Olympic hero backs duo in 2,068km cancer trek
TWO Irish men who lost four relatives to cancer since 2010 have completed a gruelling 2,068km swim, cycle and running trek with a little help from an Olympic hero.
Olympic silver medallist and Irish charity campaigner, Sonia O'Sullivan, helped Sean Buckley and James Colbert ignore exhaustion and aching muscles by launching the final daunting leg of their epic bid to raise €500,000 for an Irish cancer charity.
Sean and James undertook the gruelling 18-day challenge that would make most Iron Men quake in their running shoes to raise funds for Breakthrough Cancer Research (BCR).
The three-week trek included a 120km Shannon swim, a 1,780km cycle across all 32 Irish counties and then four full marathons.
The two young men are bruised and exhausted but completed their final two marathons in Dublin and Cork on Saturday and Sunday.
Cobh native Sonia O'Sullivan was so impressed by their commitment to BCR that she joined them at the start of their final marathon yesterday.
"It is such a fantastic cause and they deserve huge credit for what they've done," Sonia said.
Sean and James, who are cousins, came up with the concept of raising money for cancer research after four family members fell victim to the disease in just five years.
These included Sean's own father, John, with whom he worked in a successful east Cork garage business.
John died from cancer just one week before Sean's wedding.
"We were told that the cancer was treatable but not beatable," Sean said. "This is all about trying to ensure that when people are told they have cancer in future that it is treatable and beatable thanks to new treatments and research," Sean said.
James said he felt his love of sport was the ideal way to show that cancer can be beaten if everyone works together.
"It is only when cancer touches someone in your family or friends that you realise how powerless you are," he said.
"All your trust and hope goes into treatments which all stem from cancer research. We hope our challenge will raise much needed awareness and funds for BCR."
Sean's sister, Vicki, a Cork-based barrister, said it was a gruelling challenge but for a very worthy cause. "It is a bit emotional because they were absolutely on their knees with exhaustion from the whole thing. They desperately needed a lift and I think public support was exactly what they needed to get them over the line," she said.
Details are available from: www.endurancechallenge.ie