I was recently at the Women in Leadership Conference in UCD when a woman, full of life, approached me asking was I sportswomen.ie. She proceeded to tell me her name was Sinead and that her fantastic sister Regina was going to run in the North Pole, has raised huge money for charity and with all that has the heart condition hypertrophic cardiomyopathy which we will learn about later. I knew I had to learn more so sportswomen.ie got in contact with Regina and here is her story.
Tell us about growing up in Castleblayney and was sport part of your life back then ?
We owned a pub in Castleblayney, well known family as you can imagine with the pub and hard working. Saturdays were spent filling up shelves with orange, cola etc ready for that evening. I’ve been pouring pints of Guinness since I was about 7 years old, standing on a crate upside down! I suppose I was the chatty, cheeky one in the family, the youngest for 7 years until my brother Colm came along so I got away with everything.
Sports in my life was zilch at school. If I could get out of doing anything I would. I liked javelin for some reason but being very short compared to my friends I never really bothered with sport. Although I did enter the walking race every year in the community games which I took very serious until a group of girls cheated and ran when they thought they’d get away with it so I bowed out and my career in the walking race came to an end, at the tender age of 11!
I moved to England in December 1996. I was never active. I started yoga for 2 weeks and quit. That was about the extent of my activities. I didn’t own a pair of trainers for my first 14 years in England. My walking was largely a pub crawl. I was home in the June bank holiday 2010 and was partying in Temple Bar. I was chatting to a group of fellas and one of them asked me if I ran the mini marathon that day. My reply which I am still embarrassed about was “does this look like a body that can run?” and I laughed slightly. I went back to England disgusted with myself for such a negative answer and for putting myself down. Something had to change.
I decided to gather a few friends together to run the relay in the Nottingham marathon and my running adventures began. At the beginning of 2011 I decided to run 6 half marathons and the Dublin marathon. I set up a Facebook page called Run Reg Run. My mum thought I was mad and would not achieve the target of €2011 each for 3 charities. That actually spurred me on and I raised €8000 for UK and Irish charities. I was overwhelmed that people were willing to donate to me. Then I completed a trek on The Great Wall of China, ran London and it soon became an activity I enjoyed. I absolutely love fundraising. People are so generous in the UK and at home. People I’ve never met have donated. Truly amazing.
Everyone started to ask, “so, what’s your next fundraiser” and I began to realise that Run Reg Run was becoming a product somehow. People knew what I was doing and inspired me to keep going. Now I have an attitude of “why not”. Why can’t I not do it? I know I’m just wee Reg from Castleblayney but why not? If I had kids I’d want them to try everything and achieve loads in life so I guess I have to set that example now to my nieces and nephews at home.
To date I’ve run 16 marathons (Boston, London 3 times, NYC, Loch Ness, Midnight Sun marathon and various others) and raised £85,000 for Irish and UK charities. I know I shouldn’t run full marathons anymore but Chicago, Tokyo and Berlin are still on my list to complete the 6 World Majors.
We hear you are running a half marathon in the North Pole in April, why the North Pole ?
I was involved in the opening ceremony of the New York marathon in 2014 and an Irish girl, Amanda Younge, came up to me and asked if I was Run Reg Run. I couldn’t stop laughing. Here I was in New York and someone had heard of me. We became friends on Facebook and Amanda then asked if I’d run the North Pole marathon with her. As she said “I was the only mad person who would do it!”. I secured sponsorship with Experian, a financial data company based in Nottingham for the race and the rest is history. To date I’ve raised just over £25,000 for Heart of Experian Charity Fund which supports local and national community projects in difficult times and small charities who sometimes are overlooked.
Tell us more about hypertrophic cardiomyopathy and what it means ?
I was diagnosed with HCM in November 2016. My cousin died from it about 25 years ago so it was a matter of getting the genes test. The MRI confirmed I had it. It took a few days to sink in what this meant. I am the active one in the family and I have it. Sod’s law I guess but after thinking about it over Christmas I’ve decided to keep running but at a very slow pace. I was never a fast runner anyway thankfully but at least I am aware of it. So I’ve decided to run the half marathon at the North Pole instead and take it steady.
1 in 500 people have the condition and most of those people don’t even know. The question is, if that one person is active they need to get checked. If they’re not, they’re fine and can live a normal life. I now look at runners and think to myself how many of us are out there, with this condition. Looking back now I’ve had some of the symptoms (tightness in the chest now and again) but put it down to stress. I was a fainter in my 20s, went to the doctors loads of times over it but was always advised it was just low blood pressure.
I’ve come to terms with it now and remind my mum now and again if I die, I’ll be dying happy knowing I’ve lived my life to the full, doing what I love.
You have done fantastic fundraising, how did you go about it and what will be done with the money you have raised ?
To date I’ve raised £85000 for UK and Ireland. My mum reminds me never to forget about home so I thought if I’m running I may as well raise money for both countries. I’ve raised money for The Irish Cancer Society, Castleblayney Cancer Society and 3Ts (Turn the Tide of Suicide) as well UK charities like Bowel Cancer UK in memory of my dad Frank who died of bowel cancer in 2006.
I’m planning on walking around Ireland over the summer this year for The Kevin Bell Repatriation Fund but need to secure a sponsor yet. It’ll be called ’32 Welcomes’ where I want to walk through each county and take a selfie at each welcome sign. I’m aiming to raise €32,000 in the process.
I like to arrange unusual events. I ran from Nottingham to East Midlands airport and flew to Dublin, continuing over 3 days to Castleblayney. We raised £9000 over those 4 days for charity. I aim high in my fundraising targets and always beat them.
Tell me more about your fab sister ?
Sinead is the best. She’s always there for me. She is an inspiration. She went back to university, got her degree with 2 young kids and now works for Prometric. She is the inspirational one in my life.