Lying in hospital one day Jillian McNulty turned over the television channel and saw an advertisement for the Spar Spartan Challenge, a health and fitness challenge which will see 26 Spartans competing for the title of ‘King or Queen of Spartans’. One Spartan was to be selected from each of the 26 counties. Their goal is to compete in the Dublin City Marathon in October and in doing so earn the chance to win a trip to New York.
“They were looking for people to sign up to the challenge. They wanted one Spartan to represent each county. It was open to anyone of any fitness level. To enter, you put in a story and I basically said that I was 36-years-old and that I had Cystic Fibrosis (CF) and diabetes,” said Jillian, speaking to the Leader.
She added: “I told them that I wanted to take part in the marathon but at that time I was only walking. I also said that I wanted to walk / run, but mostly run, the marathon. I also wanted to be in with a chance to win the trip to New York – that would be dream come true!”
The young lady from Glack, Longford, duly won the hearts of the judges and was selected as the Longford Spartan.
“People could vote through Facebook. I got the second highest number of votes in the country with approximately 2,500 votes,” said Jillian proudly.
Upon winning the county title, the CF campaigner and fundraiser, turned her attention to her training schedule.
“I started training around six or seven weeks ago. All the Spartans meet in Dublin every month for a training meeting. There are weigh-ins and progress updates taken. There is also a race each month,” she said. “I’m the only Spartan who has any kind of a health condition.”
CF is a progressive lung illness for which there is no cure. It is an illness that can also affect the liver, kidneys, pancreas, sinuses, stomach and bones.
“I have found my health is really good since I started training and running. Even throughout the training period there is a chance that I am going to end up in hospital with a chest infection. I’m hoping though that the running will make a difference in this,” said Jillian, a daughter of Francis and Finola.
She continued: “I never thought when I entered that I would end up in the final 26. I didn’t think that they would pick me because of the CF. They (the judges) said that they were worried about my CF but they could see how determined I was.”
Running a marathon is a tough enough challenge for anyone, but for a person suffering from a condition such as CF, the effort is all the more remarkable.
“I’m determined to cross that line,” said Jillian. “I’m doing 8kms a day at the moment and that’s five or six days per week. I’m running a lot of it now too. In terms of time, I don’t have any goal in mind. It takes however long it takes and that doesn’t matter to me.
“This is my first marathon and the first run I have done in my life. My doctors have said that they have never seen me so motivated.”
As part of her ongoing work as a fund-raiser and campaigner for CF, Jillian has helped organise a race night at Kelleher’s on June 30 next at 8.30pm. Other organisers are Evolution Stage School and Optimum Events. All are welcome to come along. Also, she has set up a donations page for her marathon run at www.mycharity.ie – simply search ‘Jillian McNulty’. Donations of all sizes are appreciated.
To follow Jillian’s progress on facebook, look up ‘Longford’s Spartan’.