Marathon effort

Patrick McAliskey and Owen Crilly who have set themselves a target of 52 half marathons. INLM2411-134gc
Patrick McAliskey and Owen Crilly who have set themselves a target of 52 half marathons. INLM2411-134gc

TWO Derrymacash men will start a year’s worth of half marathons this week.

Owen Crilly and Patrick McAliskey, who are both 43, aim to run 52 half marathons in 52 weeks to raise awareness of cancer related issues and to raise £15,000 for Action Cancer and Bowel Cancer UK. Their challenge begins with this week’s Lisburn Half Marathon.

Owen Crilly and Patrick McAliskey warm up for their 52 half marathon challange. INLM2411-135gc

Owen Crilly and Patrick McAliskey warm up for their 52 half marathon challange. INLM2411-135gc

Owen explained the motivation behind raising money and awareness for their chosen charities: “Since my Dad passed away from cancer in 1999 I promised myself I would do something to raise awareness and much needed funds for local cancer services.

“My Dad passed away very quickly. I think there were 10 days between him dying and my son being born. We called our son Joseph after my dad.”

Owen, a civil servant, will be celebrating 15 years of marriage to Grainne this July.

They have three kids - Joseph (12), Anna (10), and Niall (7).

He continued: “Like most people, time passed and I found many excuses not to (do something significant for charity).

“In late 2010 an idea popped into my head, 52 half marathons in 52 weeks. I tried to bury the idea but it just kept resurfacing. The thing that triggered me was that my brother Paul’s wife Marion was diagnosed with breast cancer.”

“So I mentioned it to my friend Patrick, who ran with me in the Dublin Marathon, and he quickly said ‘Great idea – I will do it with you’.

“We believe this challenge is fairly unique. It’s about raising awareness as well as raising money.”

Owen hasn’t got a great track record when it comes to marathons. He said: “When I was 18 I trained for the Larne Coast Road Marathon, then I slept in and missed it. I’d been up to 17 or 18 miles in training. The night before I sat up late with my brothers eating wheaten bread and food high in carbs to give me plenty of energy for the next day.

“I went to bed and the next thing I knew my mum came in to wake me up. She said some man had called round to pick me up for the marathon, but she hadn’t a clue I was doing it so she sent him on.”

He continued: “Last year and after 24 years of promising to set my alarm clock and run a marathon I finally kicked the monkey off my back and completed the Dublin Marathon in three hours and 43 minutes. Thanks to the generosity of so many family members and friends I managed to raise £3,000 for Bowel Cancer UK in Northern Ireland.”

Owen’s latest charity challenge will see him and close friend Patrick McAliskey run 1362.4 miles between them. When you include training runs they’ll probably cover in excess of 3,000 miles in the space of 12 months.

Patrick, who works for IT innovators Novosco, said: “We hope primarily that loads and loads of people will access this site, follow our journey and read all the information provided to ensure they increase their awareness of cancer related issues.”

The men will run their 52 half marathons fitted with GPS watches so visitors to the website can track their progress.

Patrick continued: “We also aim to raise at least £15,000 for Action Cancer and Bowel Cancer UK in Northern Ireland.”

Patrick is married to Anita and has three children - Niamh (11), Oisin (8) and Enya (6).

He explained his inspiration for choosing Bowel Cancer UK as one of the charities to run for: “When my close friend and colleague Rosi Kirker was diagnosed with Bowel Cancer in July 2009 I decided that I needed to do something to raise awareness and funding for such a common cancer in Northern Ireland,” he said.

“Because of Rosi’s drive and inspiration her family, friends and colleagues have helped raise over £30,000 and this money will stay in Northern Ireland to be used to raise awareness and help survivors and carers of people with this illness.

“Rosi died in April 2011 after a bitter fight with Bowel Cancer. I don’t want her inspiration and passion to just disappear now, I want it to live on and the best way I know for it to live on is through activities like the crazy one that Owen suggested – 52 half marathons in 52 weeks.”

Patrick has completed four full marathons with another three planned in 2011.

“I feel that this challenge we are about to take on is much more demanding as it requires a continued effort for a whole year,” he said.

The Derrymacash men are hoping to have some friends join them along the way. They’re also on the look out for business sponsors. People who wish to donate to Owen and Patrick’s 52 half Marathon challenge should log on to www.52-half-marathons.co.uk