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Dublin: 11 °C Monday 26 August, 2019
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The Kerryman aiming to run and cycle from California to New York in just 36 days

Shane Finn ran 24 marathons in 24 days last year and is preparing to push the limit even further in 2019.

Image: Cathal Noonan

WHEN SHANE FINN was 17-years-old, he illegally registered for his first marathon.

He was blocked from signing up, even though he would be of age by the day of the race itself, but nothing was going to stop him from running.

He’s now one of the biggest names within Irish endurance racing circles, having run 24 marathons in 24 days last summer. Finn now has an even bigger challenge on the horizon in 2019, one he’ll certainly be better prepared for than he was for his first marathon as a teenager.

“I just got it into my head, I was frustrated because I was told the registration wouldn’t go through because I was too young,” he tells The42. So I went and registered with someone else’s name.

“That was my baptism of fire. All I did going into that marathon was a couple of laps of the football field. I think I even played a football match on the night beforehand – that was my entry into endurance racing.”

An entrepreneur, the 26-year-old opened his own gym in Dingle after dropping out of college at 21 and is now also an accomplished motivational speaker. However, Finn’s drive comes something a lot more important.

His motivation is to raise as much as possible for Spina Bifida Hydrocephalus Ireland (SBHI) and he has raised almost €200,000 for SBHI to date, justifying his desperation to compete in that first marathon.

Spina Bifida is a spinal condition that severely affects mobility while Hydrocephalus sufferers’ bodies are unable to drain fluid from the brain, and an internal tube is required to relieve a pressure build up. Finn’s cousin, Mary Evans, has both conditions.

He ran 24 marathons in 24 days last June and July with the goal of raising €100,000 for SBHI. Beginning in Donegal and finishing in his hometown of Dingle, he not only reached his fundraising target – he blew it away.

“It’s actually a year since I went up to Donegal to start,” he explains.

“My fundraising target was just over €100,000 and we actually raised €142,000, that’s what it finished at.

“I’m still very proud of the team definitely, myself, the crew and the charity. I speak a lot and what I say is that we each did the 24 marathons, the team was involved and I was very proud of that.”

But Finn wasn’t happy to sit back. The charity’s funding was recently cut and that prompted him to take action.

The Kerryman is now in the midst of preparing for another endurance challenge to raise more funds for SBHI, a challenge like he’s never faced before: cycling and running across North America.

Starting in California and finishing in New York, the journey will take 36 days as he alternates between three days of running 50 kilometers and then three days of cycling 250 kilometers.

“It was the thing I was training for and thinking about for basically two years and it was gone, it was done. I own my own gym as well so straight away on Monday morning I was back in.

“A month or two passed and I was thinking ‘I kind of miss it’, but I suppose the idea for the America trip came around and the charity got its funding cut again. There were hints, a couple of little messages happening.

“I was actually in America doing some work with a university there and I was just there thinking (that) I hadn’t reached my limit with the 24 marathons in 24 days and I was eager to see (how much further I could go).

“It’s a constant journey trying to find out what your body can do. So then we came up with the idea of running and cycling across the states.”

America will provide a unique challenge for Finn; the vast continent offers many contrasting terrains and climates. There’ll be the added test of having no home comforts this time around.

His financial target has also gotten equally ambitious.

“My fundraising goal for America next year is €200,000,” he says. “I think that America is a completely different beast. We’ll have a smaller crew and no hotel. We literally have a camper van.

“There’ll be showers in the campervan, I hope anyway.

“I’ll stop on the side of the road and then that’s our hotel for the night and we’ll just begin again the next morning and it will be straight across the country to New York.

“You have to respect what you are doing, you have to respect the challenge and what it’s going to take. Obviously I will do that and tick all those boxes.

“You’ve got heat and you’ve got altitude. At the end of April we could get snow in the Rockies, you just don’t know what to expect. I think it would literally be a case of taking every day as it comes.”

Money isn’t going to be getting him out of bed every morning during those 36 days, it will be the people he’s doing it for.

It got him through the tough days on the road to Dingle last summer, and will undoubtedly push him forward on the road to New York in May.

“It’s the smiles you bring to young kids in wheelchairs’ faces, their parents and their families. (That’s) what the whole thing is really about.

John West have teamed up with Shane Finn to support their partnership of the 2018 Gaelforce series, which takes place on 23 June in Mayo and Galway. For more information, see https://gaelforceevents.com/

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