Irish coach at Man City sticking his oar in to help children with cancer

Jamie Carr planning solo rowing trip across the Atlantic to raise money for the Cancer Fund for Children

Although he grew up in the seaside town of Howth, Jamie Carr spent very little time in or on the sea. However, despite having no sailing background, the Manchester City under-14 football coach is planning a solo rowing trip across the Atlantic at the end of this year in order to raise funds for the Cancer Fund for Children (CFFC).

He is naturally anxious about the challenge as “more people have travelled into space than have successful rowed solo across an ocean” but he is also excited about the prospect.

"In December I will be rowing 3,000 miles across the Atlantic Ocean on my own in a seven-metre rowing boat," says the 30-year-old. "I have entered the Talisker Whiskey Atlantic Challenge, which is an annual race starting in La Gomera, Canary Islands, and finishing in Antigua, Caribbean. This will take anywhere between 40-100 days, and is an entirely self-supported race with me bringing everything I need for the duration of the crossing.

“I will spend Christmas and New Year at sea battling sleep deprivation, salt sores and the physical demand of rowing up to 18 hours a day. And along with the physical stress, I will also have the incredibly tough test of being alone and isolated for months in an environment totally out of my comfort zone.

“The challenge is definitely intimidating, but I’m incredibly excited about it. I know there will be moments where I am terrified and lonely, and am already worried about the first storm and having to clean barnacles off the bottom of my boat (they slow you down). On the other hand I can’t wait to see whales, dolphins and all the other wildlife in the Atlantic.”

Big deal

As the lead under-14 coach with Manchester City Academy, the Dublin man spends most of his time around people and says going solo is a really big deal for him.

“I am used to being part of a team and like the feeling of being able to rely on others and being there for your teammates, it’s definitely where I feel most comfortable,” he says. “So making the decision to do this alone was not easy and it scares me.

“But I also know there is a part of me that would regret not doing the challenge in the hardest way possible. So after much thought I decided to go for it alone – and in 12 months’ time I am confident I will be rowing into English Harbour, Antigua, having rowed across the Atlantic Ocean alone.

“I know this will be the greatest physical and mental test of my life – it is the challenge of a lifetime.”

Despite the arduous nature of this challenge, Jamie, who went to Sutton Park School, before heading to IT Carlow to study sports management and coaching in association with the FAI, was not content with setting himself one gargantuan goal in 2022. Instead, before he heads off across the ocean he will also be taking part in the Marathon Des Sables (MDS) on March 25th, a multi-day "ultra-marathon" run which takes six days over a course of approximately 156 miles (254km).

And to make it even more gruelling participants will carry everything they need in a backpack (apart from water which is provided) during the race, which takes place in one of the world’s most inhospitable climates – the Sahara Desert.

“Dubbed the toughest footrace on earth, the MDS is basically a race for those who are a little bit bored of the standard marathons you see every year in cities across the globe – it’s more of an adventure race, which is the part that really appeals to me,” he says.

Acclimatise

“The heat is undoubtedly the biggest obstacle and regularly reaches 50 degrees. With the race taking place in March, my training in the UK over winter has certainly not replicated the conditions I will face but Man City kindly allowed me to use their environmental “heat” chamber to try and acclimatise and prepare my body for what’s to come.

“It will be a big, big challenge as although I have completed a few marathons over the years I certainly do not consider myself a runner. But the reason I am drawn to the MDS is because I know it will test me – running three marathons in three days and then having to complete an 85km double marathon on day four in 50-degree heat is pretty scary.

“However, the greatest satisfaction comes after the toughest challenges, and I crave the feeling of knowing I’ve pushed myself hard and found a way to survive and hang in there. It’s hard to explain but I really love overcoming something difficult and scary. The feeling of contentment that comes afterwards is amazing.”

Being contented with his lot is one of the reasons why the Dublin native has decided to embark on these challenges in order to help others who are not as fortunate as he is. As having spent time teaching football to children in rural India, he knows that not every child has the same opportunities he had in life.

“Reading football club sent two coaches (including Jamie) to India to provide football coaching to children in the area for six months,” he says. “This turned out to be one of the most challenging yet rewarding experiences of my life, and I am so glad that I had the courage to take a chance and say yes as it turned out to be one of the most important decisions of my life.

“Crazy is the word which sums up my experiences there, but the part that will always stick with me is the children. They were so grateful for such small things and had very little (some even without shoes), yet they managed to have such a positive outlook on life. I will never forget how much they appreciated the little we could do for them.

“I left India with a sense of pride knowing that we made a positive impact and brought fun and hope to the lives of a few. Living in Arunachal Pradesh taught me to never underestimate the power of your actions. Such small things can leave a lasting impression, and can make a big difference in the lives of others. On reflection, this experience left a mark on me – I recognised that I want to help the people who need it most – the next generation, the children.”

Therapeutic centre

In his coaching role at Manchester City, Jamie spends his days helping children to achieve their dreams, but he wanted to do something more than that and this is why he decided to undertake the challenges he will face both next month and in December – to raise funds for CFFC who hope to build a second therapeutic centre in Cong, Co Mayo, which will cost an estimated €12 million.

"I am raising money for CFFC (to donate to Jamie's fundraising challenges, see nothingventuredcampaign.com) because I am passionate about helping children and young people. Children often don't have the opportunity to choose what life throws at them and somewhere along the way everyone needs a little help.

“When I first spoke to CFFC I just loved that they were there to bring a little bit of happiness to children who really need a break. Having been to Daisy Lodge [Newcastle, Co Down] I have seen what they do and the invaluable support they offer to young people and their families after a cancer diagnosis.

“CFFC brings hope and happiness to thousands of children and their families by offering them therapeutic short breaks together. And from working with children and young people on a daily basis at Manchester City, I believe it is our responsibility to be positive role models. As adults we often underestimate the importance of our actions around young people but we are showing the way and have huge responsibility.

"Our actions inspire future generations. I would like to think these challenges will inspire young people to lend a hand to those who need it the most. I know the new therapeutic short-break centre will bring joy and happiness to so many children across Ireland. So I want to help, and knowing the money I raise is going towards such a worthy cause which will benefit thousands of families in Ireland means a great deal to me."

Courage

Jamie will be facing up to some pretty extreme challenges this year, but while most of us are unlikely to be heading off across the ocean on our own or navigating the dessert in scorching temperatures, we do have goals to achieve.

And the fearless adventurer says we should find courage and do our utmost to realise our own dreams.

“My advice to people would be to just go for it. Take a chance every so often and don’t be afraid of failing on your own journey. I believe fear of failure is the single most common reason for people not doing something difficult or challenging as so many of us run at the first sight of failure.

“We are all scared of failing, but we cannot allow this to stop us trying. Having the courage to try is incredibly important to me and it’s something I try to pass onto the young people I work with every day.

“Yes, you will get it wrong sometimes and make mistakes – people might even laugh. But to me real strength is having the courage to show up and try again. We all have the capability to try, and I want to be the person who keeps trying. After all nothing ventured, nothing gained.”

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