A GYM owner from Duleek is preparing to take on a 100km ultra marathon to raise money for a community project that was set up to tackle the issues of drugs and suicide in the village.
Chris Dunne (34) who runs The Forge Fitness Gym was inspired to get involved with the Feel Good Project to offer support and advice to young people struggling with mental health issues having used fitness himself to turn his life around.
The dad of three is taking on the mega-marathon in Donadea Forrest in Kildare on June 1st and has been training hard completing five marathons in just four weeks in preparation. He says the incentive to raise funds for the community project will keep him going through the gruelling event that will put his mental and physical endurance to the test.
"The Feel Good Project is an initiative set up by Cllr Sharon Keogan that was created to help provide education and support for those with a range of social issues in Duleek. People think this kind of thing only happens in bigger towns but it's very easy to take a grip of a small community.
Chris in the Forge Fitness Gym in Duleek
"I lost my way a little when I was a teenager. My father died which didn't help and I started drinking and partying too much. You don't realise it at the time, but it was affecting my mental health. I'd just live for the weekend but would feel terrible the rest of the week. I knew I had to make a change and fitness was a huge part in that.
Despite the short hiatus as a teen, sport and fitness has always been a huge part of Chris' life and says it was a natural progression to turn a passion into a business.
"I started playing football as a young kid. I was always in or around a gym or getting involved in martial arts. I moved to Australia in 2011 with my wife and family and really got into weight lifting over there. I did a couple of personal training and nutrition courses and when I came back to Ireland I decided to open the gym in Duleek.
"Duleek is a great village with great people. They have really supported me over the years. We have put teams together to do things like Hell and Back and Tough Mudder, people like to be a part of something as well.
Last year, the exercise advocate took part in Ireland's Fittest Family on RTE, despite getting knocked out early on in the competition, he says it's an experience he'll treasure.
"I love fitness challenges so it was something that I had wanted to do for a while. It was a special experience to be able to compete with three generations of my family and a proud moment for me to have done that with my daughter as well."
The gym owner and family
Chris explains that he has been running marathons to train for the 100km race.
"I started training with a guy Ray Cassin who has run over 100 marathons, without him I probably wouldn't have been able to do them because when you are running with someone who has experience and knowledge, they help you along and tell you that when it gets tough, it will pass and you can finish it.
"It's easier to turn up at a marathon like Belfast with lots of people where there is a bit of a buzz instead of going out on your own and saying I'm going to run 40km today because mentally it's very easy to back out.
Chris says that 50km is the longest distance he has run and taken on a challenge to complete twice the distance will be tough but is never one to turn down a challenge.
"It's kind of like when you go out and have too much to drink and you say never again, you forget about the pain and the next thing you know you are signed up for something else," he laughs, adding
"Doing it for charity will keep me going. My son is eight and he keeps asking me when it's on and he said to me, ‘Dad when that's on make sure you don't quit. I don't think I will get a better incentive than that."
If you would like to sponsor Chris, check out The Forge Fitness Gym Facebook Page.