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Omagh woman eyes Everest after marathon triumph

EVEN talking to Leona Carson can be a draining experience. That isn’t to say the Omagh woman is boring but rather, her super-woman deeds thus far would make a normal person crawl up in exhaustion.

You’d think that back-to-back marathons last Saturday would be enough of an adventure for anyone. But no. Leona is constantly pushing the envelope in terms of what the human body can endure and to that end she is already focussed on running from Dublin to Belfast – twice the distance!

Then there’s her previously completed 15 marathons as well a 100 kilometre run AND she’s planning a trek to Everest’s Base Camp.

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Remarkably the local mother-of-four did not take up running until six years ago, when she stopped smoking. Having listened to stories of ex-smokers stubbing out the dreaded weed and turning to food, Leona sought to get fit, lest she pile on the pounds.

Thus, Leona’s running career began tentatively at Omagh Rugby ground well away from the public gaze, before she took to the roads… and ran and ran and ran.

Last weekend’s double marathon event took place in Ballina, Co Mayo. Leona began the first one at 7am and crossed the line just after mid-day. After a change of clothes, a meal and a rest it was off again on a different course at 3pm with the second marathon medal collected close to 9pm. Reflecting back to when her passion for running took off, Leona explained, “I was smoking 20 cigarettes a day and went cold turkey! I heard that people often put on weight after stopping cigarettes and I wanted to be healthy. I started with laps of the rugby club and then went onto the road.

“In 2012 I signed up for the Greencastle 5 on Boxing Day with my sister Korina. I might say now that I ‘only’ did the Greencastle 5 but it was a massive deal then and it is a great achievement.

“It was fantastic to complete it and I haven’t stopped running since! I then set my sights on the Omagh half-marathon and since then have completed 15 full marathons.

“It is amazing taking part in the events and the support from other runners and from spectators is fantastic. The Dublin and London marathons were unreal. It gets until you want to challenge yourself more and more. Two years I did 100 kilometres run in a forest in Portumna in Co Galway, which was 20 loops of 5k.”

Leona has also used her passion for running to raise significant funds for charity including Cancer Focus and Omagh Riding for the Disabled Association (RDA) where she is a volunteer. She has also previously walked the Great Wall of China and climbed Kilimanjaro for the cancer charity.

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Part of her training regime includes boxing, which she describes as “fantastic for mental strength and cardio.”
She added, “On Saturday week past I paced myself for the marathons and it worked out well. When I finished I was tired and hungry but I knew I had more in my legs if needed.”

A part-time employee in a local accountant firm, the mother of four teenagers including triplet boys, has her eyes firmly set on ‘The Rocky Road to Dublin’ challenge. She will consequently collect sponsorship for RDA, a charity “close to her heart.”
Leona concluded, “I love every minute of it. I want to push the boundaries to see what I am capable of. We have 36 hours to complete the Dublin to Belfast run with a support car if you are cold or tired or hungry but of course it must remain stationary. I am looking forward to it.”

Never one to rest on her laurels, this year for her 40th birthday Leona has booked to go to Mount Everest base camp.
No doubt that’s a whole other challenge she will ascend and even then look for the next mission.
Phew!

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