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Darren Runs An Amazing 213 Miles For Local Charity

01 Jun
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Darren Mallon from Craigavon has been busy clocking up the miles over recent months, running the Dublin, London and Belfast Marathons to raise vital funds for local health charity, Northern Ireland Chest Heart & Stroke (NICHS). Those may seem like a walk in the park however, as Darren prepares to take on another running challenge for the charity this weekend- the Norn Iron Ultra. This is a gruelling 106.9-mile ultra-run along the North Antrim coast, running from Ballintoy to the village of Gortin in County Tyrone.

Darren has been running in memory of his father, Michael, who sadly passed away suddenly from a heart attack. Darren says; My father died of a sudden and unexpected heart attack two years ago. He had always seemed fit and healthy, working hard in his job as a joiner. I never even remember him having a cold or flu. That’s why everyone was so shocked when he passed away and it has been such a tremendous loss to our family.”

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After his father passed away, Darren wanted to do something to raise funds and awareness for Northern Ireland Chest Heart & Stroke, to help other local people affected by cardiac conditions. Darren explains; “I took up running about four years ago. I had quit playing football and was starting to get unfit and into a rut of not doing much exercise. I decided to start running for myself, to get my fitness levels back up and for my mental health. I started with a half marathon and my love of running just grew. When I decided I wanted to do something to support NICHS, a running challenge was the natural choice.”

“I started by signing up for the Dublin Marathon. It was when I was training for this that I came across the Norn Iron Ultra challenge and decided to sign up. I completed the Dublin Marathon, took 2 weeks off and then started my 7-month ultra-run training plan in mid-November, which consisted of the London and Belfast Marathons.”

Not content with solely taking on the Belfast Marathon, Darren decided he wanted to make this fundraising challenge even bigger, by running from his home in Craigavon to Belfast before the race even started!

Darren recalls; “I was doing the Belfast Marathon with two friends and we decided to run to the start line from Craigavon. Before we even started the race, we had run 27.8 miles!”

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“This was another level from the marathons I had taken part in previously. It was tougher mentally because I couldn’t run the actual marathon at my normal pace as I’d already completed such a big distance. It was hard going at a slower pace. We left Craigavon at 1.30am on the morning of the marathon and running overnight in the dark was tough. The three of us bounced off each other though and we did it. Whenever the sun came up it was a great boost to see the daylight again and it lifted us for the next part of the day.”

“The Belfast Marathon was good preparation for the Norn Iron Ultra as it will involve running overnight in the dark and I will also have to go at a similar pace. I won’t be able to run over 100 miles nonstop, so it will involve a bit of walking, like the Belfast Marathon, but wherever I can I’ll run!”

The Norn Iron Ultra will see around 50 participants come together to take on a challenge that most people would consider unthinkable- running 106.9 miles, non-stop. Darren explains; “I’ll be starting the run at Ballintoy at around 8am on Saturday and that will be me until I get to Gortin, which I think I’ll reach by about 12pm on Sunday. There are two stops of 30 minutes allowed, the first at Articlave after 34 miles, the second at Dungiven after 72 miles but I’ll be running for over 24 hours, no sleep, nothing.”

“The marathons were great training exercises but the new element with this challenge is the terrain which will be really tough. The first part will be lovely as it’s along the North Coast, but the second and third parts will be brutal in places. They involve going up into the Sperrin Mountains, running through forests, jumping over fences, and going through bogs. Hopefully the recent dry weather keeps up as the bogs were awful during a practice run recently. We were halfway up our legs in water and wading through it for about 2 miles. The leg fatigue was intense. It’s hard to come out of the bog and start running again. Your legs tell you all about it!”

“I’m doing this challenge with my two friends again, so it will be good to have each other as this is a huge mental challenge. I know a lot of people pull out during this race but between the three of us we’ll support and help each other keep going. There will definitely be dark times, but we won’t stop. There aren’t many people in the world who can run this sort of distance, so I’ll be thinking of the sense of achievement I’ll feel at the end. The reality of the size of this challenge has kicked in recently but I am buzzing for it.”

The effort and time Darren has put into preparing for the challenge has been immense, but he couldn’t have done it without the support of his family. Darren says; “My family have been amazing, cheering me on at every stage. My wife Leeann has been a great help. The training has been tough on me, but it has been tough on the family as they haven’t seen much of me over the past few months. Leeann will also be glad to see the back of the 5am alarm clocks waking her up! I want to thank all my family for supporting me.”

Darren’s fundraising efforts for NICHS have seen him raise over £2000 for the charity so far and he’s hoping this weekend’s challenge will see the total increase further. He says; “The work NI Chest Heart & Stroke does in local communities is fantastic and I want to raise as much money as possible for them.”

As the start line draws closer Darren’s final thoughts are; “Doing all these running challenges has shown me what your body and your mind can do if you set a goal. It’s amazing. Four years ago I was struggling to do my first half marathon. I never thought I’d do something like this but look at me! You really can achieve anything you set your mind to.”

Tara Currie, Events and Marketing Manager at NI Chest Heart & Stroke adds; “We are very thankful to Darren for taking on these amazing challenges in support of us. The effort and dedication shown by Darren is nothing short of phenomenal and we wish him all the best as he prepares to take on the Norn Iron Ultra on Saturday.”

“Today, there are over 335,000 people living with a chest, heart or stroke condition in Northern Ireland. Almost 90% of our care and prevention services and research are funded exclusively by public donations. Fundraising efforts like Darren’s are vital in enabling us to continue to support the local community and provide life-changing services for people living with chest, heart and stroke conditions and their families.”

If you would like to find out more about Darren’s challenge, or to donate, visit

If you have been inspired by Darren’s story you can find out more about the many different ways to support NICHS at