Marathon Mind: Michelle McDonnell Brehony | Gym+Coffee Blog - Gym+Coffee UK

October 14, 2021 3 min read

As the Marathon Mind journey continues to build towards race day on 13th November in Mullingar, we caught up with the 4 amazing participants who have been challenged mentally, physically and emotionally over the past 8 months. If you’re new to the Marathon Mind journey, you can learn more about it, and the incredible participants, here.

Let’s hear more from participant #3, Michelle McDonnell Brehony, who is from a small town called Keash in Co. Sligo. This whole challenge was an opportunity to give herself some time after a very difficult period. A kidney tumour in 2019 led to a removal surgery which was a big shock at the time and one that challenged her emotionally and psychologically. Not one for backing away from a challenge, Michelle has shown unbelievable resolve to battle through the last 8 months of training with such a positive, relentless attitude despite having a packed agenda and her three beloved children to look after. She sees the final run as a very special and poignant moment given it would be 2 years on from her initial diagnosis. Let’s learn about how things have been going for Michelle.

Michelle in the Class Hoodie in White by Gym+Coffee

Michelle is wearing the Classic Hoodie in White.

Michelle, how are you feeling overall?

To be this far along, I’m delighted to be honest! I’m nervous as well as I know what’s ahead but that’s all part of it. If it was easy, anyone would do it! Every week, you’re pushing the limits so it does bring up a lot of mixed emotions along the way. It’s very tricky to juggle everything as I have a young family as well but getting out into the fresh air is such a release and definitely helps to de-stress my mind.

Has anything surprised you on the journey so far?

It’s all a surprise, really!! I guess just being able to push through some of the really long runs is something that I didn’t know I had in me to be honest. When I look back on it now, I was so determined to get it done that I had to be resilient and had to feel some aches and pains to get to the end. It’s part and parcel of the whole experience. I’m surprised at how strong I can be and how I can push those negative thoughts out of my head.

What has worked well for you along the way?

I’ve actually spent a lot of time concentrating on my breathing techniques and focusing on my exhalation. It’s been great as it really takes your mind away from other niggles or distractions that you might be having at the time. Any way that you can take your thoughts away from an area of pain is something that I’m interested in!

What challenges have you faced along the way?

There’s been so many! The first few months were tough and I was getting some hip trouble that is still somewhat there in the background. I had a lower calf muscle injury which wasn’t great as I was out of the normal plan for a month. That’s when the doubts start creeping in and you start to wonder if you’ll be able to keep going but you just keep telling yourself that you can. Even the mental aspect of dealing with an injury is a challenge, you feel as though you’re falling behind and that’s not a nice place to be in. But you have to listen to your coaches and ultimately, trust the recovery process.

Any final words of wisdom?

Distance running is definitely a mental battle. Your internal voices are screaming at you to stop and there are moments when you get those niggles and you wonder if you should be doing it or pushing yourself so much. It’s that constant chatter in your head! But it’s about teaching yourself to accept those moments and persevere to get through it. It’s amazing! Afterwards, you realise that you’ve had all those thoughts and you’ve just ignored them all to keep going and that brings an amazing sense of achievement.


The Marathon Mind journey reaches its conclusion on Saturday, November 13th as all participants come together in Mullingar to run the marathon which is very exciting!! If you’d like to learn more or if you’re interested in joining them, you can find out more here.



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