An Trek Fada

Day 14 – Ground Hog Day

Like a mirage in the dessert - that was what that Pint of Guinness became in the end...
Like a mirage in the dessert – that was what that Pint of Guinness became in the end…

So Day 13 turned out to be pretty lucky for me after all. Simple really – I made it.

Now for some stats. In 13 days I…..

– Walked approx 420 000 steps

-Burnt approx 45 500 calories

-Put on 0.5kg (or one pound for the non metrics)

-Saw 40 shades of Green – and yes –  50 Shades of Grey

-fell in love with Ireland all over again

-Got a fabulous Tan (albeit  in bits 😉

Many people ask me still how do I come up with these things, and the answer is simple. I simply don’t know. I warned everybody that I needed to do something mad, so as to get a bit of my own madness out of my system, and most importantly remind myself to stretch my boundaries. You see – I am not your typical sporty physical type, but would much rather sit on my now slightly smaller derriere and ponder current affairs, or research some bit of trivia that would never require any further thought, but at the time is ever so important.

The past 13 days has been my Ground Hog Day – I did not awake every morning with “I got you babe”, but in the beginning it was amusing. By day three, the weather and elements battered at me with a fierce determination to make sure I considered quitting. The first couple of days you get up and you think optimistically that today will be different, but then another shower dampens your spirits.

When spirits are dampened, the temptation is always there to give up, but alas, when like groundhog day you know what is in store, you can also use that knowledge to change a mindset. So I chose to walk on.

Yesterday was my coupe de grace though, as I ended up walking 37km to get myself home to Wexford Quays. I had that pint of Guinness at Simon’s Place, a hamburger and then I went home to reflect. Along the way I was joined by friends from diverse backgrounds and organisations, and I could not help but think how unlikely a smorgasbord of beautiful people I have in my life. How truly blessed am I.

I had spent 13 days pondering the perfect ending to this journey, and what I would write, but it is just such an overwhelming gambit of contradictory emotions, that combined with my ADHD I can’t seem to get the words out right now.

I’m delighted that The Journal had an article about the journey and highlighted the plight of so many, I am equally flattered that everyone did not want to let me know the negative commentary that was there. Nice for them to be protective, but again, in the words of Jacinta from BodyWhys, we started a conversation about body image and what causes eating disorders, and we managed to highlight  a charity (BodyWhys) that serves a very determined purpose if needed, and which I suspect as the pressure heats up on self esteem issues in the new world, will have a tougher job than ever. To those who said I was fat and the list goes on – before I set off on this journey, I got a full medical, and in the words of my doctor, I have never been healthier. Along the way some commented that they assumed I’m in my 30’s (must be doing something right), and all in all I have been overwhelmed by how I gave a voice to many, rather than the negativity of a few.

So as I now bring this chapter to and end, I wish to thank so many, and will do it in person, but most importantly I want to thank my bosses – Tricia and Pat Quinn, and in his memory – Paddy Quinn – and colleagues You see – many moons ago these people took a chance on me, knowing that it was a risk. And when a couple of months ago I put in my holidays and told them what I was going to do – they simply got behind me , sponsored my outfits even, and wished me well.

Candles were lit, prayers were said, and my fellow workmates just rallied behind me and dare I say some are even proud of me. For all of that I am truly humbled.

For all the kindness, well wishes and support I am grateful.

Sometimes you need to face your Groundhog Day, and do it differently.

All it takes is a first step.

An Trek Fada

Day 11 – Mind over Matter

Time to say goodnight...
Time to say goodnight…

Tonight I simply cannot write too much, as I have to rest my most important muscle… my brain.

To say that at this stage I am physically in bits would be a slight euphemism, but a few more tapes, needles and prods from the very selfless Siobhan Guiry should keep me strapped in for the final two days.

What I have not spoken about is the toll this walk has taken on my mind. It truly is the most extraordinary gift we have, and the ability it provides us to do…. or in some cases not do,

is overwhelming.

I have chosen to set my mind to what I can do in life, rather than what I can’t do, and in order to fulfil that over the next two days, I simply need to turn off the switch, and lull myself into 8 hours of dreamless and restful sleep. If I manage that, like so many other things, I know I can do anything I want to.

So for your continued belief and support, I thank you each and everyone – but tonight I need to rest.


An Trek Fada

Day 10 – R-E-S-P-E-C-T


When I was walking through Stamullen which now feels like months ago, I walked past a school, and the kids were on their lunch break. It was a beautiful sunny day and they were all playing outside.

I had taken my earphones out as you do when entering a populated area (An Trek Fada etiquette 101), so could hear what was being said by the kids. There were about 6 girls huddled near the football nets. First they pointed, then one put her hand over her mouth, and then they started commenting on me, my attire, my size and the list goes on…. Just loud enough for me to hear. And yes, their intent was very much for me to hear them.

I remember feeling very sad, not for what they were alluding to, but purely because of the lack of respect, no matter how silly my attire, or the size of my frame, they had for me as an adult. I was even sadder as they clearly could not differentiate from the fact that I expected them to laugh with me, not at me, and that how much more blessed I was than them for being so comfortable in my skin.

Fast forward to today which was a day of true blessings. I had people really respond today, and wishing me well, and honking horns, and a day that was like Ravel’s Bolero… A slow exercise in crescendo which ended in a bang.

I had this lady stop along the way who had just heard me on SE Radio, and wanted to thank me when she saw me walking, as she and her daughter suspect that her granddaughter might have an eating disorder, and that through my interview they now had the name of BodyWhys, and would follow it up from there. And I thought to myself – wow, if just this one person gets help, then every step has been completely worth it.

But then, alas, my euphoria got dampened right at the end, when just as I was about to finish on the Clough Roundabout, two young women in a SUV came to the roundabout. The one actually held her hand over her eyes, as she “embarrassedly looked away” and the other who was driving and her were giggling and laughing at me.

This time I could not resist, and gave them the one finger in equal juvenile manner.

Why, do you ask, did I resort to such a childish reaction? Instinct!

How sad that even at an older age, these women could not see that they were more embarrassing themselves with their insecurity at not being able to have a bit of a laugh with me, than at me…. and again, that word respect. They did not even have the common decency like so many to at least ignore my absurdity, rather than try and ridicule it.

How very difficult must it be for young people with issues in this world of little respect and trust to speak up when in pain, distress or trouble -when at the core they believe what they see – being bullied and ridiculed?

I did not let this insignificant happening get me down, but I do feel a genuine and heart wrenching concern tonight for those who are not able to shrug things like this off…. and who resort to self harm of so many kinds to make the hurt go away, rather than embrace their uniqueness and speak up.


An Trek Fada

Day 9 – What shin?


Part of the wonders of this journey is that I am a most unlikely poster child for anything physical! Built like a brick shithouse, I’m more the type of person you want in a drunken arm wrestling contest than a marathon walk, but in that lies the humour in itself – so let me continue.

I had NO idea I had shins. I have heard of them – but in my anatomy class there are two legs, two arms, a body, a head and various bits that fit together and work in oblivious harmony to keep me alive.

When I was till a smoker I sure did know where my lungs were, and due to my genetics, I, nor anybody else for that matter had any problem finding my arse, but as for the finer details that makes up this “temple” that is me – shins? Never!

In the spirit of body consciousness, I was rather disappointed at the age of around 13 when I looked in the mirror and realised that I was not deemed to be the next Ms South Africa. I was soon told “You are a handsome young woman who turns a neat ankle” (Transcribed means you are not exactly an oil painting, but some one will have you, and put a bit of a heel on those long flat feet of yours, and you have slim ankles for a big girl)

This is all still grand – but no-one ever said to you – “God, what a fine shin you have!”

Well let me tell you – I have a left shin alright, and as someone who has experienced childbirth, I can now quite vociferously describe what a shin splint is . (I apologise for those not having gone through childbirth without pain killers – but hopefully my description will give you much to look forward to).

Imagine will you a small 5 cent size hole about 2 inches above your foot, along that bone at the bottom of your leg, in the front that is barely covered with skin. This hole is unknown to you, as it is bone – but you do not realise that hundreds of little nerves, vessels, muscles and ligaments make that leg go forward and backwards, and can even cause you to walk long distances. Now imagine a tennis ball has mysteriously found it’s way behind that hole, and has decided during said long walk that it does NOT want to be part of your body at certain times, and no matter how much tape you put on it, it WILL try to get out.

No warning, no explanation…. false sense of quiet and rest before it makes it’s next assault. Sound familiar? And then the longer the walking, the more frequent it becomes.

The beauty of all this? Just like childbirth, by the end of the day you’re sense of achievement outweighs the pain, and by the next day it is a long and distant memory, and you do it all again thanks to a bit of TLC and a good doctor.

Four more days to keep putting my best shin forward!

An Trek Fada

Day 2 – Ja well, but why?

My favourite pose in Shankill Road, with my South African Beanie one... In reconciliation with one self all is possible
My favourite pose in Shankill Road, with my South African Beanie one… In reconciliation with one self all is possible

The flesh was willing, but the get up and go did not want to play with at the start.

The body was surprisingly fit after yesterday, but what started off as a sunny day – yes I even have a bit of sunburn – ended up being a day with gusts and showers.

So I am inspired by a comment by Gisela to write the reason tonight why I am doing this walk, and particularly in this outfit.

I am truly astounded every day how conscious young kids are already about their dietary habits, or lack of – and what they look like.

I respect and appreciate the Jamie Oliver’s of this world and all attempts to make kids eat more healthy, but even the healthiest eating child can have self image issues – and hence lead to eating disorders.

What you never hear about is that genetics also dictates what you will look like and how you will be built – and that we can do absolutely nothing about. So where are they explaining THAT to kids?

Where do they teach them coping mechanisms to deal with not being little Brad Pitts and Claudia Schiffers? Do they teach them other skills, or park it with a “ah you’ll be grand”

So I learnt when I was not going to be the next Ms South Africa to develop a keen sense of humour, or something akin to what is referred to as a personality.

I also learnt that when you are not “normal”, best to learn to laugh at yourself, before others do! Simple really!

So this walk is to raise funds for BodyWhys first and foremost, to help them help those who are not blessed with the confidence to deal with whatever causes their attitude with food.

But it is also for me. To remind myself that just before I take myself too seriously, and become too corporate – that at the core of who and what I am is having a bit of a laugh… even at my own expense.

When I read up on BodyWhys’s function in today’s society I realised that is exactly what they deal with. And I wonder how much time and hurt in my own life could have been avoided had I that type of support in my early teens, when it could have made such a difference.

An Trek Fada

Day 1 – Belfast #1

Terrence & Myrtle holding my hand for the first leg send off!
Terrence & Myrtle holding my hand for the first leg send off!

There has been curiosity as to why I actually started in Belfast, when Dublin would have equally gotten the message across.

Well, it’s a very personal reason (and I apologise to other Irish cities in advance) – Belfast is my favourite city in Ireland (ouch – stop that stoning please!!)

The other reason is that now that I am officially Irish, I can cross the border “legally”.

What I have loved about Belfast since the very first visit is the tangible history embedded in every nook and cranny. This is not an old history, and the undercurrents of the political strifes are still very evident, but at least it is real.

The Titanic Centre is amazing, the walk up Shankill, and then through the storm gates down to Falls Road is like walking in time with history, rather than reading it in a book.

The Europa Hotel, the Crowne Bar, the Linen Library, and the list goes on. Most importantly the Taxi Tours are a must – but you have to do both a Protestant and Catholic one to get full perspective. The respect within the taxi tourism community is something I think many can learn from. Civility, some safety words but most importantly a mutual respect for each other’s turf.

Not an agreement, just a respect and understanding that everyone is different, but deserve their space.

So when we parked in front of the Titanic Centre today – may I add ON THE TAXI RANK as a man kept on reminding us (where is their sense of charity…. sinking! whahahahaha) – we had a car park behind us and in a thick Natal accent ask us if “This is parking”

What a co-incidence! Terrence and Myrtle are on holidays in Ireland in their winter woolies and fleeces! There they randomly park at the titanic centre – lo and behold only to meet more Saffas! And one that proceeded to strip for them! They of course now think I have been touched by Irish madness, but it was such a great send off. Unexpected but somehow as it should have been!

So with the Belfast Marathon just at an end, people’s initial reaction was not of surprise, as there were many lycra wearing folks around, albeit that they might have looked a little more sporty, if not less drenched. But yes, I did get a couple of lads commenting on “Look what this guy is wearing!” Really – lad – my job for BodyWhys is FAR from done!

I had a young boy on in Lisburn Road ask me if I was cold and needed an umbrella (Bless), and I made a few oldies giggle outside a home where they were watching the passing parade (under a canopy).

When I hit the A1 however, many tooted encouragingly, and although the last 4 kilometres were really hard going (a lot to be said for long slow rising slopes), a day done and dusted.

Now to wait and see what the joints think tomorrow (and not the ones I can smoke and fly with either )

Anyhow – one down and 12 to go… who’s scared?

An Trek Fada

-2 Days – Wet! Wet! Wet!


It’s official on 4 apps…. 70-80% chance of rain on Monday! Well, as a wise man once said, there is no such thing as bad weather, just the wrong clothes.

Enter the full on Transparent Mac. Belt, pockets… The works. It is now taken out and aired in advance.

I would be lying if I said I was not disappointed, as dry weather would obviously make the first day that little easier, but hey! It’s all for a good cause.

That said, keep those donations coming in… It’s now a case of wet and lost dignity for a great unsung charity that is BodyWhys Ireland, but that affects almost everyone at some level!

See the DONATE HERE! At the top of the page and Just do It!

You know I will!


An Trek Fada

-4 Days – Message in a Bottle

Meant to be
Letter from Cumbria

Whenever I receive post at the hotel addressed to previous owners or staff that are long gone – I simply put it in the bin, as by this stage I assume it is junk mail.

Return to sender...
Return to sender…

This morning – for whatever reason – was different. I was about to put this hand written envelope from the UK, addressed to a Mr G O’Hanlon, in the bin when something told me open it. And so I did….

In there, was this letter from Margaret Battrick from Lancashire in UK, explaining how she was walking on the beach on 17th April 2014 whilst visiting her mother-in-law in Braystones, Cumbria – and amongst the rubbish she found this bottle with a message in it. The message had a reward of £5 – no less – for the person who returned the message to Mr G O’Hanlon at the Brandon House, New Ross, County Wexford.

Very quickly we put the story together, and I decided to contact Mr O’Hanlon’s mother to tell her about this most extraordinary happening.

George O’Hanlon was her son, and was born on 7/7/77. She can’t quite recall when George sent the message in a bottle, but she can recall that he did as a young child. She was filled with joy and love, and told me what a creative, wonderful and imaginative child he was. How much she missed him and how wonderful it would be for her to get this, and to share it with his friends.

George O’Hanlon left us on 1 December 1998 – but through this extraordinary circumstance, I ask that just for a brief moment we pause to think of a creative young man – a dreamer – who sent a message in a bottle.

That message found it’s way to me today, so I am now adding George’s memory, and all those who left us too early – to An Trek Fada.





An Trek Fada

-6 Days – Read all about it

New Ross Standard - 29.04.2014Again, it’s been a very long day with much to be done before I can set off on my walk.

That said, today I have blushed like a virgin bride after seeing myself sprawled out on the front page of the New Ross Standard! I hope everyone donates very generously, as whatever dignity I had left is now there for the world to see, and I am realising that I might need counselling after this myself. Truly – how and why did I get myself into this?

Now I have to get some rest for my other great event – and that is to be at the South African embassy tomorrow morning at 8am to vote for the first time with my son.

My posts will be far better once the holidays start and all my attention will be on making it to the other side.