by Sue

For so many of us, our biggest challenge is getting up of the sofa, turning off the television and getting out the front door for a bit of exercise.

Then there are people like Jayne Orr, who has overcome both serious health issues and a crisis in her personal life less than two years ago to complete eight triathlons in the last five months.

Yes, that’s right, swimming 750km in the sea, cycling 28k and runinng 5k, all in one go. Seven times. And a super sprint 400m swim, 14k cycle and 4k run, all In the last five months.

The Bundoran woman has lost nine stone, regained her self-confidence and made many new friends in the process.

This is her story.

Metal rod in back

Jayne Turner was born and raised in Dromore, Co. Tyrone, one of four children.

Despite having extra bones in her back, she was always involved in sport, especially swimming and cycling, competing with her school and local club and qualifying as a lifeguard.

She went on to study Environmental Health at university,

Disaster struck in 1987, however, when she lost the power of her legs.

“I fell on my Mum and they thought I would never walk again, so I almost finished in a wheelchair,” the now 47-year-old recalled.

She underwent major surgery and a metal rod was placed in her back.

As part of her rehabilitation, Jayne had to swim three times a day. “It was very intensive, because I had lost the feeling in my legs.”

Once she’d rebuilt up her strength, Jayne studied reflexology. This led on to her developing an interest in podiatry. At the age of 30, she back to went to university again to study podiatry.

Then she met Canice Nicholas of Cara Pharmacy who suggested she come to Bundoran to work as a podiatrist.

“My initial reaction was 'No, I've had too many wet summers in Bundoran,” she laughs. “Anyway, I came and I haven't left. I'm here thirteen years.”

The perfect life

For the next eleven years, Jayne enjoyed what most of us would consider to be a perfect life. She had a wonderful daughter called Zoë, a beautiful home overlooking Donegal Bay and a thriving business.

In 2014, however, Jayne went through a major crisis in her personal life which affected her profoundly.

“At the time, I lost my confidence and the stress took a toll on my health.

“Truthfully, I was so low that I asked myself, 'Was I going to jump off the edge?'

“But I knew I couldn’t and wouldn’t do it. I had still had a lot to live for and what was left of my self-respect.

“I knew I needed help, so I rang my parents and they came down and I rang my best friend in Spain and she came home.”

New beginnings

Jayne had kept up with her swimming when she moved to Bundoran and she made a point of getting back into the pool, no no matter how low she was.

“I’d been revisiting my lifesaving certificates, so I went back,” Jayne recalls. “The guy I swam with, I sat on the deck with him and told him what happened, and his words to me were...'Are you well?'”, she laughs.

“God bless my parents. They brought me to the class and lifted me again after, like a child. But I needed that support because I basically took brain freeze for three and a half months.

“The people of Bundoran and environs were also fantastic, such a great support. Although sometimes, with the best will in the world, their kind words didn’t get the desired result.

“One woman sent me a card and all it said inside was ‘There’ll be better days.’

I was so low at the time that I just thought, ‘How stupid could you be. Better could there be better days?’

“You just get through it bit by bit, though.

“At first, it was one hour, then one day, then one week, then one month, and that's how it went on.

“The swimming helped me cope. The one thing my weight never did was hold me back from swimming, apart from starting races. And the weight started falling off me.”

It wasn’t all a straightforward progression, though.

As Jayne was to learn, harder days were still ahead.

Zoë, having qualified as a podiatrist, went to Camp America last summer and Jayne hit rock bottom.

“I had been going on adrenaline up until that time. Then my blood pressure fell. It was the most awful thing.

“That was a learning curve for me.

“I went to my GP back home and told him my story.

He looked at me and said, 'Jayne, you have to learn to live with and love yourself.'

I was really cross with him. I said 'Pardon? I have come here to speak to you about this and this is what you're saying?'

“But no truer words could he have said,” Jayne continued.

“Everytime I get low, I always go back to what he said.”

Zoë helped look after Jayne with her podiatry business and Jayne took two months to regather her strength.

Tri10 Challenge

By November, Jayne was back working full time, training again with the Masters Swimming Club at Ballyshannon Leisure Centre and cycling regularly with Melvin Cycling Club. She also got to know members of Mullaghmore SC.

Around the same time, she was asked if she would be interested in taking part in TV3’s new Tri10 challenge.

The brainchild of presenter/producer Deric Ó h'Artagáin, the series takes a group of triathlon “newbies” and follows their progress as they complete ten triathlons over six months, raising funds for ten charities along the way.

“Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would do one triathlon, never mind complete ten,” Jayne recollects.

“I’d only done a wee bit of running: cycling was really my thing, along with swimming and I hadn’t taken part in any competitions since my teens.

“I also hated the idea of putting myself out there.

“But I thought about it and I said yes. I knew I wasn’t fit but could get fit and that I was being given an opportunity.

“Also, the gist of the whole thing is 'Believe to Achieve' and to turn a negative into a positive, which really appealed to me.”

The team met up in Dublin in January and took part in their first triathlon in April.

“There were many...endless!.. hours of training, “ Jayne explains. “In addition to swimming and cycling, I got myself a running coach, Punk Hegarty, and I do yoga with Anna Marie Fitzgerald in Bundoran.”

Jayne trains two hours a day, five days a week. She usually swims in the sea in the morning before work and then runs or cycles in the evenings.

“In the winter time when I couldn't get out, I turbo trained, on a stationary bike with the Melvin Cycling Club.”

Both Mullaghmore Triathlon Club and Melvin Cycling Club have been really fabulous, as has the Tri10 team.

“Unfortunately, though, there's no one between you and the training. Because of my work situation, I couldn't always make club training and sometimes had to work away on my own. That's where you have to find the drive and determination.

Mark McGowan told me, “‘Take your work ethos into your training and you’ll have no problem’: it’s something that has helped me get through those tough times.”

Nearly there

Jayne has just completed her eighth triathlon and has two more to do. The last of the ten will be a full Olympic length triathlon - 1,500m swim, 44km cycle and a 10k.

Setting herself such an ambitious target, and then achieving it, has made all the difference, she says.

“I'll never be on a podium place but coming across that finish line is as good as getting a gold medal at the Olympics.

“It has done wonders for my mental health. I'm quite a private person and for me to even consider putting myself out there is a big thing. But I'm not afraid of the unknown anymore.

And I've met so many amazing people who have been there to cheer me on and even more. “For example, when the Tri10 team went to Hell of the West in Kilkee, I locked my keys in the car, with all my triathlon gear, I had to borrow a helmet, and a bike that was too small for me, and I wore a pair of old gym shoes. It was funny but we still completed it as a team.”

Filming for the TV series is ongoing throughout the Tri10 challenge and each team member will host a special night screening their story in their local town this autumn. The night will be both a celebration and a fundraiser for Jayne’s chosen charities, Donegal Hospice and the Irish Wheelchair Association

“People have been very generous already. They see my weight loss or they meet me when I’m out running or cycling and ask me what I’m doing.

“That’s very heartening too. I think the bottom line is that I don't want people to think 'Poor Jayne'. I want them to realise that, we all have the strength within us to get up and go but we all also need that steadying hand of support.”

With that in mind, Jayne thanks everyone at Ballyshannon Leisure Centre, Melvin Cycling Club and Mullaghmore SC Triathlon Club for all their support, as well as her secretary Christina “for keeping my diary right so that I was at the right triathlon on the right day!”

And, of course, her daughter Zoë. “It would not have been possible to do any of this without her love support,” Jayne concludes.

Follow the progress of the Tri10 team at #Tri10 or on the Tri10 Facebook page. If you would like to make a donation, please go to