Meath Fire Blazers (back row l-r): Kevin Flanagan, Tommy Ayton, Gary Ayton, Barry Quinn and Thomas Nelson (front row l-r): Brian Rogers, Matt Smyth and Richie Faulkner.

Eight firefighters from Meath are putting final preparations in place to take part in ‘Race Around Ireland’ – the ultra marathon cycling event around Ireland – in August to raise much-needed funds for suicide and bereavement counselling service SOSAD.

Starting on 27 August from Trim, the 2,200km race must be completed within 96 hours! As the first emergency team to enter and complete the international race in 2015, Meath Fire Blazers completed the event in 84hrs 39mins – finishing fourth in their category and 10th overall out of 30 solo riders and teams.

“We now ask all emergency services colleagues for their support by making stations available to both crew and riders to use facilities such as showers, changing facilities, toilets, and a rest area along the race route. We would appreciate if they can also donate to the fund by requesting sponsorship cards or they can donate online on the GoFundMe page,” team captain Richie Faulkner told ‘Emergency Services Ireland’.

“The ‘Race Around Ireland’ is the toughest endurance cycle race in Europe and second toughest in the world after ‘Race Across America’. Starting in Trim on 27 August the race takes in some well-known landmarks such as Newgrange, the Causeway Coast, Malin Head, Cliffs of Moher and Ring of Kerry to name a few,” noted Faulkner.

The team learned a lot of lessons from the race in 2015, he added. “With just 14 weeks to prepare we were told that it was ‘madness’ to take on the challenge! We had two training sessions, and yes, mistakes cost us a lot of time, but our goal was to complete the race in under 96 hours. And with great public generosity, we raised €20,000 for two deserving charities.”

This year Meath Fire Blazers are raising money for SOSAD – the charity that aims to increase awareness of suicide in Ireland – which first opened in Louth. SOSAD has since opened new counselling service centres in Monaghan, Cavan, Meath and Offaly to date, in response to the growing rates of suicides in this country.

‘Race Around Ireland’ is the team’s second fundraising event for SOSAD, following their fourth-place finish in the 555km Donegal Atlantic Way Ultra Race on 23 June, completing the cycle in just under 21 hours. “This was an excellent training opportunity for ‘Race Around Ireland’ as we have new support crew this year,” concluded Faulkner.