Matthew Halpin aims to raise €10,000 in memory of best friend and classmate Kevin Hayes, who passed away in 2017
By Ben Geary
Former UL student Matthew Halpin is currently training to undertake one of the most gruelling physical challenges on the planet, the Marathon Des Sables, with the hope of raising €10,000 for Heart House, a free family heart screening clinic at Dublin’s Mater Hospital.
The intense six-day, 250km multi-stage race takes place in the Sahara desert, where temperatures can reach a whopping 50°C. Often dubbed the toughest foot race in the world, Matthew has a deep motivation for undertaking the legendary challenge.
In 2017, Matthew’s former classmate and best friend Kevin Hayes passed away aged 26 from Sudden Arrhythmic Death Syndrome, or SAD.
In the final stages of his PhD studies in UL, Kevin fell victim to the symptomless condition, which affects between 70 and 100 Irish people under the age of 40 each year.
His best friend Matthew is now on a mission to raise awareness for the condition that caused his untimely death.
“Kevin was a great friend to me – he was always smiling and willing to help others. He was extremely smart and had very high emotional intelligence,” Matthew remembers.
“We bonded over our love of food when we shared a house, and would often watch MasterChef and try to make what the pro’s made, but it never came out the same.”
Matthew is set to embark on the demanding challenge on April 23, 2023, and is training relentlessly in preparation.
Having spent the month of August 2022 in Spain to acclimatise to the conditions by training in 40-degree heat, Matthew will head to Lanzarote for three weeks prior to the race for further heat and altitude acclimation.
Matthew’s weekly training consists of about 100 to 120km pace, with a major focus on recovery.
Matthew explains, “For the multi-day race prep, my trainer Donncha Long and I are doing three-day, back-to-back runs at close to the race distances, so that is building confidence and getting my body used to a quick turnaround.”
The money raised from Matthew’s Marathon Des Sables would make a massive difference in supporting additional resources and testing at Heart House, so that they can continue to minimise the impacts of SADs on young people.
The clinic was founded in 2007 and has tested over 11,000 people for inherited cardiac conditions. Early detection is essential – genetic testing and heart screenings are two accessible tools that are used to detect if a person is at risk of SADs.
Donate to Matthew’s Gofundme here.
Find out more about Heart House.