In conversation with Hilary Fennell
The most important skill I have is ... resilience.
It’s all about keeping on showing up, even when it feels like madness.
I was always into sport. As a child, I ran, I played golf and rugby and of course growing up in west Kerry, GAA football was like a religion. You played three times a day — before school, at lunch and after school.
I grew up in Dingle where my parents ran a curtain shop and I was very shy up until my late teens. I’m 27 now and a bit more chilled.
I did my first marathon when I was 18. I didn’t really know what a marathon was, and I certainly wasn’t properly prepared for it. But my cousin Mary has Spina Bifida and she was my inspiration. She’s in pain all the time. I wanted to do the marathon as a fundraiser.
I was a bit lost when I left school. I dropped out of college after a year and set up a training facility business in Dingle with my friend Mark.
In 2016, I stepped things up a notch and decided to do 24 marathons in 24 days. I thought I’d hit my physical limit, but, when I heard that the Spina Bifida charity was having their budget massively cut, I set myself another challenge — to run and cycle from San Fransisco to New York in 36 days to raise money for Spina Bifida Hydrocephalus Ireland.
I trained and trained to build a body but also a mind that could do something like that. There were times I didn’t think I’d make it across America. I got an achilles injury on day 10 and thought that was it. But my physio Ali helped me through it. You simply take the next step and then the next — the ability to keep going is what counts.
I do struggle to create a work-life balance. I’m probably a bit of a workaholic right now.
My biggest fault is that I try and do everything myself. It’s much better for me when I realise that family and friends are behind me, when I allow them to be my crew and my team.
My biggest challenge in life so far has been self doubt. I set myself goals and then question whether or not I can make them.
I’m quite religious. During that time in America I truly believed that someone higher up was looking down on me, giving me a spiritual push. And I believe in an afterlife. I think when we pass away, we will be judged on what type of life we have led.
To relax, I run. Without headphones. That’s my form of meditation. Anything from one to four hours but never less than 30 minutes.
The best advice I ever received is that:
The traits I most admire in others are honesty and loyalty. You can tell a lot about people from how they treat others.
The thing that irritates me most about others is a failure to appreciate just how lucky they are — being able to get out of bed in the morning and to do normal things that they take for granted.
My idea of misery is not being able to do the things that I want to do. I’ve a pathological fear of getting to 70 and feeling that I’ve wasted my time in this world.
As I used to be shy, I found the whole speaking in public thing difficult at first. But when I reframed it and said ‘I’m just sharing my story’, that made it easier for me as I’m so passionate about it. Now, I love sharing my story.
If I could be reborn as someone else for a day I’d spend a day in the body of my cousin Mary.
So far life has taught me that the more things you know, the more you realise how many things you don’t know.
Endurance athlete and BRITA ambassador Shane Finn’s recently completed his American Ultra challenge which saw him run and cycle from San Fransisco to New York in 36 days to raise money for Spina Bifida Hydrocephalus Ireland.
To donate see www.shanefinn.com