Former PE teacher in the UAE completes seven marathons in a week, braving blisters and pain


A former PE teacher in the UAE successfully completed a punishing seven marathons over seven days, across the seven emirates on Friday to raise awareness of the importance of encouraging people with disabilities to take part in sports.

Hollie Murphy said her passion to make sports inclusive helped power her through the demanding challenge, which covered almost 300 kilometres.

“I tried to block out the physical pain and keep on moving,” said Ms Murphy, founder of Heroes of Hope, a non-profit group that organises sporting events for people with disabilities.

I’m so excited about running. I want to be with Hollie. I want to be strong. She makes me strong

Dinal Ekanayake, an athlete training with Heroes for Hope

“When the adrenalin of the marathon wears off, you feel your body start to stiffen up.

There is knee pain, tightness, strain through my calf, blisters.

But I just kept my head focused on the purpose of why we are doing this.”

Ms Murphy has raised funds for the Al Jalila Foundation and Heroes of Hope during the endurance runs, as well as spreading awareness of her cause.

She is keen to build on the legacy of the 2019 Special Olympics hosted in Abu Dhabi, which encouraged the participation of people with developmental, intellectual, and physical disabilities, to break down barriers in society.

A long, exhausting week

Hollie Murphy finished her endurance race of seven marathons in seven days across seven emirates on Friday. Courtesy: Heroes of Hope
Hollie Murphy finished her endurance race of seven marathons in seven days across seven emirates on Friday. Courtesy: Heroes of Hope

Launching the challenge last Saturday in Abu Dhabi, Ms Murphy finished the final marathon at Palm Jumeirah in Dubai on Friday.

Setting out at around 5am daily, she clocked a steady time of about four hours for each of the 42 kilometre distances.

Exhausted but delighted, Ms Murphy said she felt blessed to see young athletes and their families show their support by running with her, or cheering as they followed in cars.

“When you see the families are clapping their hands and cheering you on that’s the purpose of the marathon,” said the 34-year-old Dubliner.

“That is your mental push, that’s the objective of what we are trying to achieve.”

Dinal Ekanayake, an athlete with the Heroes group, was thrilled to run 5km with his coach on Friday.

“I’m so excited about running. I want to be with Hollie. I want to be strong. She makes me strong,” said the 14-year-old Sri Lankan runner.

Daily sports activities with Ms Murphy help him deal with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and mild autism.

Other sporting enthusiasts also pounded the roads to mark their commitment to the cause.

Samantha Cadwallader, marketing manager of RCS sports and events, ran a marathon with Ms Murphy in Ras Al Khaimah on Monday, and a half marathon on Friday.

Highlighting the toll just one rigorous run takes on an athlete’s body, Ms Cadwallader said Ms Murphy’s effort was an inspiration.

“It can take a month to recover after completing just one marathon, and the fact that she did seven back-to-back requires incredible mental strength to push through,” she said.

“You need to cope with the fatigue, the pressure you put your body through. Your muscles feel super stiff and you need to put your feet up and relax.

But Hollie did not have time for that because she had to turn things around in 12 hours and get on the road for the next one.

“She is an incredible inspiration and I feel privileged to be a part of her journey to push for inclusion of people of determination in our mainstream races.”

Updated: April 2, 2021 11:10 AM