Emotional return of hero Mary
'Overwhelmed and full of emotion' was how Mary Nolan Hickey felt on arrival back to a true hero's welcome in Arklow on Saturday.
The 65 year-old athlete and RNLI fundraiser completed her 1500-mile 'Lap of the Map' in less than four months, raising in excess of €60,000 for the RNLI across Ireland.
'I really couldn't believe it. It was utterly amazing. I thought I would get home and there would be a bit of a fuss, but nothing could prepare me for the warm welcome I received,' Mary said.
Mary was joined on Saturday by fellow local athletes, RNLI crewmembers, emergency services and of course thousands of spectators who lined the streets to cheer her on.
It was a great source of joy for her to be greeted by her sons Calvin and Tony, twin brother Tom Nolan and niece Mandalyn, older brother John and sister Hazel.
'I had been speaking to the boys on the phone while I was away but it was wonderful to see them again. I hadn't seen my brother since our 60th birthday in Arklow over five years ago so I was delighted that he and his daughter flew over from the UK to surprise me.'
Crowds continued to cheer for their local hero all the way down Main Street and to Arklow Lifeboat Station where a Mary officially completed her lap.
With over €60,000 raised, the Arklow crew were delighted to welcome Mary home and to thank her for her valiant efforts.
'The homecoming event was a rollercoaster of emotion for Mary and all involved, as we travelled down Main Street, seeing the overwhelming response from our town, united behind Mary's trek, and in welcoming her home after her unbelievable achievement, we were ranging from laughter to tears with a very big lump in out throats. On behalf of Arklow Lifeboat and her team, RNLI and all of the RNLI stations and people who assisted and were touched Mary in her Lap of the Map Nationwide and the RNLI, I would like to say thanks to Mary for her superhuman efforts,' said Arklow RNLI press officer Mark Corcoran.
There was no rest for an exhausted Mary however, as on Saturday as she was whisked from Arklow later that afternoon to Dublin for a live television appearance on the Ray Darcy Show. This was followed by another appearance on TV3 on Sunday morning and an East Coast Radio interview on Monday.
'It has been a whirlwind. We even stopped into the supermarket in Wicklow on the way home on Monday and so many people came up to wish me well. It has been unbelievable,' Mary said.
She has also paid tribute to the many people who helped to make her Lap of the Map possible.
'I had a team of 10 people behind me and the amount they achieved was phenomenal. They did it all from Arklow and made sure I had somewhere to rest my head every night and that I was greeted in every town. My bag moved from place to place as if by magic, and all this meant that I could completely focus on running from A to B each day without any other worries. They have been amazing and I am very grateful to them all,' she said.
Now happily back in her beloved Arklow, Mary is 'getting back to normal' and catching up with family and friends, as well as going back to her business The Lake Coffee Shop at Coral Leisure Centre.
'It's lovely to be back and I am slowly getting back to normal. I'm still pretty tired so I'll take a couple of weeks off running and get a few little niggles treated and then I'll get back to it. It will soon be time to start training for the Dublin City Marathon again. It's been a great few months and I'm so glad that I did it.'