September is World Alzheimer’s Awareness month and 55,000 people in Ireland are now living with dementia, with the number set to double in the next 20 years. In August, Mary McKenna, Managing Director of Tour America and Cruise Holidays, raised over €3,000 for The Alzheimer Society with a cycle from Croatia to Italy. She spoke with Neil Steedman, ITTN’s News & Features Editor.
What inspired you to do the fundraiser for The Alzheimer Society?
My mother, Ann McKenna, has advanced dementia and is now in a home. It has been a dreadful condition for my family to watch – and heartbreaking to watch how Mum’s life has changed. She now needs 24-hour care and is unable to do anything at all for herself. Because I spend so much time visiting Mum in the home she is in, I certainly feel that there is a lot more we can do to help people with these horrible conditions – for which there is presently no cure.
How much time and effort did you spend preparing for the cycle?
I started my training two months prior to my cycle, doing at least an hour a day on a stationary bike – and I would cycle standing. I also did two long cycles per week, covering 50km of hills and mountains. The training is tough, but you need the miles on your legs and the ability to hit the mountains and climb for approximately 25km at any given time.
What was the event, how many took part, and how well did you manage?
This is my third year cycling with 35 business leaders from the Dublin Chamber Council. I love being with these guys, we cycle over 650km over five days, doing an average of 130km a day. It is always through mountains, and the terrain is certainly challenging.
This year we cycled from Croatia, through Slovenia and finished up in Italy. The group always raises money for a charity and that is the main focus of this group. We start our day at around 8.30m and would cycle from six to seven hours a day. For me this is where I push myself outside my comfort zone, and that is where I grow. I just love the challenge.
Have you done other events and what might you do in the future?
I have also done a marathon. I ran the NYC marathon against all the advice of my doctors and physios, as I had some bad injuries from an accident in 2004 – I have a serious problem with a disc that is sitting on a crucial nerve and have zero flexibility on my spine, but I still managed to complete the course. I certainly will not be doing any more running. I think cycling might be the sport for me in the future.
What other sports do you enjoy?
I am very involved in sport, being my son Cian’s soccer coach at Beechwood FC, and his rugby coach at Old Belvedere. I also play tennis once a week. I have a full gym at home at the back of my house and I love to do weights and work out. I also walk to work every day, which is 45 minutes in and out.
Tour America is now a sponsor of Beechwood FC and this is the first time that Tour America has become an official sponsor of a local community – and we are proud to be part of the community.
Neil Steedman adds: Saturday 21 September will be World Alzheimer’s Day. If you would like to donate to The Alzheimer Society, click on: