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Dub wins marathon test of endurance to spread word of girl's battle with epilepsy

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Mark Conlon (pictured) took on the challenge to raise awareness of Freya Doyle’s severe epilepsy

Mark Conlon (pictured) took on the challenge to raise awareness of Freya Doyle’s severe epilepsy

Mark Conlon (pictured) took on the challenge to raise awareness of Freya Doyle’s severe epilepsy

A Dublin man has run daily marathons for 66 days to raise awareness about a young girl with severe epilepsy.

Mark Conlon (37), of Clondalkin, has won the Last Person Standing competition organised by East of Ireland Marathons, which tested runners to the limits of their endurance.

He said he hoped that by winning the competition he would be able to draw attention to the struggles of Freya Doyle (10), who has a severe form of epilepsy known as Ohtahara syndrome and cannot walk, talk or feed herself.

"I ran the event for a beautiful little princess, Freya Doyle. She suffers with a very rare form of epilepsy - there are only four of Freya's kind in Ireland," he said.

"She was only given until the age of one to live - she is an extremely brave little girl and a battler.

"When it ramped up and we were doing 30 to 35km a day, there were only four men left. By December, there were only two of us.

"They put up the distance of the marathon more every day. It was extremely tough. Going out in all weather conditions - rain, frost. Running for 10 hours a day in the wet and cold.

"By the end of December, we were doing ultra-marathons every day.

"On December 30, I was doing my second 75km in a row and I got the call I had been waiting for."

His fellow competitor had dropped out, but Mark still had to finish the marathon to win. He said it was the thought of Freya that kept him going.

"I had 35km to go. It took me 12 hours to finish the last distance and I was champion," he said.

Freya's dad, Greg, said the family are fundraising to adapt their home to make it more accessible for Freya.

"We never really thought that we'd be coming to this and that she'd be getting this big," he said.

Difficult

"At the moment, every night we're having to lift her up and down the stairs.

"My wife has bad back problems. I could be working late and Freya would have to be sleeping on the floor downstairs until I get home, and then I would have to lift her up.

"We only have one income coming in - my wife is a full-time carer, and it was always difficult because we could only have one job between the two of us.

"That's why we feel we have to fundraise."

The couple are hoping to raise €40,000 to make their home more accessible and have already raised €22,000 on their GoFundMe page.


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