‘Dad always encouraged me to keep going, give it my best shot’

Alan Corcoran is two weeks into his attempt to swim the length of Ireland, from the Giant’s Causeway to his native Dunmore East. He is undertaking the swim in memory of his father, former FAI President, Milo Corcoran.

Alan has completed a quarter of the 500km swim in aid of the Irish Heart Foundation and the Solas Cancer Support Centre.

However, he needs volunteers to keep the swim going.

From next Wednesday, Corcoran requires someone with experience of driving a RIB and a first-aider to crew the support boat.

To volunteer or donate, visit marathonman.co.

Milo Corcoran died in August last year, aged 65, after a short illness. As a youth, he played

football for Bolton and later in life excelled as an administrator. He was elected FAI President in 2001, serving until 2005, and chaired the association’s international committee until his death.

Q: This swim is 15 times longer than swimming the English Channel, so you must have a background in swimming?

A: I only swam doing lifesaving from the ages of maybe six to 10 or 11, so swimming is not my strong point. I’ve thrown myself in at the deep end, literally as well as figuratively. I started training in the pool eight months ago, but it’s a total different kettle of fish when you get into the sea, as I’m finding out the hard way. It’s certainly a challenge anyway!

Q: Your most recent update said you had your best swim yet and “almost enjoyed it”. I take it it’s tough going?

A: It’s a hell of a lot harder than I thought it’d be. I wasn’t expecting as much difficulty with the waves, but I’m plodding on through them. I’m adapting to the cold too. That was a shock because the only time I got into the sea was when I came back to Ireland a few weeks before the start of this. I went to the local beach for a swim and I dealt with it fine. Then, when I came up here (to start at the Giant’s Causeway) and got in, the deeper waters and being further north made it that degree or two colder. I had a wobbler of a day with the cold before we got to Belfast Lough. I was just shaking too much, stopping too much and the body temperature was dropping, so I just have to keep moving as much as I can.

Q: You wrote that day you’d tears in your goggles, were dry retching, shaking with the cold and feeling claustrophobic. Was that the closest you’ve come to quitting?

A: Yeah, everything felt like it was going wrong. I’ve never had a time like that where I wanted to quit so much. I’d put my head down, try to go again and pop up another 50m later thinking, ‘What am I doing here? Get out! Get out!’ I did that for maybe half an hour until the guys pulled up, saying your stroke rate is dropping off. We called it a day early, which was unfortunate and frustrating because that was the best day we’d had since the start, conditions-wise. But I gave as much as I could on the day.

Q: You ran a lap of Ireland (35 marathons in 35 days) over 1,500km and this swim is 500km, but I’m guessing it’s not two-thirds easier?

A: (Laughs) I feel like it’s 100 times harder! I wasn’t a marathon runner but I had a strong background in running as a sprinter and 400m hurdler, so at least I knew how to run and was able to train my body for that. Everything was so much more predictable. You knew where you were going to be every day. You knew it was 26 miles to cover every day and you’d walk it if you had to. With this you can’t hang around in the water because the temperature is so low. Like that day when I hit the wall, if you’re fucked, you’re fucked and you have to get out.

Q: Your dad Milo was the inspiration for taking on both challenges. That must be a motivator to keep going in the hard times?

A: Yeah, I certainly do want to do his memory proud and do it for my family, and do myself justice as well. I remember him taking me to football growing up and he’d always be encouraging me to take a shot: ‘If the opportunity is there, just give it a bash’. Even when he was taking the chemo, back in August, he said: ‘I mightn’t make it through but I’ll give it a bash’. That’s all you can do – give it your all. I’m having tough days and it’s not going to plan, but I just want to make as much progress and do myself as much justice in his memory.

Q: It sounds like he’d have been a major encouragement as part of the Marathon Man run too…

A: Yeah, it was quite emotional up in Belfast because I remembered stopping to get a picture outside the Northern Ireland Supporters’ Club, where I had finished the marathon in Belfast. He came up to see me and I remember getting the picture there in the morning before we started again. We were just staying around the corner from that… (Pauses) Sorry... It brought back memories.

Q: How can people donate to the two great charities you’re supporting, and help out with the cause?

A: It’s marathonman.co to donate for the Irish Heart Foundation and Solas Cancer Support Centre. I’m hoping to pass the €15,000 we raised for the run, so, at the moment, we’re on around €7,000 raised for the swim. Another bit to go yet. Hopefully people get behind it. I’m struggling to get crew after next Wednesday, from the 1st of June. I need people with first aid or who can drive a RIB to keep this show on the road. They need to know what they’re at at sea and have their first-aid experience if anything goes wrong with me. Even having two people to drag me out of the water if the worst did happen. Everything is that bit more complex and tricky than the run.

Q: Speaking of the RIB, Thomas Barr gave you a hand with that…

A: Yeah, I’d three people down home saying they’d give us a lend of their ones, and they changed their minds for one reason or another – it’s a big ask I suppose. It was a bit panic stations whether I’d even get to the start, so Thomas Barr gave me a text: ‘Look, I know you’ve been busting your ass off all year training and if it makes any difference, I’ll help you out with a boat if you can’t get anything.’ After knowing what effort I’d put in he didn’t want to see me failing before I’d even started. He chipped in and we went 50-50 on a local boat.

He helped me get to the start line and it’s great to have friends like that.

Q: It’s a success just to be in the water and moving forward so...

A: I’m just trying to make sure I can get as far as I can up until next Wednesday and give the best account of myself. If I can’t get the crew, I can’t get the crew, but at least I’ll be after giving it a bash.

Q: Hopefully the tides turn and carry you a bit of the way too.

A: I need a break anyway. It seems like we’re swimming against them but we’re getting there slowly but surely. I’ve come a long way from being knackered doing two lengths of the pool last September. I was getting hard on myself last week and the brother or one of my friends said, ‘You couldn’t do two lengths without having to stop and catch your breath’. So I took a moment to appreciate how far I’ve come and hopefully I can get a bit more done.


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