SWIMMING from Antrim’s Causeway Coast to his native Tramore in addition to completing 35 marathons in 35 days now means that Alan Corcoran has boldly gone where few have gone before twice over.
Enjoying the Wednesday sun on the terrace of the Majestic Hotel, Alan told the Waterford News & Star that his constitution was “actually fine compared to the 35 marathons (in 2012) – I don’t think I’ll ever be in that sort of agony again. The running was much harder on the body – my knees, back and achilles – but the swim was just a lot more mentally challenging, having to deal with the external elements of flowing water and the waves. So in that sense, it was a lot more tiring and exhausting but it wasn’t necessarily sore on the joints in the way the marathon running was but it was still a hell of a drain.”
Swimming in aid of both the Solas Cancer Support Centre and the Irish Heart Foundation (with €12,000 already raised), Alan’s progress down the Irish Sea was steady, if, at times, arduous.
“I’d a few six-hour days in the water, and quite a few days when I was swimming for five hours as well, so you’re talking about 153 hours of swimming in total to get down here. In general, most days were in and around the four-hour mark in terms of swimming; I built up the hours and built up my endurance and thankfully all of that hard work paid off.”
Alan continued: “Week one was all about not going too crazy because this time around (this was Alan’s second attempt to undertake this challenge) and I didn’t have as much time to physically prepare this time. I had more training I think on the first time but I got let down on the logistics side of things so this time there was a lot more time spent making calls, being in front of the computer, organising stuff so I was very conscious that I didn’t want to blow up in the first week – it was a marathon, not a sprint, after all. The second week was somewhat more out of my hands given the way things went in terms of both crew and weather but then after that, with so many miles in, I found it more comfortable spending more time in the water and then of course the water got a little bit warmer as I got further south so that was a big help too.”
Gale force wind
The conditions didn’t always play a positive role either, Alan explained. “On day two, a gale force eight wind came in; I’d planned to do a four-hour swim but we couldn’t put the (support) kayak in the water because it wasn’t safe enough but the sailors were confident enough for me to go in the water and follow them so I followed them for three hours but we got bashed up in Rathlin Sound. The Coast Guard were giving us warnings, we could see the weather front coming in and I knew that it was going to get worse and worse so we had an unplanned visit to Rathlin Island – we were supposed to be going back to Ballycastle – but it would have been just too dangerous to take that on. We’d other days where we didn’t get as far as we’d have wished to, but you just learned to adapt to that; there’s not a whole lot you can do about the tides – you’ve got to play by Mother Nature’s rules!”
At all times during the swim, Alan was accompanied by a support team, including his girlfriend Carolina Opová who specifically took up kayaking to assist him on the southerly journey home.
“When I decided I was going to take this on again, I said to Carolina: ‘what do you think about joining me’ and she very quickly said she was game. She started training last September; we did all of our courses together, be it the Royal Yacht Association, first aid, VHF, offshore safety courses, weekend first aid, advance first aid, expedition first aid so we’ve spent a lot of time during the year making sure that the swim would be as safe as possible. And to have her involved to that extent was fantastic. She stuck with me and turned out to be as stubborn as I was! And to have her playing so full a part in the whole endeavour was huge for me, and fantastic for both of us.”
Once Alan had swum south of Dublin, he was confident that he’d see out this remarkable endeavour. “Week one went great for me, week two was pretty much the complete opposite and I’d days when I only covered two and a half kilometres in three hours due to the tides and that was enormously disheartening but we managed to get through that, catch mid tide and get back making forward progress. It wasn’t as straight forward as you might think so getting beyond Dublin was just massive for me.”
Loaded with pasta carbonara, Nutella, carbohydrate drinks and Lucozade on a daily basis, Alan (a former Ferrybank AC juvenile hurdler), arrived home to a hero’s welcome in Tramore on Sunday, July 21, where he was greeted by friends and family.
“The red flag was up that evening so the fundraising swim we’d promoted earlier that week had to be cancelled, unfortunately, but we had a man and his 84-year-old mother come down from Donegal to cheer me in, and a couple from Cork came up too so I felt I had to do a swim myself – it really would have been a shame to have just walked up along the Prom and not come in the way I did. It would have been great to have had the swim as planned and lots of people in the water, but to see that many people there still meant a lot to me.”
Among the throng at the Lifeguard hut were Alan’s proud mother Marie, brother Evan and niece Aoibhe as he completed a remarkable 500-kilometre swim in honour of his late father Milo.
“I’d never have done the (marathon) lap of Ireland if Dad hadn’t had the stroke and I highly doubt I’d have swum the length of Ireland if he hadn’t died of cancer,” he said. “This has been my way of doing the best I can in the circumstances that have faced us. I was trying to grasp at a positive by raising some money for charities that try and help people who’ve been affected by cancer and stroke. None of this will bring him back but it’s given me something to focus on since he died; it’s made me feel like I’ve been doing something good and doing him proud.” Without fear of contradiction, Alan Corcoran can rest easy on that particular front.
If you wish to make a donation to Alan’s fundraising campaign, visit marathonman.co/donate