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Tramore's Marathon Man Reflects On His Arduous Journey

Tramore's Marathon Man Reflects On His Arduous Journey
By Luke Delaney

Running a marathon is a huge achievement for anyone.

Running 35 marathons in 35 consecutive days is something few of us would dare take on.

Then deciding to swim the length of Ireland from the Giant's Causeway all the way down to Tramore is the task of possibly just one person. That man is Alan Corcoran, the Marathon Man from Tramore.

After Alan's dad, Milo suffered a stroke in 2011, he wanted to make a difference and push his body to the limit after his dad fell ill. Alan started the first of his 35 marathons in the summer of 2012 and he raised €15,000 for three different charities.

The whole journey of 35 marathons in 35 days is documented in his book Marathon Man which has recently won an award in the 26th IPPY Book Awards. His swim is documented in a documentary film called Unsinkable.

Balls sat down with Alan to discuss his incredible journeys

'I wanted to ... create something out of that shitshow'

Speaking exclusively to Balls.ie, Alan spoke openly about how the challenge came about and how his dad having a stroke gave him the boost he needed to begin.

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"Sports and running was one of my childhood passions. So that was sort of the outlet for it, I put that energy when he had the stroke... I was studying and just needed a positive focus, wanted to do something good, create something out of that sort of shitshow really, try to raise money for stroke charities and sports charities that he was involved in"

Alan's father Milo made a full recovery from the stroke but it was another event surrounding his dad that made Alan begin his challenge of swimming the length of Ireland.

In the summer of 2016, Alan was driving around France on his motorbike while meeting up with friends and family during Euro 2016, having what he described as "the time of their lives".

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Sadly, Milo was diagnosed with cancer and passed away just weeks after the Euros.

" Me and my family were going around France for the Euro's. We were having the time of our lives at that, I was driving my motorbike around and my family we're flying from one city to another, to meet up with me and a few of my friends who were over from the UK and London. So it was great craic but then it was only weeks afterwards that my dad got his cancer diagnosis and then three weeks later he was dead. So, it just went from a lifetime high really over the Euros, and all that craic to just being at the bottom really"

'I felt that I let my dad down'

Again, Alan wanted to try and do something positive from this life changing event, so he embarked on his challenge of a 500km swim from the Giants Causeway to Tramore in May 2017.

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Sadly, after swimming over 200km, Alan had to end his venture after his support boat sunk, leading to him and his crew being rescued by the RNLI.

"So I swam 210 kilometres give or take from the Giants Causeway down to Newcastle, and the support boat that we got last minute sunk.... I was devastated.

"Because I put in all the work at that stage, I was getting acclimatized to the cold, it's getting easier to get into the water, again, easier to stay in the water, I was doing up to five hours a day. So I felt like I could keep going but you can't without a support boat and without a support crew. So that even added an extra layer of frustration.

"I felt that I let my dad down, like it was a charity event for his honour and his memory as well. So there was that layer of emotion too. "

After what Alan described as "a lonely bus journey from Northern Ireland to Waterford", The Marathon Man drew a line under his challenge and didn't give it much thought in the time after his failed attempt.

It wasn't until an interview with a local radio station where Alan's hunger to complete the 500km swim was reignited.

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"It wasn't until a year later when I had an interview with the local radio station and they were saying 'would you do it again?' and 'what did you learn?' and I had no answers really for them, which sort of played on repeat in my mind for the days and weeks after that interview.

"And I was like well, I’m confident in the swimming and then there's just the organization and the support system. So that's sort of when I picked back up again and was like right let's see if I can do it a bit more professionally this time around."

With this, Alan decided to give the swim a second attempt, this time, with the extra planning and support needed to complete the length of Ireland swim.

After taking out a bank loan, Alan bought a sailboat capable of surviving the rough seas and got his girlfriend, Karolina on board, as a safety kayaker.

A second attempt

In June 2019, two years after his first attempt at swimming the length of Ireland, Alan stood at the Giants Causeway yet again, ready to start his 500km voyage.

Many obstacles faced Alan yet again with wrong tide times and storms at the forefront of trying to bring difficulty to his charity swim.

"The first day, the sailors had picked the wrong tide time. So that was frustrating.....then the second day, was just rough, rough seas. "

Alan was also aware of the focus and attention that people were giving him and he didn't want to show any sign of weakness during the first week of the swim.

"People were watching out or paying attention to the first week, we needed to sort of set down the marker ..... I was getting battered by waves. But again, having the support crew there, having the sailboat. We wouldn't have been able to do that with the rib on the first attempt, you wouldn't have been able to do it in those conditions.

"So it's sort of paid off that investment but having the sailboat, having the sailors there, that you could get out in those conditions and make great progress on that second swim as well."

Alan Corcoran celebrates finishing his 500km swim from the Giant's Causeway to Tramore. Photo by Garrett Fitzgerald Photography.

The swarm of jellyfish

Other than the weather concerns, the long swim brought many other obstacles Alan's way. From jellyfish stings to almost being hit by a ferry, Alan had his fair share of tricky encounters to deal with.

" The second you see the swarm of jellyfish below you just get panic attacks. It just feels unnatural. I grew up like most people to just go for a dip in the seaside, getting out after you get your breath back, you don't spend prolonged periods of time with your face down in the water staring at Lion's Mane jellyfish and big swarms of Moon jellyfish. So trying to get used to that visual was intense. I got stung by a few Lion's Mane jellyfish."

"You're going across Dublin with ferries coming at you. Having seen those you’re going 'What am I after signing up?' "

Alan also wanted to try and get the full extent of the fundraiser and invited people to swim the final length of the journey with him, but organising this while spending hours on end in the sea proved to be difficult.

"I was there, writing a 30-page health and safety statement from scratch and trying to pull in volunteers, safety kayakers, and all that sort of crap.

"But then, as well, with the run, you knew 26.2 miles each day, every day. So you knew exactly where you're going to be for the next five weeks, at any given point.....and ringing up on the blower to these insurance companies. And they needed the date set and the time set a week out."

After weeks of organising, the final leg of the swim was set but due to weather conditions on the day, people weren't allowed into the water with Alan.

Despite this Alan spoke about how amazed he was with the support and the thrill he felt when finishing his journey.

"Two years of work coming from the lowest point in my life and having that support there and raising 30,000 euro for charity, with my family helping me big time and Karolina and just even the volunteers coming down and everyone signing up. I think it was a real community aspect. "

Alan's new documentary 'Unsinkable' starts it's film festival tour this summer and is currently airing at the London Film Festival.

His book 'Marathon Man' can be bought here. You can watch the trailer for 'Unsinkable' here.

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