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'Marathon Man': a tale of family bond, good friends and running Ireland

“The main thing for me was that the book was authentic, even warts and all."

CANMORE ­– In summer 2012, a determined Alan Corcoran became the first person to run a lap around Ireland.

Only 21 years old at the time, the Irishman, who’s lived in Canmore since September, recounts the strong family bond that influenced the blister-inducing five-week, 1,500-kilometre leg-burner around the island and the inspiration from a Canadian hero in Corcoran’s debut book Marathon Man: My Life, My Father’s Stroke and Running 35 Marathons in 35 Days.

­“The main thing for me was that the book was authentic, even warts and all,” said Corcoran. “There’s some stuff in there that was tough to talk about, but I wanted to much sure that I was honest with the main thing and I was authentic and part of that is humour as well. It can be a bit miserable when you’re running 42.2 kilometres every day for five weeks straight, so the humour kept us all going.”

When Corcoran was 20, his father Milo suffered a stroke, a medical emergency that can cause brain damage and other complications if treatment isn’t prompt.

In response to his father’s stroke, Corcoran's “Marathon Man” pens how a negative was flipped on its head. The first-account narration of hope and humanity draws its readers in with a friendly, familiar charm like catching up with an old friend at a pub with a shot of Irish humour.

Only a college student in Scotland when Milo's unexpected stroke shocked the family, Corcoran felt pinned down and unable to help from the neighbouring country. However, it wasn't until a fellow student from Canada introduced Terry Fox’s Marathon of Hope that ideas started flowing for Corcoran. Like it has for millions of Canadians, Terry’s bold goal and sheer determination to raise money and awareness for cancer research hit a chord and lifted Corcoran’s inspiration

Corcoran's mindset was locked in and he set out for the biggest adventure of his young life while raising money for charities Irish Heart Foundation, the National Rehabilitation Hospital in Ireland, and the Football Village of Hope.

What would he do?

Run a full marathon for 35 consecutive days – one lap around the Emerald Isle’s stunning rocky coast and green countryside.

“My dad was taken aback by it,” he said. “He had recently had his stroke so it meant a lot to him.

“My mam is very concerned,” Corcoran added with a laugh. “I don’t know whether it’s the same for Canadian mammys, but Irish mammys are always a worrywart.”

She eventually came around to the big, bold idea. But he needed to plan, get a crew together, and most importantly, get into shape to be able to accomplish his mission.

“I remember crossing the line and saying, ‘I feckin’ told you I’d do it’ and we had a laugh and [my parents] said we had no doubts and they were of course proud and there was $15,000 Euros for the charities as well so that was a big thing for me and my family,” he said.

Taking place nearly a decade earlier, Corcoran penned his experiences during the five weeks on the road. He saw approximately one million sheep along the way and experienced all four seasons every day in Ireland’s summer, he said with a laugh.

However, it wasn’t until the pandemic that he started writing everything down into a novel, which was released in 2021.

Corcoran is currently writing book No. 2, where he recounts a 500 km sea swim along the eastern coastline of Ireland for charity. He’s also made a film of it, which will be completed in early 2022. He hopes to feature it at this year’s Banff Centre Mountain Film and Book Festival.

Marathon Man: My Life, My Father’s Stroke and Running 35 Marathons in 35 Days is sold through and Audible. It's available at Cafe Books in Canmore and order through most bookstores. Banff and Canmore libraries will have editions stocked soon.

Jordan Small

About the Author: Jordan Small

An award-winning reporter, Jordan Small has covered sports, the arts, and news in the Bow Valley since 2014. Originally from Barrie, Ont., Jordan has lived in Alberta since 2013.
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