, where she is due to ar­rive on the Main Street at 2 p.m, be­fore then wind­ing her way to the Ark­low RNLI sta­tion, where it all started on New Year’s Day.

Mary has far ex­ceeded her own ex­pec­ta­tions as she ten­ta­tively aimed for a June date to com­plete the Lap of the Map chal­lenge.

The RNLI Lap of the Map crew is call­ing on as many clubs and com­mu­nity groups as pos­si­ble to join in Satur­day’s pa­rade for Mary, which will march from Ark­low Court­house to the RNLI sta­tion. There will be a small pre­sen­ta­tion at the sta­tion fol­lowed by re­fresh­ments in Ark­low Scout Hall.

Mean­while, the woman her­self is in County Wex­ford and is very ex­cited at the prospect of re­turn­ing to her beloved Ark­low.

Speak­ing to this news­pa­per on Mon­day, dur­ing a visit to Ross­lare Lifeboat Sta­tion, Mary said that she was ‘in great form’ and very much look­ing for­ward to get­ting back home again.

‘I can­not be­lieve I am on the last few days. It has been un­real and one of the most im­por­tant chal­lenges of my life. The main thing was to raise funds and cre­ate aware­ness for the RNLI and I am happy that I have done that,’ she said.

While Mary is just days away from home, she is acutely aware that she hasn’t made it back just yet and said that the same rules still ap­ply and that she is tak­ing the chal­lenge as se­ri­ously as ever.

‘I’m still out on the roads and the same safety rules still ap­ply. It’s okay when it’s just me but when peo­ple join me, I feel re­spon­si­ble for them and I ex­plain the way I want them to run each morn­ing. It’s so im­por­tant to me that every­one is safe and that every­one ar­rives back home safe and well,’ she said.

As for her own con­di­tion, Mary is feel­ing as fit as ever and although a pesky long-stand­ing ham­string in­jury had reared its head for up to a month of her Lap of the Map, it has now calmed down and she is mak­ing great pace.

‘I am still run­ning 90 per cent of the time and only walk­ing the very steep hills. I am de­lighted about that as I ex­pected to be walk­ing more by this stage,’ she said.

Meet­ing so many dif­fer­ent peo­ple from across the coun­try has been a high­light of her chal­lenge so far.

‘The peo­ple have been mag­nif­i­cent. Once I fin­ish run­ning each day, there are al­ways lovely peo­ple to sit down and have a cup of tea with and they are all so sup­port­ive and en­cour­ag­ing. Only this (Mon­day) morn­ing, I was run­ning past a school and all the kids came out to wave and give me high-fives. It is just won­der­ful.’

Mary is to­day (Wed­nes­day) en­joy­ing a rest day in Wex­ford town and will head for Kil­muck­ridge to­mor­row be­fore con­tin­u­ing on to Cour­town – her fi­nal stop be­fore home – on Fri­day.

Mary’s tar­get of €20,000 has been an­ni­hi­lated and her on­line fundrais­ing ef­forts have passed €33,000. How­ever, her team are still en­cour­ag­ing any­one who can to do­nate to her fund and help life-sav­ing RNLI crews in their work. This can be done at https://give.ev­ery­day­hero.com/ ie/rnli-lap-of-the-map

Pupils from Kil­rane NS come out to cheer Mary on as she passed the school on Mon­day morn­ing as she made her way to Ross­lare Lifeboat Sta­tion.

Mary Nolan Hickey at Fethard Lifeboat Sta­tion in Co Wex­ford on Satur­day morn­ing.

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