Sunday 19 May 2019

Mountain ranges, deserts and snowstorms: Irish runner completes epic 5,000km trek across America

Irish runner Shane Finn with his cousin Mary Evans after completing a 5000km run across the US.
Irish runner Shane Finn with his cousin Mary Evans after completing a 5000km run across the US.

An emotional reunion took place under the shadow of the Brooklyn Bridge when endurance runner Shane Finn completed one of the most extraordinary solo charity treks ever undertaken by an Irish athlete.

Five weeks and over 5,000km after leaving the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco to run and cycle across America, the 26-year-old from Dingle ran across the finish line and straight into the arms of his family and friends.

And the woman he hugged first was the inspiration for his extraordinary 'American Ultra', his first cousin Mary Evans (37) from Celbridge, who made her first trip to the Big Apple to meet him.

Mary has Spina Bifida and Hydrocephalus and Finn's epic adventure was just his latest to raise funds for SBHI and highlight the struggle Mary faces every day.

His selfless 36-day trek crossed 11 American states. He traversed mountain ranges rising to 11,000 feet as well as deserts and prairies and crossed multiple time zones and dramatic climate changes.

“I got a small bit emotional when I saw Mary and my mom (Josie) and my brother (Tommy),” said Finn.

“It was a great feeling to cross that bridge. I'd been thinking about that moment for two years. I think it will probably take some time for it all to sink in.

“It's a big country and I'm never again going back to Nevada!” he joked. “We actually got lost an hour into the first day. I have lots of stories to tell.

“Fatigue was the toughest thing, especially in the last two weeks. Believe it or not I got my first blister, on one of my toes, just seven kilometres from the finish.

“Otherwise I got out of it fairly unscathed bar an Achilles problem. That was down to my preparation and also the way I looked after myself during the event.”

Finn's remarkable feat was achieved with support from John West, charity partners of SBHI, who provided him with an ideal natural form of protein as part of the massive 8,000 calories he needed to eat every day. John West also sent a documentary crew who are going to make a film of his epic journey.

He achieved his extraordinary feat by using a steady six-day rotation of cycling 270kms for each of three consecutive days, followed by another three of running 60km daily, a pattern he repeated six times over five straight weeks, with no day off.

He did most of it solo but three friends – New York fireman Tim Clarke, Laura Burns (Kildare) and Seamus Keane (Mayo) – joined him to run the final 20km into Manhattan.

“The whole thing was harder than I anticipated. But I got through it by sticking to my plan,” said Finn.

“The trick was not to get too excited when I had a good day and not to get too down when I had a bad one. I needed to stay level, physically and mentally.

“So there were days where I felt good and I held back a little, knowing I mightn't feel good the next day.”

He was accompanied by just a tiny support team of his father Tim, physiotherapist Ali McCann and drivers Martin Fahey and Anthony O'Gorman, who all travelled and lived in two camper vans during their amazing coast-to-coast voyage.

They were hit with a snowstorm at one point but managed to get back on schedule thanks to Finn's extraordinary physical fitness and mental resilience.

“Whenever I had tough times I always thought of Mary and everyone I know at SBHI. Any struggles I had were nothing compared to the uphill battles they have every single day,” he said.

Finn ran his first marathon aged 17, as a fundraiser for SBHI.

He raised nearly €150,000 previously by running 24 marathons in 24 days and hopes his latest feat will raise €250,000 for the charity.

Donations can still be made at or via the John West social media channels.

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