Niall Breslin is one of Ireland’s most formidable and inspiring mental health advocates and public speakers. An active polymath, he is also a bestselling author, podcaster, musician, philanthropist, and a former professional athlete.
Niall’s personal experience has informed his journey to becoming a leading figure in mindfulness for individuals and organisations. He works alongside and shares his expertise with a diverse range of clients and audiences, including Apple, Google, international NGOs, and The European Parliament.
Niall has completed degrees in both Economics and Sociology, a Masters Degree in Mindfulness Based Interventions from University College Dublin, and is an Honorary Fellow of the Royal College Of Surgeons.
As founder and Creative Director of the mental health advocacy charity A Lust for Life, Niall has further contributed significantly to his standing as a key figure in the evolving conversation around mental health in Ireland. His work in establishing this organisation and driving its mission has led to numerous social entrepreneurship awards including the prestigious Social Entrepreneur Ireland Impact award, The Social Innovation Fund and the Google Impact Award.
Sharon holds a PhD in Nutrition Education and is currently Head of Performance Sport at the Irish Institute of Sport and has significant experience as a clinical dietitian working with a range of medical conditions including gut health and IBS, diabetes, weight loss, cancer, eating disorders and individuals who required tubes in place to be able to eat. She still currently works with the Respiratory team within the Belfast Trust, is the Chair of the Sports Nutrition Interest Group of the British Dietetics Association and represents this group on the board of the SENR and is on the board of the Professionals in Sport and Exercise.
She is responsible for delivery and coordination of nutrition services for elite Irish athletes across a range of Olympic and Paralympic sports and has worked with a number of world, Olympic and Paralympic medalists.
Sharon’s main research interests focus on the interaction between diet and health and diet and sports performance. She is currently involved in co-supervision of a number of research projects including:
Sharon has delivered nutrition support to athletes over five Olympic cycles and other major championships such as European, World and EU championships. As well as working with individual athletes has been involved with the science and medical committee of the OFI in the planning and logistics at two camp bases. She was appointed as the assistant camp manager for the Tokyo 2021 OG. She was awarded a Hon Fellowship of the Faculty of Sport and Exercise Medicine, RSCI in Sept 2016.
Why Sharon wanted to be involved in Marathon Mind
My career path has allowed me to work with people who have or are experiencing significant health challenges in their lives and those athletes who are aiming to stay healthy while improving and attaining performances that they aspire to. This project allows me to combine my experiences in order to support the 4 participants to train and participate in this project while ensuring that they remain healthy along the way.
Rob Heffernan is from Togher in Cork City and at a young age, opted out of the life that seemed mapped out for him. Instead of following his father into a trade, he put everything into race walking, and made his way to the very top. He claimed a gold medal in the 50km Walk at the World Athletic Championships 2013 in Moscow and a Bronze medal in the 50k walk at the London Olympics in 2012, to go alongside his Bronze Medal in 20km walk in the European Championships in 2010.
He is the first Irish athlete to win a gold medal at the World Championships since Sonia O’Sullivan in 1995 and the second ever male Irish athlete to triumph at the event, after Eamonn Couglan in 1983.
Athleticism permeates the Heffernan household and Rob's wife Marian was a National Women’s 400m champion and on The Irish Team that finished 4th in the European Indoors in 2010. Rob and Marian were the first ever Irish married couple to represent Ireland at an Olympics in London 2012. Today, Rob & Marian still Live in Cork and have 4 kids Megan, Cathal, Regan & Tara. Both Cathal and Megan are teenagers and very active in sport, both play soccer for Cork City and Cathal is the Captain of the Irish Under 15 Soccer Team.
Rob is still very active in athletics and is presently coaching international track & field athletes and 4 Race Walking athletes from Ireland, Norway and South Africa who will compete in Olympic Games in Tokyo.
Why Rob wanted to get involved with Marathon Mind
“I wanted to get involved in this as I am extreme passionate about the effects on your life as a whole. When you throw in the motivation of competing in the marathon and the team that is assembled it’s going to be great to help and guide this people through the many different stages of this journey and I hope when they come through it they will realise how they can use exercise and goal setting to have such a positive impact on the life’s and every facet of it. I feel I have been through the mill and back through out my own sports career and life and it’s going to be a privilege to help people who are so motivated to want to challenge themselves and improve.”
Louize Carroll is a Chartered Psychologist with over 13 years training and experience working as a mental health professional in multiple industries from the corporate and private industries, to the not-for-profits, to child protection. Louize spent a significant part of her career working as a purveyor for mental health systems change in Ireland through her work in establishing Jigsaw – The National Centre for Youth Mental Health in multiple counties across Ireland.
As the co-founder of a new online clinic coming soon in Ireland, Louize currently provides clinic and online based support and therapeutic intervention for clients globally, working with a broad range of issues including relationship difficulties, anxiety, trauma, and work problems.
Louize is a regular media contributor for the column ‘Design For Life’ in the Sunday Business Post, writing about relationships and grief amongst other subjects. She also makes regular guest expert appearances on Today FM’s ‘Mind Yourself Now’ with Dermot and Dave.
Louize is also a film composer and the bass player in The Blizzards.
Why Louize wanted to be involved in Marathon Mind
“Marathons are extremely challenging, on the body and on the mind. They can make or break spirits. They can impact relationships, and they can change how you view yourself. They can evoke the full range of emotion and perception, from excitement and self-belief, to rage and frustration to fear and desperation. And that’s where I come in. The very same mind can either keep you in prison or it can set you free. As the Marathon Mind psychologist, it’s my role to help ensure it’s the latter.”
Colin Griffin is a strength and conditioning coach at the Sports Surgery Clinic, where he is Clinical Lead for Foot and Ankle Rehabilitation. He also coaches a number of Irish athletes and is a Coach Education Tutor with Athletics Ireland.
Colin is currently undertaking a PhD at the University of Côte d’Azur in France investigating Achilles Tendinopathy rehabilitation and lower limb biomechanics. He has undergraduate degrees from University of Limerick and Setanta College, and a Masters Degree from University College Dublin. Colin has been working at the Sports Surgery Clinic since 2014 before which, he enjoyed a long career in elite sport where he competed at two Olympic Games (2008 and 2012), World and European Championships in the 50km walk, where he previously held the Irish record.
Since retiring from competitive sport in 2014, he has been running to maintain fitness with a marathon PB of 2.23.00 posted in 2019.
Why Colin wanted to be involved in Marathon Mind
I really like the concept behind Marathon Mind where the focus is on the journey rather than the end goal. Throughout my competitive career I’ve experienced many highs and lows. Competing over 50km involved a long build-up where setbacks along the way are not uncommon. It’s how you deal with them that matters. It’s only when I look back at my career now that I appreciate how these experiences have helped develop me in other aspects of my personal and working life.
I deal with many injured runners in my day job and I am able to draw on my own personal experiences to relate to what others may be experiencing. I believe it’s important to treat the person in front of you and not just the injury. That usually means involving a wider network of support.
My role as a strength and conditioning coach is to help their bodies prepare for the physical demands of training for a marathon and completing it on the day. If any of the participants develop an injury I will manage their rehabilitation program which will also involve a tailored mindfulness and psychological plan working in conjunction with the support team.
Over the next 9 months I hope that the participants will enjoy the journey, learn more about the capabilities of their bodies and minds, and that this experience has a long lasting positive impact on their lives into the future.
Dr. Michael Keane is a Behavioural Neuroscientist, Chartered Psychologist, Founder and CEO of Ireland’s foremost Neuroscience-led Psychology Clinic (Actualise) and the Neuroscience Consultant and a contributor to the Where is My Mind Podcast.
He is a former University Lecturer and founder of NUI Galway’s first scientific laboratories for investigating brain functioning. Widely published, and a reviewer for several academic journals, he is also the Neuroscientific Lead on the Mental Health Advisory Panel of A Lust For Life, a multi award-winning mental health charity.
Dr. Keane works as advisor and coach to a wide portfolio of global corporate organisations, provincial and international athletes, pilots, surgeons, musicians and leadership teams. Using Neuroscience education, brain imaging and interactive brain technologies, Michael works with these professionals to foster a deeper understanding of the mechanics, capabilities and potential of the human brain.
The essence of Michael’s work is anchored in the premise that we have an ‘old brain for a new world’. Whilst our brain has evolved over millions of years into a finely-tuned supercomputer, it is not built to deal with the demands of modern society. Michael is emerging as a thought leader in how we can use Neuroscience to empower resilience and wellbeing.
He is currently completing a medical degree to deepen his understanding of how both brain and body can be maintained and evolved to flourish in a world moving too fast for too many.
Why Michael wanted to be involved in Marathon Mind
"It's impossible not to be inspired by the personal stories of the hundreds and hundreds of people who applied to be part of Marathon Mind. But also to see the vision of the Marathon Mind Project, and what it is aiming to achieve, and what I know it can bring to peoples' lives, is nothing like I've seen before. When Bressie asked me to join the team, I immediately jumped at the chance. And I certainly feel like I am in esteemed company!
I'll do 3D functional brain imaging of the participants before they begin the journey, and as they go through it. We'll use that as one of the ways to measure their progress. Mental health - both problems and progress - can be notoriously hard to measure. I have always believed that using brain data to physically demonstrate to people what depression looks like, or addiction, or anxiety, or recovery, can be really powerful. People are often told 'it's just in your head' or 'snap out of it' or 'you don't have it as bad as others'. I show them a 3D model of how their brain is functioning, and we can see the impact that experiences and psychological states have on how their brains are working. That is incredibly powerful and validating."
Derry McVeigh is a Sports Agent based in Dublin & is a Director of Silver Hatch Sports, he is also one of the Co-Founders of A Lust For Life.
As a Sports Agent since 2009, his career has seen him manage Olympic Medallist, World Champions, European Medallist across Athletics, Swimming, Rowing, Boxing.
Derry is a keen sports person and has represented Ireland in Cycling between 1998 -1999 & managed the Irish National Cycling Team between 2009 -2010, he is also an active runner and has participated in numerous marathons between Dublin Marathon, London Marathon, Chicago Marathon & New York Marathon. In 2018 Rob Heffernan trained Derry to take part in the Dublin Marathon which he PB in 2 hours 53 mins.
Why Derry wanted to be involved in Marathon Mind
“My involvement in Marathon Mind as an athlete liaison officer is really exciting, as the last 12 years managing athletes I have always had to assist and deal with various mental health issues with athletes & try to assist them as best I can or point them in the right direction.
I feel the role as Liaison Officer will involve weekly to daily contact with the 4 athletes and assisting & help co-ordinate the athletes on the pathways and programs that have been set out by the 4 other experts. Additionally, I will be communicating weekly/ daily with the 4 experts informing them of the progress of each athlete.
I am also keen to following journey linking the benefits of running / exercise for assisting in overcoming Mental Health issues.”