Louth’s Tom Reynolds and Wicklow’s Lillian Deegan raise €12,000 for charity as first to complete 1,800 mile Wild Atlantic Way
Two ultra-running enthusiasts have become the first ever people to complete the ‘Wild Atlantic Route’ (WAR) – a 1,800 mile journey along Ireland’s west coast. Tom Reynolds, from Co. Louth, came home in 34 days, covering, on average, the equivalent of two marathons a day. His running partner, Lillian Deegan, from Co. Wicklow, matched this feat 13 days later, crossing the line after almost seven weeks on the road.
The duo battled wind and rain, treacherous pathways, multiple injuries and excruciating mental and physical pain during their mammoth expedition. But now, not only do they hold the esteemed titles of WAR finishers; they have also managed to raise an impressive €12,000 for charity. Tom, who selected the suicide-prevention charity Pieta House as his cause, explained how this was the main reason for undertaking the challenge.
“A lot of people have been affected by suicide and we need to give the issue more exposure,” he said. “Also, I don’t think enough is being done to educate young people and it’s at risk of being forgotten about.”
Lillian, who picked Billy’s World Ireland as her chosen charity, managed to complete the run despite suffering an injury on only the second day.
“She got a pretty bad injury early on so we were separated from each other after day two,” Tom said. “I think we both felt that, every now and then, we just wanted to curl up into a ball and call it a day. But then we would get some great encouragement and we’d be able to carry on.”
The route is relatively mountainous in parts, particularly in Donegal, and the pair also had to contend with dangerous traffic along the flatter stretches. Swirling storms coming off the Atlantic and the bruising effect of pounding the pavement day after day meant the effort required for such an arduous journey would often play on their minds.
“It was mentally very tough. From the start you get very tired and, although your body gets used to it, you’re always at risk of injury,” Tom said.
“I’d lie in bed some evenings and my legs were so hot you could have fried an egg on them. “And you really had to push through the harsh terrain and terrible weather we had in the first couple of weeks.”
Despite the struggle, Tom added that he would do it again in a heartbeat. He’s now set his sights on a run across the Pennines, where he hopes to better his previous effort of 238 miles.
“I must say, it was probably a bit of a mid-life crisis that got me into it,” he said. “It’s a great challenge for the body and mind and, even though I was probably just grateful to be finished, it’s nice to have that sense of achievement.
“And you get to do it for a good cause – that was my motivation. Whenever I found it particularly tough, I would remember the stories I’d been told from Pieta House.”