Andy Deal prepares for 24 hour challenge in aid of SANDS NI:


Andrew takes on massive fundraising challenge:

Andrew Deal, a member of Springwell Running Club and event director of the Portrush ‘parkrun’ will take on an amazing challenge later this month; on the 22nd June 2013 Andrew will start the ‘parkrun’ on East Strand beach, Portrush, but unlike the other competitors who will take part in the 5km time trial, Andrew will continue running for 24 hours, until 9.30am on Sunday 23rd June 2013.  Why would he do this? … you may ask, but read on and you will understand.

Many of us would consider this as one the hardest things we could experience, but for Andrew, it’s not.  In December 2009 Andrew’s eight day old daughter, Poppy Rose died in his arms after being born with a genetic complication; speaking about the pain and suffering, the brave fire fighter says, “this as you can imagine devastated the family, and life will never be the same again.  Anyone that has been in the same situation as we have knows that losing a child creates extremely powerful emotions; devastation, being lost, numbness, fear, anger, disbelief, pain and the list goes on. It can break you in two at such random times.  Yet these extremely powerful emotions can, when the time is right, allow you to achieve the unachievable, face your worst fears, make you strong and even suffer extreme pain because we have been through worse.  So I will be taking myself out of my comfort zone completely to achieve something that I thought I could never do.”

Andrew and his wife Kirsty express their appreciation for SANDS NI, a charity who help and support bereaved parents and families, and have been there for them when they needed it most. Kirsty is one of the ladies behind SANDS Coleraine.

Andrew adds, “SANDS NI has really helped our family with their monthly meetings; bereaved parents are able to be the Mummy’s and Daddy’s of the children and babies they have lost.  They are able to freely talk about their feelings and emotions to other like people, without the person listening recoiling into their pocket for fear of making us upset, crossing the street to avoid contact, wondering isn’t it about time you got over it.  We never get over this, ever.”

As a keen marathon runner, Andrew wanted to take himself out of his comfort zone and thought this challenge would do just that, he explains how he came up with the idea, “As a youngster I used to loathe the cross country run in the rain and wind, but having done 4 marathons now, I see things differently.  My first one was the New York City Marathon on our first wedding anniversary with my wife; recently, I have been drawn to going a little further.  The Causeway Coast Ultra (organised by 26 extreme) is right on our doorstep and that’s 39 miles, I’ve listened to Marathon Talk podcasts on my training runs to get more of an understanding about how to run better and achieve more.  This then lead to listening to Talk Ultra podcasts (an Ultra is anything more than a marathon) where running 50, 60, 100 miles or more is not considered to be weird.  Part of these podcasts talked about 24 hour runs and seeing how far you could go in that time.  I had ran marathons to raise money for SANDS NI before but now was time to up the ante, maybe the time was right.

The 24 hour run will be entirely on the Portrush ‘parkrun’ course, which in itself brings an extra challenge because of the terrain; something that Andrew has thought about, “Running for that length of time and distance will always have a detrimental effect on the body, there needs to be changes of clothes and shoes, blister management, first aid and hopefully a good masseuse to rub my legs.  Running on sand increases the effort you require to run as the ground isn’t solid and stationary like the tarmac of the road.  Strangely enough, who has been on the beach before us also plays a big part as we are finding out from the parkrun; race horses can churn up the sand and cause quite large holes.  Plus, it’s not always flat so you have to make sure you lift your legs up a little higher to avoid trips.  Having said all this, I can think of no better place to do the run.  The 22nd June is the day after Summer Solstice, so the hours of darkness will be limited, which I’m hoping will benefit me.  The sea in the summer months is never really that rough and I’m hoping there’s no large changes in tides as I’ll be up and down the dunes and that’s the last thing I need at 4am

after 75 miles.”

Sensibly, Andrew has put a lot of effort into training for the challenge, building up the miles gradually and also running at night so as to train his body to deal with the exercise when it would normally be enjoying some downtime.  When asked about his training, Andrew explained, “Believe it or not, the training for a 24 hour event is very similar to marathon training.  Through the week there will be two or three sessions of about 6-8 miles, one of which will be a faster tempo run and another will be up and down hills.  The main difference to marathon training is the longer runs at the weekend, with a marathon you would do progressively longer runs up until about a month before the event and then gradually reduce them.   However, with the 24 hour event I will be doing two days of these longer runs, preferably back to back.  So on a Friday I might do 18 miles then the same again on the Saturday, up to a maximum of about 30 miles for each day. This allows the body a chance to get used to running on tired legs.

Walking is also a big part of a 24 hour event, running for 24 hours non-stop is in a league way above mine, so the plan is to start out slow and easy to allow my body to conserve energy for the last quarter.  The plan is to try to break the 100 mile mark within the 24 hour period, as Talk Ultra podcasts have explained that a 100 mile event is basically a 75 mile warm up to a marathon.  I have been training on and will continue to train on the beach at East Strand for some of my runs, just to get my legs used to the sand.  I have also had to start running in the middle of the night to make sure I can run at these times and to test out any kit I will have with me e.g. head torch etc.  Feeding is also a big part of the process and that’s normally taken on board at the walking stages.  I will plan to do 6-9 miles running with 3 miles walking.”

Andrew is encouraging other runners and friends to get involved and support his efforts to raise much needed funds for SANDS NI (Stillbirth & Neonatal Death Support).  This could be in the form of running with him for a while, coming out to support him during the day and through the night.  Assistance from local businesses would also be appreciated, in the form of donations such as; food, any soft drinks, sun tan lotion, plasters, towels, sports gels, protein powder and fruit amongst other items.

If you would like to help and support Andrew during his 24 hour run, please contact him via the event facebook page:  If you would like to support Andrew’s efforts via a monetary donation, please do this through his JustGiving page at or alternatively, to donate £1 then you can text DEAL 72 £1 to 70070.