Writes Ciaran Dineen
It’s Saturday afternoon and the sun is splitting the stones on the Galway coast. The wind is crackling against the zoom audio but one thing that is crystal clear is the water that looks so inviting from the camera phone of a young man from Carrigaline looking to raise €1,000 for Pieta House, as part of his latest challenge in campaigning for mental health charities.
Carrigaline’s Aaron Elliffe is just about at the mid-way point when he takes a call to chat about his gruelling 650 kilometre cycle from Malin Head in Donegal to Mizen Head in West Cork, all in aid of a charity close to Aaron’s heart, Pieta House. This is the second major cycling challenge that the Carrigaline man has taken on over the course of the last 6 months, with Aaron having previously cycled through Portugal last November, as part of his own ‘Movember’ campaign, which raised over €1400 for men’s health.
This time around, he has decided to stay a little closer to home, embarking on another extreme cycle, with a bike and a bag all that he carries with him, and what better time to do it then the week when the Darkness Into Light event takes place. Today is a rest day for Aaron, and it’s as badly needed mentally as it is physically. It’s a day for allowing the body a chance to relax and soak his feet into the Atlantic, which he was just about to do as his phone went. The first question he is faced with is probably the most obvious, but also perhaps the most important, why? “This cause is just so powerful, Pieta House and the Darkness into Light is just so so powerful and I just thought that when I did my cycle last year, a lot of it was just having to challenge myself and I needed to have a very physical, hard challenge in front of me because I felt that I had lost a lot of my sense of purpose and what I stood for and thought that would be a good way of getting me back on track, while also raising money for charity”, Aaron explains.
Since his adventures in Portugal, Aaron was looking for the next challenge to refresh his goals and target something that he wanted to achieve. Having never properly toured around the country, the Malin to Mizen cycle was a great opportunity to explore the west coast and compare both cycles, but most importantly, to raise money for a really good cause. If he needed any extra incentive to embark on the challenge it was that his own town of Carrigaline was not hosting a Darkness Into Light event this year, so he decided to take Carrigaline with him and use his own platform to raise awareness.
Through his social media accounts, particularly his account on Instagram and Facebook, ‘AE Coaching’, Aaron shares raw and unedited footage of his journey, warts and all. He opens up when he is struggling, both mentally and physically, not shying away from admitting that he is finding things tough. The battle scars are visible for all to see and this is an important aspect of how Aaron shares updates through his latest challenge. “I didn’t plan this with any great detail. I haven’t cycled since November when I finished my Portugal cycle, a lot of this is off the cuff and I think that’s really important for people to know because I think that we sometimes try and plan and over-analyse everything, which is a reflection of life more than anything,” Aaron explains
“People asked me after my Portugal cycle what was the one thing I learned along the way the most and it was really that like life, the journey had a lot of ups and downs and twists and turns so it was a really good reflection I think of just day to day life. A lot of people have messaged me saying I’ve helped to inspire them but I just treat it like no ones watching because I think that’s the most natural way to do it. I’m just being me when I’m doing this because you see a lot of these fitness people and a lot of what they put together is very robotic, so by just being myself I think that allows people who are watching to relate to it more.”
Aaron has taken his own life experiences where he admits to having at one stage “hit rock bottom”, and turned it into something positive. “I want to show how you can get better in 3 months, in 6 months and in one year you can be just a completely different person by not giving up on yourself. I know a lot of people who have been touched heavily by suicide, and while it’s a cliché it’s so true to say that ‘one person is too many’, and I just think if we take things easier on ourselves and compliment ourselves more, there is an opportunity grow and get into a better place.”
Going through all the tiny and obscure towns and villages along the way, while it was inspiring for Aaron to see all the local Darkness Into Light events taking place, it couldn’t help but remind him that his own town of Carrigaline was not hosting an event this year, something which he felt was a great shame. He hopes that next year however he can get some way involved and help bring it back to his home town, which in previous years has generated enormous support.
For now however, Aaron is taking Carrigaline with him this time around. Being chased by dogs and having a nervy encounter with a bull down a country road is all taken in his stride, as he meanders his way down the west coast.
At time of writing Aaron has raised over €1800, smashing his original goal of €1,000. By the time these words will be read, Aaron should hopefully be home safe and sound having completed another amazing challenge and inspired others to perhaps create their own journeys in the future.
For those that want to contribute to his campaign in Aid of Pieta House, donations can be made via the following link https://www.darknessintolight.ie/fundraisers/aaronelliffe/malin-to-mizen-solo-cycle?fbclid=IwAR2BpICUfipFAqghwf_XcQCv-tixMc22o4FGxIVjTsfAOKfiIGZY1tTLy2A. This link is also available through Aaron’s social media, AE Coaching on Facebook and Instagram. Everyone at The Carrigdhoun would like to congratulate Aaron on this fantastic achievement. We can’t wait to see what you do next!
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