Meet the endurance junkies who thrive on taking it up a notch

It’s one thing to be fit and active — but some people take it to extremes. Karen Murray speaks to two adventure fanatics who thrive on taking it up a notch and act as an inspiration to others.

Next time you feel like complaining about aches and pains after a tough workout, spare a thought for Shane Finn’s punishing training schedule. Affectionately dubbed the Marathon Man in his native Dingle, Co Kerry, over the past seven years the highly driven 26-year-old has travelled all over the world to compete in marathons and ironman triathlons with races across the US, Spain, and Australia.

Shane was always active but was inspired by his cousin Mary Evans from Celbridge, Co Kildare, who suffers from spina bifida, to combine his love of sport with raising money.

He started endurance running at the age of 17, wanting to make a change to the lives of others. He started off with, in his own words, “just a couple of marathons” in 2010, taking on the Dingle and New York races to raise €13,0090 for Spina Bifida Hydrocephalus Ireland (SBHI). In 2014, he was back on the road from Dublin to Dingle, running 12 marathons in 12 days and raising €33,000.

Last year, he raised his game even further. “I completed 24 marathons in 24 days. The number 24 represents 24 hours in a day and I chose this number as I realised that 24 hours a day is a constant challenge for many who live with spina bifida and/or hydrocephalus — basically it’s a marathon a day to represent an hour a day of someone who has to constantly overcome their struggles.”

By doubling his efforts, Finn trebled the funds raised for the charity. SBHI is important to him.

He understands that people in Ireland living with the condition struggle every day, and many have few supports in place.

“My cousin Mary provided the inspiration for all this,” he says, explaining the journey from marathons to ultra-endurance sports.

It started with regular marathons, then progressed to ultra-endurance challenges. I started to realise that not only could I help people and improve their quality of life by the money I raised, but I could also push myself, which I enjoy.

Finn is self-employed and has a tough training schedule, but his job — he’s co-owner at WK Fitness Gym in Dingle — means he’s working out even when he is at work.

Nutrition is also vital. “I eat a lot of fish,” he explains. “I think I’ve eaten fish in every county in Ireland. What we put inside our bodies is so important.”

Finn’s next project is a race across the US in 2019 that challenges him to cycle 250km a day for three days and then run 50km a day for three days. Not one for the faint-hearted...

In the meantime, he has teamed up with Gaelforce, one of the most prestigious adventure race competitions in the country, and its sponsor John West (handy that he likes fish!) to help with his training schedule. The series sees participants from all over the country take part in a variety of high-intensity and adventure-packed challenges which will test their physical and mental capabilities.

As part of the Gaelforce Heroes series, John West has created a series of digital videos with Finn which helps other participants prepare for the competitions. These videos, including strength and conditioning exercises, track the progress of an expert and a beginner with the objective of educating and inspiring runners to follow suit.

“I love it,” he enthuses. “I love pushing myself and seeing how much I can do. I’ve no intention of stopping, want to keep on pushing to see how far I can go.

“I love to inspire kids as well. I have done some talks in schools and colleges. It’s such a transition from 10 years ago when our parents were screaming at us to come in; now parents are screaming at their kids to go out. Things have changed so much — and not for the better.

“It’s all about moderation. I take time off, I go out with my friends and socialise — it’s not all hard work. If I can teach today’s kids anything, it’s to enjoy what you do.

“Everyone’s different. I quit college at 18. It wasn’t what I wanted to do. This is what I want to do and I can’t see myself ever doing anything else.”


Londoner Pip Stewart describes herself as an “accidental” adventurer as well as a journalist, presenter, and a self-confessed “hippy at heart”.

After studying history and politics at Oxford University, she worked as an anchor and producer in Hong Kong and Malaysia for five years. Her partner, Charlie, was sports mad and suggested they cycle from Malaysia to London.

“It took a while for him to convince me,” she says, laughing. “And I did no training for it so it took 13 months! But it was amazing. I covered 10,000 miles and 26 countries in a year on my bike — and yes, my arse was sore.”

At the time, Stewart was out of work and the cycle led to a job working as Red Bull’s adventure editor. She realised she could combine her love of adventure with making a living.

In 2016, her travels took her to Brazil and Peru on a 3,000-mile cycle, boat, and plane journey during where she also raised awareness of environmental issues in the region, particularly the devastation of the Amazon rainforest and its effect on the indigenous communities.

Earlier this year, she teamed up with fellow adventurers Laura Bingham and Ness Knight to paddle the length of the Essequibo, South America’s third-largest river, from source to sea.

“I have come to see adventure as a mindset more than a physical activity,” she says. “It wasn’t always easy. There were times when I wanted to quit, when I screamed ‘I can’t do this’ but I pushed myself through.

View this post on Instagram

🦋HANDS UP🦋 Hands up if you want to talk about periods on expedition? Yes, it’s a thing. It’s annoying, yes, but it’s not a problem. 🍃 I asked Fay if there are any superstitions in Guyana surrounding periods as I’m always fascinated about why menstruation always seems like such a taboo subject both here and across the world. Notes on superstition surrounding periods from Fay include: 1. “We can’t sleep in the direction of where the moon is coming out because you get old faster.” 2. “You can’t bathe in water especially untouched places because the place will get angry and windy.” 3. “You have to cover your head, with a hat or cloth. If not they say your hair will get thin and drop off.” 💫 There you have it. Unfortunately I only found this out at the end of the journey and achieved 1/3 - at least my head was covered (most of the time). It may also explain why we had a severe headwind and the extra wrinkles I’m accruing. Joy. 🦋 We used a @mooncupltd during our trip, which was ace, especially when it comes to not leaving leaving litter knocking around. Didn’t stop the wrinkles mind. Or my lack of balance... 📷@jon_w

A post shared by Pip Stewart (@pipstewart) on

“I truly believe our daily lives are more exciting exploring the world, chasing adventures, eating outside — and that there is a lot of good in the world. Travel brings out the best in people.

“Modern life is so full of stress, we are not equipped to deal with it. Growing up with social media, stuck in a bubble — we need adventures to take us away from all this.”

Stewart is keen to emphasise that adventure doesn’t have to be extreme and is in Ireland to launch the AIB’s Everyday Rewards range and share her tips for bringing adventure to the everyday, which include:

— Eat like you’re on holiday: Eat a meal from every country in the alphabet

— Aim to see something new each week: You don’t have to go abroad to experience adventures. Ireland has incredible coastlines, history and nature right on its doorstep.

— Engage in armchair travelling: Just chill out, it’s good for the soul.

— Eat outside: It’s not glamorous but it just tastes better.

— Surprise someone with a random act of kindness: The world is amazing, and so are the people in it. Pay it forward.

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