Whilst most people use Lent as an opportunity to give something up, this year one Ardee woman has decided to give something back – and to do so set herself a daunting, and pretty tiring, challenge.
Her task? To walk one million steps over the course of Lent, a feat which averages out at 21,276 steps daily. Why you ask? It’s all in aid of the Irish Cancer Society.
In 2015, Nicola Bardon lost her grandfather Matthew Bardon after a lengthy battle with stomach cancer. His loss prompted Nicola to do something to help the battle against cancer and remember her beloved Gan-Gan.
“He fought it off loads of times,” Nicola tells ThisIsArdee.ie of her late grandfather. “I have a friend who lost a father and a brother to cancer. It just doesn’t seem to stop. It seems like every day you’re hearing about someone you know who has it and its something that can bring someone from the most active, bubbly person in the world to someone who can’t get out of a chair.
It was Matthew’s love of walking that lead Nicola to the conclusion that this unique fundraising effort was a perfect tribute to her grandfather.
“My Grandad loved walking, which is why I’m doing this. He used to fly across the world and walk all around the place. Everywhere he went, he walked. He loved walking and seeing things through his own eyes,” she explains. On her EverydayHero fundraising page, she describes him as a man ‘who travelled the world just to see it all by foot.’
“He was bed bound and chair bound for such a long time. It took the life out of him. He became quite down on himself. Because he didn’t drink or smoke, it was hard for him to understand how he got it.
“When something like that happens to you, after all of the grief, you just want to do something to help. I do a lot of work with the Irish Cancer Society through my own job and they told me that all of their funding comes from the public. They only help they get from the government is to get people transport to appointments. They don’t get anything for research, patients or nurses,” Nicola tells us.
“One of my best friends’ mothers is currently battling it and I see what she goes through.”
When we speak to Nicola on Thursday, she is exactly half way through Lent and has currently over 400,000 steps walked in that time. While conducting the interview, Nicola is pacing around the offices of The Irish Sun newspaper where she works as a Features Writer. Every little helps – and it’s a habit she still needs reminding of by friends and colleagues from time to time.
“When I first started doing it, I thought that 21,000 steps a day would be easy enough to do but it turns out it’s really hard. In the first couple of days I was doing 19,000 steps and there wasn’t enough time in the day but now I’m trying to do extra and I’m evening it out,” she says.
To put it into context, Nicola walks to and from work on a daily basis. Her average daily step count was at around 12,000 before taking on the challenge – now, she is having to almost double that. It takes some getting used to.
“When you’re working, it’s very hard to get them in. I’m walking around in circles, I’m doing it in my apartment – up and down the stairs – going around the block three or four times before I go into my apartment. I’ll walk the long way home and I’ll ask people to come for a walk with me in the evenings.
“It seemed like an easy idea but when you calculate it out it’s much harder than I ever thought it would be. I haven’t had a day where I’ve sat on the couch and done nothing since I started so hopefully by the end I’ll be super fit!”
Nicola set out by trying to raise €10 for every day of her challenge over Lent but having smashed that easily, she soon shifted her attentions to raising double that amount. If she meets her target, she’ll keep going too.
Having developed a knack for sticking to her lenten vows over the years, the journalist decided to take a break from the norm of Lent and testing herself with an altogether different challenge in 2017. With the help of her friends, the steps challenge was decided on and after some rudimentary math, a million steps seemed like as good a target as any to aim for.
It was a challenge that others could get involved in and notably, was all in aid of a good cause too. As well as keeping Nicola fit, it’s offered her ample opportunity to get out and enjoy some of the sights and walks that Dublin and her home town too have to offer.
“I’m trying to make things more interesting. If I have a day off, I’ll go somewhere,” she tells us. “Recently my sister and I were dogsitting and we went out to Sandymount Beach and suddenly your steps are clocking up because you’re running after a dog. It’s different – whether it’s running 10 flights of stairs, running the quays in Dublin or if I’m home in Ardee walking the Railway line.
“I ran the 5K there a few weeks ago for the autism room in the community school and I’m going to do that walk again because it was such a good stretch of road and we got loads of steps in. There’s loads of places around where you can do it, it’s just a case of mixing it up every time,” she says.
“At first it was a little bit daunting but now whenever my Fitbit tells me I’ve reached a target, it’s such a good buzz. Every time I get a donation, it gives me such a good rush that I go out and do a good walk because I know somebody is putting their money towards this and it’s going to a good cause.”
If you’d like to donate to Nicola’s fundraising for the Irish Cancer Sciety you can do so by clicking the link here.
Writing on her EverydayHero page, Nicola says, ‘I’m hoping if I raise some money, I can help some other family get to have longer with their loved one, and get to tell them all the things they want to say.
So, for the man who loved walking, who travelled the world just to see it all by foot, I WILL complete my challenge. So, Gan-Gan, this one is for you.’