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How to become a neurodiverse Ironman

Excercise By Adam Mullery, Graduate Structural Engineer – 28 September 2023

Adam Mullery crossing the finishing line at the Ironman in Cork, Ireland


Adam Mullery in a green jumper and grey tshirt in the office with a window behind

Adam Mullery

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I was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) at an early age. I struggled to manage it through school and college, until I found triathlons.   
The journey began back in April 2021 with the goal to shed a few extra kilos after lockdown. I was intrigued by triathlon, as I felt it was the pinnacle of physical fitness and I wanted to set myself a challenging goal.   

I set myself a schedule and found, that with a plan to follow, it was easier to organise my life. Due to my ADD, I have often found it hard to stay focused for long periods and to stick to a consistent routine. Having a training plan was just what my ever-active mind needed. Thanks to the clarity I’d feel post-exercise, I felt that I had finally found a tool to cope with my diversity.  

In September 2021, I took part in a super sprint triathlon. As soon as I crossed the finish line, I knew I had found something that made me feel alive. I was overwhelmed with a feeling of achievement & pride. 

 I’d achieved my goal but what next? How about an Ironman competition? Time for a new plan. I plugged a 30-week training schedule into my calendar and followed it strictly.   

The race experience itself was out of this world. On a dark morning on the South coast of Ireland, 2,000+ athletes anxiously made their way from the carpark up to the transition area. 

 “You cannot be truly brave unless you feel truly afraid.”

Once the starter gun went off, emotions were high, and adrenaline was pumping as we all rushed into the wild ocean. After a very scary and unsettling swim, which was over just as quickly as it started, it was quickly onto the bike, riding a 180km course in high winds.  

I had a plan for the day, and – even if I say so myself, I executed it to perfection. I kept the pace & focus high and my spirits higher. I soaked up all the encouragement from the locals, focusing on staying present and never getting too high when feeling good and never getting too low when I struggled.  

Now for the marathon - Luckily, I absolutely love to run as I find the monotonous nature extremely therapeutic. After the first lap, I broke down the monumental task ahead of me into smaller more manageable segments, mapping out every landmark in my head. No matter how much I struggled, I never stopped smiling – I was having the time of my life.  

The whole competition was an amazing experience and I found great comfort in putting all the coping skills I’d learned over the years to help me get around the course on the day. Pushing through the tough times as I know they too shall pass!