Mary McKenna on turning 60: ‘I am stronger and fitter now than I was in my 20s’

The CEO of Tour America on lifting weights, growing her business and overcoming adversity

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Mary McKenna on The Women's Podcast

At 59 years-old and just one month shy of her next milestone birthday, CEO of Tour America Mary McKenna says that since taking up weight lifting she is feeling healthier and stronger than ever before.

‘I am stronger and fitter now going into my 60th birthday than I was in my 20s’, she tells The Irish Times Women’s Podcast.

Speaking to podcast presenter Róisín Ingle, the travel entrepreneur who recently launched The Travel Suite, explains how a “life-changing” accident in 2004, in which she was run over by a jeep outside her travel agency in Dublin, left her with serious injuries and years of back pain.

“I saw the car coming and thought ‘I’m dead’, I went up in the air, went down, and how it didn’t run over my head, I don’t know,” she says.


The injuries suffered by McKenna that day included broken ribs, a fractured pelvis and punctured lungs; doctors gave her a 50:50 chance of survival.

Speaking about the lasting impact of her injuries, McKenna says “up until a couple of years ago, I would have carried difene (a powerful painkiller) around because my back would go, a disk would go”.

“I would be lying on the floor, ringing my sister: ‘I’m down the boardroom, I can’t get up’ and I’d be in agony. There’s nothing worse than back pain”.

Despite a recommendation from her doctor for surgical intervention, McKenna says the key to escaping her lingering back pain was to take up strength training, an activity she has fully committed herself to in recent years.

“I can do 20 full press ups and I do a regime of weights every second day for an hour and 15 minutes, where I lift 20 Kilos. I’ve strengthened my body,” she says.

For four years I’ve had no issue with my back,” she adds. “I can sleep now”.

In this wide-ranging conversation, McKenna also reflects on her early days in the travel industry, her life and passions outside of business and her ability to overcome adversity.

In this episode, we also hear from comedian, singer and actor Síomha Hennessy who is performing at this year’s Dublin Fringe Festival, with her show The Coil’s Lament.

It’s an hilarious exploration into online dating, isolation and celibacy, told through stand-up and song. Hennessy talks to Ingle about the inspiration behind the show and performs an exclusive song for us: ‘It’s not love’.

You can listen back to this episode in the player above or wherever you get your podcasts.

Suzanne Brennan

Suzanne Brennan

Suzanne Brennan is an audio producer at The Irish Times