James McIntyre, a 37-year-old fitness instructor from Ballyshannon, has completed an extraordinary challenge - running, cycling, swimming and kayaking right across Ireland, all to help those suffering from Parkinson’s Disease. While acknowledging that it was a tough challenge, he points out that the endless challenge of living with Parkinsons disease is another matter entirely.
For most people, the journey from Newcastle, Co. Down to Creevy in Donegal would take a couple of hours at best by car. However for the Erne town native, it took a whole weekend, the multi-sport crossing between the two points was to raise money for Parkinsons.
The challenge began last Saturday week last at Newcastle with the first leg of his trip seeing James complete a mountain run across Sliabh Donard (Ulster’s Highest Peak) and the Mournes – a distance of 12 km.
He then cycled from Annalong to Enniskillen – a further 150 km. From Enniskillen, the journey was water based as James kayaked the length of Lower Lough Erne to Belleek – covering 35 km. From there, Ballyshannon was his next goal, swimming the length of Assaroe Lake to the Lakeside Centre. A large welcoming crowd was on hand to greet him there. As he embarked on the last leg of his epic journey, a ‘“leisurely paced” run to Creevy Pier, a group of 25 runners joined him.
They arrived at Creevy Pier at around 6.45 on the Sunday, with James having covered a total distance of 201km.
James, an outdoor instructor and experienced mountaineer with 15 years under his belt, is no stranger to such challenges. On this occasion he was joined on the cycle and run legs by various friends and athletes from across Ulster. Last year he successfully completed the 15k Donegal Bay Swim for Parkinsons in open water. He has also completed many international expeditions as well as winning medals with the Donegal Surf Lifesaving Masters team.
Speaking about why he took up the challenge, James told the Donegal Democrat: “Both my grandfather and my partner’s grandfather were taken by Parkinson’s disease. I feel very strongly that those with a nightmare disease, which robs the patient of bodily control yet leaves the mind clear and sharp, should be supported. As usual in the recessionary times we find ourselves in, funding for the charity has been cut.”
James took on the challenge to raise funds as well as awareness. To donate, visit his Facebook page “Coast to Coast for Parkinsons 2012” or mycharity.ie - James Mc Intyres Coast to Coast for Parkinson’s 2012.
James offered a special word of thanks to all those who have supported him including the cycle team - Fred Ormston, Tony Cummins, Gerry Cleary, Noel Hoey, Eleanor Roone and, Aiden Ferguson who joined him in Annalong, Co. Down on Saturday and carried on to Ballyshannon, as well as Eoin McManus and Barry Duffy, who cycled to Five Mile Town in Fermanagh to meet him.
Last Sunday 6.45pm James arrived safely at his final destination.
The long journey
Of the journey he had this to say: “There were a few moments that where expecially challenging - when I had a puncture while cycling on Saturday and the kayaking.
“It was the toughest kayaking I’ve ever done in my life, after the half-way point the wind just grew and grew. It seemed to be about a Force 4 funneled into my face for the last 5km.”
“But overall, what a brilliant adventure this weekend was! Like all good adventures I shared it with amazing people. We will all have long lasting memories!
“Personally mine are, running across the Mourne mountains in the early morning sunshine, freezing cold but beautiful, running along the top of the Mourne wall for 3k!
“Then heading down into Annalong and meeting Deirdre who was there with coffee and sausage sandwiches!
“It was a great lift when the bike team met me, as they were all rearing to go. The spin along the coast was great, especially meeting Eleanor’s family in Warren Point, with more food and cheers! Then long grind up into Armagh!
“There was a lovely crowd at the finish! I’m still surprised I felt so good at the end. It was an amazing challenge and an amazing weekend! I have to say a big thank you to to Fred Ormston, Deidre Ormston, Tony Cummins, Canice Nicholas of Cara Pharmacy who sponsored goody bags for all the runners, Shane Smyth for the PR, Sarah Meehan who delivered the kayak to Enniskillen in the early morning and swam with me in Assaroe Lake, Ann McLoughlin and so many many more people who made this work!
“I owe you all so much. So many of us achieved our own goals.
“Let’s not forget that this may have been our adventure, our challenge, but ultimately Parkinson’s patients are those who will benefit from our endeavours,” James recounted emotionally afterwards.
He also had hand made medals for everyone who took part in the event, by Alt na Croi Pottery. “I wanted to give them a little memento”, he commented.
Finally, special thanks to Fred Ormston, our main sponsor, and his wife Deirdre. “They gave so much support, supplied food thoughout and Deirdre drove the support vehicle, while Kenny Roper drove the safety van.”
James also pointed out that the general public can still donate on-line until Christmas or in person.