Sometimes the best adventures in life come from spur of the moment decisions.
Such was the case for Eilionior Fegan, who runs the Dundalk Polercise fitness classes and her friend Tracy Gilpin, a business psychologist from Antrim when they decided to set out on a two-week walk which would take them the length of Ireland.
Over 300 people joined Tracy and El on the final leg of their walk to Malin Head. They are pictured here celebrating after completing their epic charity walk
The idea for their epic trip was sparked during a recent stroll in the Mourne Mountains when Tracy told El she had an idea to run across Ireland to raise money for MindWise and the National Suicide Research Foundation in memory of a family member she had lost to suicide.
The two friends, who met at a white collar boxing event seven years ago, both have a passion for fitness and taking on charity challenges, so the challenge seemed within reach - once they smoothed out a few initial details.
“I’m not a runner, so I said I’ll do it if we walk it! Before we knew it we were on Google maps, plotting the best route from Mizen Head to Malin Head. That’s about as much planning as we went into!" El explained.
A few weeks later the pair had booked two weeks off from their respective jobs and arrived down in Mizen Head in Co. Cork to set off on their epic journey that would take them from one length of the country to the other.
Throughout the journey, which began on the 25th of May, the pair posted on social media and managed to secure somewhere to stay for every night of their trip.
El said: “We had no support team members when we were doing it. We very much relied on the goodwill of our friends, family members and the good people from across Ireland.”
The Polercise instructor, who has a studio in Williamson’s Mall, told how there were “random acts of kindness” from people across the country with well-wishers offering them a bed in their homes, Airbnb's and hotels for the night.
However, El says she wasn’t one bit surprised at the generosity of strangers, as she had done plenty of charity walks before:
Ll said: "Tracy was surprised, but I’d experienced this before. I said to her ‘expect this from people’. People even offered to make us dinner along the way.
“We also had a few random offers. The maddest was a guy in Athlone who contacted us saying he ran an escape rooms business and that he had no bed, but that we were welcome to sleep on the floor! We also stayed in an art studio in Birr. That was definitely a quirky one,” El recalls.
And the pair were certainly glad to have a place to rest their heads after their long days walking the backroads of Ireland.
“Most days we walked for ten to twelve hours a day, usually going to our accommodation by 8pm and covering just over 26 miles per day” El revealed.
As you would imagine with such a long journey there were a few highs and lows along the way. Tracy suffered badly with blisters on her feet from the second day of the trip but kept going “like a trooper”.
One day the pair found themselves miles away from any form of civilization with no food or water and had to make do with “Haribos and a Twix” before they reached the next town.
One of the highlights was without a doubt that El arrived home with a new pet - a kitten she found abandoned on the side of the road in Fermanagh which she called Milo “after all the miles we walked”.
And the response so far has been amazing. The inspirational duo have raised over €6,000 (€500 over the target) for Mindwise and €1156 of their €3,500.00 target for the National Suicide Research Foundation (NSRF).
“There are still two weeks left for people to donate online. We'd love to reach our target for NSRF as they desperately need the funding,” said El.
If you would like to donate to this very worthwhile cause see Tracy and El’s Big Walk on Facebook before donations close on the 3rd of July.
Donate to Mindwise here: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/mizentomalin2018 and to the National Suicide Research Foundation here: http://www.idonate.ie/MizentoMalinwalk