County Wicklow marathon runner Mary Hickey Nolan passed through Wexford last week on the final leg of her Lap of the Map in aid of the RNLI.
65-year-old Mary started running anti-clockwise around the entire coast of Ireland on New Year's Day and on Saturday she returned to her hometown of Arklow to a hero's welcome.
Mary had come up with the ambitious idea to run around Ireland last year to mark her 50th year running and also to celebrate the fact she will become an old age pensioner in June of this year when she turns 66 years old.
A seasoned runner Mary is already in the history books having being the only woman to complete all 38 Dublin Marathons. She has also completed a Marathon de Sables in the searing hot heat of the Sahara.
Mary arrived in Wexford last weekend taking in towns and villages such as Fethard, Duncannon, Rosslare, Wexford and Courtown, all of which have their own dedicated RNLI stations.
Speaking last Wednesday, just days before she finished her mammoth run the mother of two said she was delighted she had taken on the challenge.
'I'm coming to an end now and I'm feeling great. Obviously I'm a bit tired but that's to be expected. The whole thing has been 100 per cent better than I expected to be. The weather has been really bad a lot of time which wasn't really helpful but I just got on with it.
'The problem some of the time was that while I had really good gear I hadn't the right gear for the atrocious conditions we have been experiencing since January. I had to improvise on the odd occasion.
'Sometimes I had to resort to using a black bin liner and Marigold gloves while running. It's amazing what wearing a big black refuse sack underneath your rain gear can do to keep you dry and warm.
'I also used to put on Marigold gloves underneath a cheap pain for gloves when it was raining really heavily and that did the trick.
'So while the conditions were bad they weren't too bad. I was absolutely breath-taken by the amount of support I received as I ran around the coast. I absolutely wasn't expecting that. I did a bit of fundraising before I left and I hoped that would get me some of the way but once the RNLI got behind me along with a team of nine people back in Arklow it was amazing the support I received.
'They all did a fantastic job ringing up places in advance, making sure I had somewhere to sleep and organising moving my big bag of gear. Once that was all done for me all I had to do was face the road. I knew what I had to do and that was it.
'I had decided to run around the coast and I'd decided to do it in winter so I just had to get on with it and keep moving.'
By the time she reached Arklow on Saturday Mary had completed more than 85 days running and was 104 days on the road completing approximately 1,500km of running. No mean feat for a woman who turns 66-years-old in June.
'I wanted to celebrate the fact that I was entering my 50th year of running and also my birthday so I thought this was the right challenge for me', said Mary.
However running 1,500km, even with 50 years of experience behind you, isn't without its problems.
'Well because I have been running for 50 years I have a few niggles in general', said Mary. 'Along the route I've had a few little niggles some of the time and then I had a more severe injury at one stage but I got a bit of physio here and there and it's keeping things at bay.
'Things have gotten a hell of a lot better as I get closer and closer to home and it's nowhere near as bad now as it was earlier on in the journey. I just keep going and it's seems to get me there.'
When she decided to undertake the daunting run Mary said she didn't have to think twice about which charity to dedicate her fundraising to.
'Well the RNLI is a charity that's very close to my heart. Obviously I live in a coastal town and I also do some rowing so it seemed a natural fit. The RNLI rely on fundraising and because I had chosen to run around the coast there was no other charity in my mind to pick.
'As I've travelled around the coast I've been blown away by the coastal community. They have been so friendly and welcoming to me. The people I have met along my journey are what made it so special and worthwhile.
'Obviously the scenery along the coastline has been spectacular but it is the people that I will never forget.'
Mary said while she had visited a small selection of the towns and villages she ran through most of the countryside was unfamiliar territory.
'I hadn't been in most places and even sometimes if I had been in an area you miss so much when you are travelling in a car. But I couldn't let myself get distracted by the scenery and you have to be careful running on the road.
'Some roads were very dangerous but luckily I've always been a vigilant road runner and am good at keeping safe. I had my own set of rules which helped me along so if a lorry or a lot of cars were passing I would just stand into the ditch. Some days I spent a lot of days in the ditch', she said 'especially in bad weather.
'Other times you would be like you were running in little rivers because the grass verges were so wet and waterlogged but I just kept going.
'On the odd occasion one of the coastguard vehicles would drive ahead of me and that made it easier.'
However Mary spent a lot of the time running alone.
'I didn't have a road support team but I had support when I reached an area and also the team back in Arklow who did fantastic work. I don't know what I would have done without them. Some days other runners joined me for part of the journey too which was nice but I was mostly on my own.'
After completing such a run you'd be forgiven for thinking that Mary will be putting her feet up now that she has returned home but that's definitely not the case and she's already thinking about the Dublin Marathon.
'Please God I'll be running the Dublin Marathon again. Having being the only woman to complete them all I'll definitely be running it again this year please God if I'm able. I'll take a small breather when I get home and will let the body rest for a little while but I'm looking forward to doing the marathon in October.'
She also plans to ease her way back to work at her coffee shop in Arklow. 'I'll pop in and out for the first few days to ease myself back into things', she said.
There was a massive homecoming for Mary in Arklow on Saturday which she said she hadn't expected.
'It's a bit overwhelming really to think there will be such a big welcome for me. I certainly didn't expect it.'
When Mary set off on her journey she had set herself a fundraising target of €20,000 but that looks set to be doubled now thanks to the overwhelming support she received along the way.
'I had hoped to raise €20,000 but we are already at €53,000 in online donations and a few thousand in cash donations so hopefully I'll hit €60,000.
'It would be great to get that. Funding the boats, kits and training at the RNLI is expensive and they provide such a valuable service to the community. If what I raise goes a little to helping them then it was all worth it.'
To donate to the RNLI log onto https://give.everydayhero.com/ie/rnli-lap-of-the-map.