Cystic fibrosis patient Eleanor McAree doesn’t shy away from a challenge. Here she shares how she stays motivated to tackle ultra marathons and climbing mountains
Cystic Fibrosis Ireland is hoping to raise €350,000 this April. You can donate at 65Roses.ie to help fund essential support services for CF patients like Eleanor McAree, a young Greystones woman who takes her condition in her stride.
A childhood spent hiking with her family was one thing, but she never expected that she would be able to climb Kilimanjaro. That raised her confidence in her own abilities. During the pandemic, Eleanor discovered a love of running. This May, she is set to run a 50km race in Oslo, as part of her preparation for an 80km ultra marathon.
Eleanor started running during lockdown when she was craving some headspace.
“During lockdown there was nothing to do. I was willing to try anything and everything to keep my head sane. I was classified as medically vulnerable. It was super scary during lockdown because it affects the lungs. My friends were avoiding me to try to protect me and I felt very lonely,” Eleanor says.
“My fiancé is into running and he set me some challenges. The more I ran, the more my head was better. I was feeling the benefits of the endorphins. I was arriving home elated. It made me realise how good my lungs were. For me it was a positive side of Covid. It made me really realize how much I love running, getting up to the mountains and feeling my lungs work. I was so grateful for that,” she adds.
“So even if one side of my head was scared of getting Covid, this was a way of proving to myself I’m super fit, so if I do get COVID, I’m hopefully going to be OK.”
She realised that she had been holding herself back from doing things she might enjoy, such as not going scuba diving with her friends in Thailand.
“I was assuming I couldn’t do things because of my lungs, instead of pushing myself. I started doing things that were challenging, such as when I got the opportunity to go to Kilimanjaro. There was a doctor who told me that I shouldn’t go, because my lung function wasn’t the best at the time, I said no, I’m going, I’m going to prove to you that I can. I did it and although it was hard, I didn’t actually find it that tough. That was an eye opener, I can push myself, I am capable and it was more in my mindset. That is what I want to promote, that it is an amazing feeling when you prove to yourself that you can do things when you set your mind to it.”
She is not one to let CF stop her in her tracks. During the pandemic Eleanor took part in a number of virtual races. She has run several ultra-marathons, the longest being 52km. She also started sea-swimming most mornings with the running club herself and her partner set up. As she works for an international trekking company, she also plans to conquer the 7,000m peak, Aconcagua, in Argentina. However, at the end of 2021, Eleanor became very sick again, but took a positive from the difficult experience.
“I take my medication every day, I train and, as a result, I am very lucky to be as healthy as I am, but life with CF is not without its hurdles. Becoming sick again gave me an opportunity to reflect on everything I have achieved and I am so grateful to be where I am.”
April 8th is 65 Roses Day, Cystic Fibrosis Ireland’s annual fundraising day. It has a fundraising target of €350,000. Funds raised go to provide a range of much-needed supports for people with cystic fibrosis. These include PPE, e-bikes and other exercise equipment and counselling sessions. There are also grants for people undergoing a transplant, fertility assessment or who have recently been bereaved. Funds also go to support cystic fibrosis research and the building of new CF hospital facilities and the funding of specialist CF staff.
Please support Cystic Fibrosis Ireland on 65 Roses Day, Friday 8th April, by donating online at 65Roses.ie or by buying a purple rose