‘I lost my mum at 19 and went off the rails, those dark moments drive you on’, says fundraiser Noel as he begins 1,000-mile run
A Portavogie man is to take on a mammoth marathon challenge tomorrow by running across Ireland.
Noel Johnston (33), a former Northern Ireland U19 football international, is a veteran of running and cycling challenges and walked more than 1,000 miles around the Irish coast last year.
Now the father-of-one will attempt to run 50 miles a day over 20 days - the equivalent of almost 40 marathons.
A motivational coach and speaker, he told the Belfast Telegraph: "I am just a practitioner of the mind and have always been intrigued as to how we can push ourselves past the limits of our expectations.
"This is me on a journey. I am getting to get out round the island. I have seen people struggling with suicide and mental health. I lost my mother at 19 and went off the rails. All those dark moments drive you on. I want to inspire other people."
Noel has raised funds for the Simon Community in the past, but for this challenge he was attracted to the "local and community-orientated" nature of Jordan's Gift, a charity set up in memory of Jordan Kennedy, who died at the age of 22.
Noel said: "I heard about the work of the charity. I thought that was pretty cool. It seemed to strike a chord with me."
He expects the biggest test of running to be the mental side.
"I know on day one with the adrenaline I'll be able to run the 50 miles. How I will be able to process it in my mind on day two, three or four is another thing. I'm excited about it all. I'm more nervous about how much I can raise for the charity."
Starting in Cloughey tomorrow, he will be joined by some of the children he coaches at his football club, before running south towards Dublin and the south of coast, before heading home.
he added: "I am open to anyone coming running or walking with me. You make a connection with people and people talk to you and get things off their mind. Come out and test yourself. I'll make sure when you're running with me you'll feel the best you've felt running."
His sleeping arrangements will be a challenge. Noel is willing to spend nights outside, but admits he will watch his phone for any rooms on offer.
"I live for today. Do I know where I am going to stay? Not really.
"The journey is not about trying to spend a lot of money on equipment or hotels. It's actually realising the power within you.
"The forest and coastline will become my bedroom. But if someone rings up and offers a bed, I'll take it."
Anyone wishing to donate to Jordan's Gift to support the challenge can do so on: www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/runtheislandii