A Corkman who has never run a high-altitude marathon in his life will attempt one of the world’s most gruelling ones in the Himalayas next month in an effort to raise money for the victims of last April’s Nepal earthquake.
When it comes to altitude training, the Ballyhoura Hills and The Galtee Mountains don’t really match up.
But they’ll have to do for Thomas Fitzgibbon, who will be the only Irishman running in the Tenzing Hillary Everest marathon, named after Tenzing Norgay and Edmund Hillary, the first men to scale the world’s tallest mountain in 1953.
Thomas, 34, whose family runs a pub in Glanworth, is paying for the trip himself and will donate every cent in sponsorship to a charity set up to help the victims in the impoverished country.
It was the most devastating earthquake to hit Nepal since 1934, leaving almost 9,000 dead and more than 30,000 injured. Thousands were left homeless and the true scale of the tragedy is still being felt there today.
Thomas is out pounding the roads and hills of north Cork in preparation for his flight out to the Nepalese capital of Katmandu on September 21. He then faces a gruelling 10-day trek to the basecamp at Mount Everest and the marathon itself, which gets underway on October 5.
The only thing about it that resembles a marathon is its standard length of 42km. It starts at the the base camp, a massive 5,362m above sea level, and finishes at Namache Bazaar, 3,540m above sea level. In between lies some of the roughest terrain in the world.
“Considering my last effort was in the Barcelona sunshine in March this year, the comparison is nearly non-existent,” Thomas said.
“I did climb Mount Kilimanjaro six years ago. But this is going to be a little bit different, there’s no doubt about it. I have no idea how long it will take me to do it. But there is a 12-hour limit on finishing it.”
About 30 other foreigners will compete in the marathon, alongside 60 Nepalese.
Thomas is raising funds for a charity run by Clonakilty man Declan Murphy. He was supposed to visit the area last May, but his trip was cancelled after the earthquake the previous month. After seeing the devastation he decided he would have to do something to help those affected.
“I have no idea of how much I will raise, and I’d be telling you lies if it did. I just hope to get enough to make a difference,” he said.
“The people who guess nearest to the time I do it in will get a meal for two at Springfort Hall.
“The challenge is massive but for a great cause and I hope people will be able to support me as generously in helping this very worthy cause.” .
There are a number of ways people can donate to the cause. Thomas has put sponsorship cards around some venues in north east Cork and online donations can be made through www.just-one.org/everest-marathon-challenge/#sthash.YXLUCCbE.dpuf
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