'The people of Dundalk have been fantastic', says battling Mark
Cycling the 380 miles from Mizen to Malin Head would be a daunting prospect for anybody, now imagine doing it propelled solely by your arms using a hand bike!
That’s the challenge Dundalk resident Mark Nugent will be undertaking this Sunday. Mark suffered a spinal cord injury when he was knocked off his bike by a truck on his way to kayak training in April 2016.
Before the accident, the 42-year-old, who is originally from Kildare, was involved in a wide range of sports - “any game with a stick or a ball and I’ve played it”. He was also an experienced cyclist and runner, completing four marathons and taking part in numerous charity events.
His life-changing injury didn’t dampen his determination however, he remembers with a smile a conversation he had with his doctor before his operation, saying: “The doctor asked me what my goal was, and I told him it was to do my fifth marathon in a wheelchair. He laughed and said most people usually say I just want to get out of here and have some independence.”
Mark achieved this when he completed the Kilkenny marathon last year, it was after this that he says the idea for his current challenge came to him.
“I told my wife Jacqueline I’d like to enter the lottery for the Berlin Marathon in 2019, so we entered that, and it was on my honeymoon that I decided I needed something to do in the meantime, and doing Mizen to Malin had always been on my bucket list,” explained Mark.
After deciding on the two charities he would raise money for (Spinal injuries Ireland and Breast Cancer Ireland) he began an intense training schedule beginning in January; starting off doing half an hour a day on a turbo trainer and building from there.
He admits that at times it has been hard: “My first time out on the road in February I did 20k and then didn’t get back on the bike for a week because it killed me. I did a 95k dry run from Mizen to Macroom and there was a 900 metre climb, I stopped at the side of the road and told my wife Jacqueline I can’t do this, but she reminded me why I was doing it and told me to get over my little hissy fit and keep going. We did get there in the end and I had energy left over, its mental barriers more than anything.”
What has really heartened him has been the level of support he has received, he reels off a list of names too numerous to mention, friends, family, neighbours and even strangers have all helped him get to this point.
“The people of Dundalk have been fantastic we’ve gotten loads of sponsors from local businesses. The amount of people that beep and give encouragement when I am out training has been unbelievable, even going down the town people stop to say best of luck,” said Mark.
He will start his challenge this Sunday and has set up a GoFundMe page (marknugentm2m) where people can donate money to the two chosen charities.