In November 2010, Eamonn O’Muircheartaigh, a chartered physiotherapist and novice cyclist, decided he wanted to cycle the same route that the professional cyclists take for the An Post Rás that takes place every May. Every mile, every hill, every bump and every emotion that comes with taking on the roads of Ireland with just a few pounds of metal with two wheels.
A phone call later he had gained permission from the An Post Rás organisers to precede the pro’s with some other ‘friends’ who were mad enough to agree to take on the gruelling 8 day event.
After a few more phone calls, and a few twisted arms, ‘Race the Rás’ was a living breathing reality.
The idea was simple…
Get a number of people to commit to cycling at least one stage and even get some people to attempt all 8 stages of the An Post Rás, get them to front up some money for the privilege and give that money to a couple of charities – a cancer charity and Goal.
Throw in a few others to help with the non-cycling supporting roles and you have what you see here before you…a mad idea that will hopefully go some way to helping the suffering of those we love suffering from a horrible disease and those that don’t have the means to help themselves.
Here are the stories of some of our team:
I played Gaelic football for years with St.Brigids GAA club in Blanchardstown and have worked as chartered physiotherapist with the Kildare, Laois and Wicklow senior football teams as well as the Irish international rules team in the past. Like many GAA players when their football careers are over, I missed the training, the camaraderie, the pleasure that comes from pushing yourself physically to your limits. There was a hole in my sporting life that was hard to fill.
I started cycling last year as a result of a bet over a few drinks with my cousin Murt in Dingle. The bet involved cycling the 110km Dingle peninsula challenge which was to take place 3 weeks later. I didn’t even have a bike! So much for training and preparation! However, the sense of satisfaction achieved by completing the 110km in 4 hours and 15 minutes and in winning the bet (and I can still taste that pint Murt). All the pain was worth it.
The idea for the ‘Race the Rás’ came about from watching the Tour de France and after reading about the ‘Etape du Tour’ where any cyclist can partake in one of the mountain stages of the Tour de France. The chance to test one’s self against the times posted by the best professional cyclists in the world is a challenge that can’t be ignored. I thought it would be great if I could do the same for The An Post Rás.
About 3 years ago I lost a good friend, Trevor Webster, to cancer. Also, I have a good friend currently putting up a great fight against cancer. Their bravery in facing their illness is a shining beacon to those of us lucky enough to have our health. I decided that I should do something to raise money to give every cancer patient the best chance they can have to beat cancer.
And thus, the ‘Race the Rás’ was born.
I started asking ex-GAA inter-county players whether they would be interested in taking part and everyone immediately said yes. I was struck by how many of their lives had also been affected by cancer. Also, I have been a long admirer of the work that John O’Shea’s Goal charity does abroad with the poorest of the poor. Therefore, some of the proceeds raised from our cycle will go to GOAL.
I hope people will come out and support these GAA legends and other participants as they race around Ireland from May 22nd-29th to raise funds for cancer research and GOAL.
After playing inter county football for Roscommon for a number of years and retiring early as a result of a back injury I had done little serious training since then. Following major back surgery in 2004 I had really struggled with my fitness and had almost resigned myself to a sedentary lifestyle. In common with a number of former GAA players I found it almost impossible to find something that would replace the sheer enjoyment and satisfaction of training and playing with a group of team mates and friends who shared a common goal to achieve something at the highest levels in the sport that we loved.
Sometimes it takes an event or series of events to act as a trigger to spark you into action and for me a number of things happened in 2010 which prompted me to seriously change my lifestyle. I lost my brother prematurely after a short serious illness. My wife spent almost 6 months in hospital getting treatment for cancer and on the scales I was heading towards 17 st, over 3 stones heavier than my playing weight. With the responsibilities of a young family and serious illness in the house I made a decision to quickly and radically make some changes.
I had become friends with Eamonn O Muircheartaigh in recent years after his treatment helped to solve some long term injury problems and with a number of other like minded people joined the Sphere Fitness Health camp based out of his Leinster Clinic in Maynooth in May 2010, training at 7am 3 mornings a week. At the same time I took up cycling as a means of getting aerobically fit. I began to really enjoy it and while 20kms on the bike was very tough at first, very quickly it became apparent that the combination of the boot camp style training, the focus on correct diet and the cycling were producing results and I began to feel stronger, fitter, mentally sharper and importantly was shedding kilos and body fat. And it was having no impact on my old injuries. I have now progressed to the stage where I am getting close to my target weight of 14 st, have seen a phenomenal change in my fitness and general wellbeing and am doing regular 70km and 80km cycles with serious and experienced cyclists at a good pace, admittedly struggling in the lengthy sprint finishes!
When Eamonn came up with the idea of the Charity Cycle Race it immediately appealed to me and I thought it would be a great goal for former players to target as a means of getting very fit while at the same time contributing to worthy charities. I saw first hand the wonderful care and treatment which cancer and other seriously ill patients are receiving in the medical system. What shocked me though are the numbers of people who are suffering from different types of cancer. Maybe when it hits your own family you become more aware but the statistics suggest that almost every family has been or will be visited in some way by this illness. We must do all we can to support the people who are making great strides in cancer research so that they can accelerate their efforts to find cures. A number of years ago I was involved in helping to run a few golf charity events for John O Shea’s GOAL and I am delighted that we are also supporting this great charity.
Aside from the obvious fitness and health benefits, as well as the opportunity to raise funds for the chosen charities, for me this is a very personal challenge which I am taking on in memory of my late brother who always encouraged others to test themselves to the limits and in his own sporting life pushed the boundaries of endurance many times.
We want to raise as much as possible for the chosen charities and we appeal to as many people to support the former inter county GAA players in the cycle from May 22nd-May 29th.
My name is Declan Darcy. I’m a former inter county player. Eamonn asked me would I like to get involved in this great cycle event. As I do some cycling I was delighted to accept his challenge and commit to doing the full event. This will take all my mental and physical strength to complete but I’m well up for it. Eamonn’s timing in a funny way was kind of perfect as my younger sister Sinéad had skin cancer at a very advanced stage.
Our family’s lives have been turned upside down over the past 9 months as Sinéad battled with the most serious form of skin cancer, melanoma. She put up a daily fight against this disease but sadly on 9th April 2011, she passed away. She was only 39 years old with three very small children. Sinead was never a big fan of the sun but nevertheless there’s no real rules to cancer and when it might attack.
As myself and Eamonn have been good friends down the years, the common ground we share through his wicked hands in trying to repair some parts of my body, GAA and now skin cancer has brought us together in this event. I’m delighted to be also part of the team organising the event.
This group is focused and determined to provide a first class event that will raise funds for two great charities and awareness of skincare. I have seen on the field of play, players perform with great heart, guts and determination but from my own personal experience it doesn’t hold a candle to the people who put up the daily fight against cancer.
Sinéad is my hero, her mental and physical strength against all the odds was something to behold. If you can cycle, cycle with us, if you have time give us your time and if you have some money donate or sponsor us please.
More stories to follow…