Getting to the heart of the mini marathon

Ahead of the Evening Echo Women’s Mini Marathon this weekend, EMMA CONNOLLY talks to one woman taking part
Getting to the heart of the mini marathon
Dawn Sexton and Allan Fisher.

A CORK-based man went to his doctor with what he thought was heartburn, only to collapse two minutes after arriving in the surgery with a cardiac arrest, where he was revived with a defibrillator and rushed to hospital.

His partner, who has had several other close family members undergo heart surgery, is now appealing to people to look after their body’s ‘engine’ and to appreciate every day, as no-one knows what’s around the corner.

Dawn Sexton, a huge supporter of the Irish Heart Foundation (IHF), for which she completed last year’s Evening Echo Mini Marathon, is also urging people to consider fundraising for the organisation in this weekend’s event.

Dawn, who is from Cobh and lives near Conna, remembers getting ‘that call’ after her partner of three years, 36 year old Allan Fisher, had his brush with death.

The make-up artist, who works at the Tom Ford clinic in Brown Thomas, recalls: “I was at home when I got the call from the ambulance crew — I thought it was a bad dream but they were able to reassure me that he was on the way back.”

Allan, an IT engineer, had no warning signs ahead of his collapse and would have eaten well and exercised regularly. He was, however, a smoker. Thankfully he has since recovered, has made the positive move to quit smoking, but is on medication for life.

“It did take a whole year to get over the news; things are different after a brush with death and being on medication is a big change,” she says.

Dawn’s brother has suffered life-long heart issues and recently, in his 40s, had open heart surgery to have a steel valve inserted.

“His case is far more serious and affects his lifestyle. He’s on the mend, has had some setbacks but is doing good,” said Dawn, a mum of two.

Her aunt had a triple bypass some weeks before her daughter’s wedding. She had brought her grandchild to the doctors and mentioned in passing how she had a pain in her teeth and jaw. That led to tests which brought her shock diagnosis.

Dawn Sexton and Allan Fisher.
Dawn Sexton and Allan Fisher.

It was also discovered that Dawn’s father, who lost his life in a crash a decade ago, had suffered heart disease; and his own mother died from a heart-related illness, albeit at the age of 91.

One of Dawn’s nieces also had heart surgery as a child but has thankfully recovered well and is now very involved in sport.

She says the heart is their family’s ‘weak spot’ with several other members diagnosed with murmurs.

A group of 15 friends and herself have, for the last five years or so, run the Evening Echo Mini Marathon for a chosen charity. Each year a member gets to nominate one, and Dawn says it was a no brainer that last year she chose the IHF.

“Heart disease has affected so many people in my life and the IHF were so supportive to me; with regards to advice and to listening and guiding us. The thing is that no-one knows when they’ll need them next.”

By coincidence, a good friend of hers who was part of last year’s group, has since availed of the IHF after her mother experienced heart problems.

Dawn hasn’t had herself checked for heart issues but is conscious of eating well and taking regular exercise.

She is mum to 20-year-old Nadine, who works at Abtran, and 15-year-old Evan and says she simply ‘refuses to stress’ and has a positive outlook on life.

“Your heart is your engine and you have to look after it. I refuse to stress and take the attitude that everything will work out; you have to take that step back and ask ‘What it’s all for?’ I’m very easy going and believe your mental health will affect your physical health, eg your heart; it’s all joined up and connected.”

Dawn is in training for the 37th mini marathon which takes place on September 16 and plans to run the 6km route. Her group have yet to choose their charity for 2018, and after raising around €2,000 last year for the IHF, she’s encouraging others to complete the race for them.

Rathcormac woman Majella Duffy who died on Kilimanjaro last year while raising funds for the IHF, will be on all their minds on the day. While Dawn didn’t know her personally, many of her group did.

Majella was climbing Africa’s highest mountain to raise funds for the IHF in memory of her father who had heart disease and died at the age of 47 following a heart attack in 2001.

The Cork office of the IHF is based at Penrose Wharf; tel 021 4505822.

For more information on this year’s Mini Marathon see

A group from Conna and Ballynoe taking part in the 36th. annual Evening Echo Women's Mini Marathon in Cork to raise funds for the Irish Heart Foundation. Including Dawn SextonPicture: Denis Minihane.
A group from Conna and Ballynoe taking part in the 36th. annual Evening Echo Women's Mini Marathon in Cork to raise funds for the Irish Heart Foundation. Including Dawn SextonPicture: Denis Minihane.


This is the 37th year of the Evening Echo Women’s Mini Marathon. It was first held in 1981 with approximately 300 participants. It will take place on Sunday, September 16 at 1pm, from Centre Park Road.

As the region’s premier women’s road race, organisers are hoping to have more than 7,500 women of all ages and abilities from all over Cork and Munster compete.

The Mini Marathon is organised by Cork Athletics and the Evening Echo has been the proud title sponsor since the race was founded. Tesco has come on-board as an associate sponsor this year also.

All proceeds from the mini marathon are invested by Cork Athletics to assist with the development of athletics in the Cork region.

As well as the thousands of women taking part to raise many thousands of euro to support local and national charities, there has also been high profile participants including Irish Olympians; Sonia O’Sullivan, Marian Heffernan, Lizzie Lee and Michelle Finn as well as elite athletes from all over Ireland.

A Junior Entry fee (aged 8-16) of €10 has been introduced this year as organisers noticed a big increase in the number of families who wanted to participate together, with mums, daughters, grandmothers, aunts and cousins lining up for the charities close to their hearts and enjoying the challenge of the marathon as a family.

Adult Entry is €16. Registration will be available at the Race Office in Debenhams, Patrick Street this week, until Thursday, September 13 and online at until Saturday, September 15.

If you registered before yesterday your race number will be posted to you, after that you will need to collect your number on race day.

This year’s race will be run over six kilometres, starting on the Centre Park Road at 1pm and taking in The Marina, Blackrock Village, Ballintemple, Maryville, Monahan Road and finishing in Kennedy Park. The distance has been shortened from 6.5 kilometres by Cork Athletics to improve health and safety and the overall participant experience and to allow for the addition of Time Zones at the Start Line.

All registered participants will receive a specially designed event medal, goody bag and water at the finish line and it is a chip/timed race.

There is always a great atmosphere at the Finish Line Party in Kennedy Park where there’ll be a DJ and food vendors to keep the party going for the afternoon.

The event is suitable for wheelchair users. Guide and assistance dogs are welcomed. However, for Health & Safety reasons:

Buggies/prams are not permitted in the race

No roller blades allowed

No dogs in the race (except Guide/Assistance Dogs)

Children under eight years of age will not be allowed to participate

Please note the use of earphones during the race are not recommended.

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