Danny Quigley with sister Enya and friend Stephen.
There is an air of nervous anticipation outside Destined offices on Tuesday evening as runners from different clubs in the city, plus family members and other interested bystanders wait for Danny Quigley to show.
He’s upstairs getting a well-earned massage before he takes on the final 13 miles on the fifth day of his incredible Ironman challenge. The excitement is there, but there is no escaping the tension either. This is taking its toll on Danny. And how could it not?
While most of us are delighted if we get our 10,000 steps a day, Danny is running the equivalent of 52,000 steps a day, and that’s after he completes a 2.4 mile swim and a 112-mile bike ride. Can you imagine doing that? How you would refuse to get up from your bed the next day, every muscle in your body screaming at you to wise up, your head pounding and your legs feeling like lead one minute and jelly the next.
Now multiply that by 10. It is well documented that Danny is undertaking 10 Ironman Challenges for 10 consecutive days. It has been brilliantly publicised, but can we really appreciate the size of that challenge? It’s likely impossible for us.
Danny will be able to tell us this Sunday, when he finishes this incredible task – and thankfully for him there are plenty there to support him on his journey. Some run with him, some walk with him, some cycle with him, and that support cannot be measured. It is essential.
Day 4 (Monday) was the big fear. All the research showed that Day 4 in such a challenge often broke competitors, and the word is that Danny came in much later than he hoped on Monday night. He was struggling. You could see it on people’s faces.
There is a stirring and all of a sudden there he is. He is limping, he looks absolutely beat, but he’s ready to go again. He knows I’m waiting, and I have to walk with him. He’s not for stopping.
I ask him how he is and his response cannot be published, but I’m sure you can all guess. It’s probably the same response most of us say when we walk up Shipquay Street.
As we walk, a crowd gather behind him. There are always there, supporting, encouraging, with words or simply their presence. They are his shadow. They never leave him.
Day 4, as expected, was a struggle.
“Last night I think I went through the first 21 miles in 4:30 and the last five miles took me nearly two hours,” he admits. “My legs just gave up and I started feeling injuries – my right quad and my left shin were getting it tight. My sinuses were giving me trouble. It was just hard, harder than what I thought.
“Day four was a killer definitely. It was actually going well up until that last 5-mile and then it just killed me. Things didn’t work properly.”
The fear of Day 4 was real, but this is now day five (Tuesday), and getting past that was a huge boost psychologically.
“I think it helped getting past day four,” he agrees. “I put on a bit of music and didn’t talk as much. I was trying to just focus on how my body was feeling. I was really trying to lock in how I was feeling rather than by going by the book. I was listening to my own body and trying to assess myself.”
As for his support?
“The support is unreal,” he acknowledged. “It’s crazy. Day four, if it wasn’t for the support I would have been throwing the towel in definitely.”
‘Proud but scared’
There I leave him and walk back to the few who have stayed behind. His sister Enya is one of them. Dressed in a ‘Team Danny’ t-shirt, she is the one videoing his journey, if only to deter him from doing something like this ever again.
“I’m proud and scared at the same time,” she tells me. “Last night he came in and he was sore and he was hurrying and you could see that. We’re trying to change our language- rather than say ‘This is how long you’ve got left’, we are saying ‘You’ve only got 5 left’ or ‘You’ve done 5’, you know, trying to be more positive about it. There is a wee bit left and there is still a chance of injury, but he’ll be okay.”
Danny is doing this to raise funds for Pieta, a suicide prevention charity, and the Bogside/Brandywell Health Forum, which organises a 5K Jog in the Bog run in memory of his father Colm, on the tenth anniversary of his death.
“We thought it was an amazing idea, but we didn’t think it was going to happen this soon,” Enya admits. “We thought he would have a long-time training but then he ended up bringing it forward. Then we thought he was crazy, and we still do think he is crazy, but it amazing that he is able to raise this money because it’s going to go right back into this community, into where it matters, especially into mental health services within the community.
“Our family has obviously been hit really hard with that and the fact that Daniel is doing this now for daddy is amazing.”
The Quigley family remain appreciative of everything that is done to remember their father, himself a keen runner and the Jog in the Bog is now a popular annual event that has since gone global, due to the Covid pandemic. It ensures Colm is always remembered.
“We are very touched. I’m getting very emotional,” Enya admits.
“The Jog in the Bog is always amazing and we are so thankful to the Bogside and Brandywell Health Forum for organizing it. We really do just show up for that. I suppose as well, Daniel doing this, and putting that money towards their services, it’s just all clicking really well together. He couldn’t have picked a better way to do it, to commemorate daddy’s anniversary and give something back to them for doing Jog in the Bog and for supporting so many people in the area.”
All being well, Danny will finish his final Ironman challenge on Sunday evening. It promises to be a memorable occasion.
“There are a few wee surprises planned that I’m not going to let out,” Enya admits. “I’m seeing a lot of tears and snotters happening. That’s not just from Daniel who will have completed a mammoth challenge, that’s from everybody. See every day he comes in, we all get so emotional about it because he’s that wee bit closer to the end.
“Even when I’m driving over in the car in the morning and I start thinking about it, and thinking about the fact that he’s finished another one, I get worked then as well. It’s going to be crazy. Yesterday was day four and there was a feeling in the people that were there that he was struggling. He was struggling and we could all see it. Everybody walked towards him as he was coming in and everybody’s emotions were heightened, you could tell. It was amazing, and I can’t wait until Sunday.”
Danny is a dot in the distance at this stage – he and his supporters are long gone Out the Line. There Enya will wait for his return, another day done, and another mountain climbed. It is one painful step at a time.
As we walk back towards Destined she laughs, admitting that she is determined he won’t try something like this again.
“I’ve been doing loads behind the scenes including the lives on Facebook but I’ve been doing behind the scenes films as well that won’t go anywhere, they are purely for Daniel’s benefit to look back on,” she explains.
“If he does think about doing anything like this again, I’m hoping these stop him because it is so grueling on his body. I hope to God this is enough for him, maybe he’ll do a bun sale the next time instead to raise money.”
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