TWO Lurgan athletes are nearing the end of a marathon challenge.
Owen Crilly and Patrick McAliskey set themselves the gruelling task of completing 52 half marathons in 52 weeks in aid of Action Cancer and Bowel Cancer UK.
On Friday, they weren’t short of cheerleaders as Owen completed half marathon number 46, and Patrick number 44, at Tannaghmore Primary School.
Owen told the ‘MAIL’: “I’ve had the most amazing year. Some of my runs have been on my own in the middle of nowhere. Friday was amazing in terms of the crowd that came out to support us.
“We had to do 53 laps of the football pitches. After four laps I could have stopped and went home to my bed, but with the school kids watching I couldn’t stop. They were an inspiration.”
Owen and Patrick were joined by over 600 fun runners at the school as well as local sport stars and celebrities who dusted off their trainers.
It was a case of revisiting his old stomping ground for Patrick, a former pupil of Tannaghmore along with Owen’s wife Grainne.
Among the participants were Tyrone GAA manager Mickey Harte, Armagh All Ireland winner Diarmaid Marsden, Derry All Ireland winner Tony Scullion, ex-Irish Rugby International Trevor Ringland, local boxer Stephen Haughian and Lurgan golf pro Peter Hanna.
St Peter’s running star John McCambridge did the full 13.1 miles along with one of the parents from the school, David Quinn, and young Niall McCarron from St Paul’s Junior High School. Tannaghmore teacher Mark McMorrow got in on the act romping his way through the full 13.1 miles.
The Tannaghmore event was hosted by the 1977 Armagh GAA all star Jimmy Smith.
It’s been an extremely busy year for Owen, a civil servant, and Patrick, who runs his own company NovaSco.
Owen said: “We do a couple of training runs during the week and we also give talks in schools about what we’re doing to raise awareness.
“It’s something that has kind of exploded. It’s so much more than just the 52 half marathons.
“Thankfully we’ve stayed injury-free. Halfway through I was getting pains in my feet, but I discovered the cause of the problems was my trainers. I got a new pair and everything was okay again.”
Reflecting on the half marathons he’s completed, Owen said: “The Causeway Coast was tough but the scenery was amazing. Myself, Patrick, my wife Grainne and Fiona Patterson, who is Rory McIlroy’s aunt, did that one.
“I’ve done Paris and also been up the Mournes.
“The most memorable one has been Tannaghmore because of the kids. They were giving us high fives and asking for autographs at the end.”
When Owen was 18 he trained for the Larne Coast Road Marathon but slept in and missed it.
Thankfully his latest forays have been a lot more successful.
Last year, he set his alarm clock and completed the Dublin Marathon in three hours and 43 minutes.
Owen spoke of the motivation for the 52/52 challenge: “Most of us have been touched by cancer at some stage of our lives, either personally or because a family member or friend has been diagnosed,” he said.
“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.
“Like most people, time passed and I found many excuses not to. Recent cancer diagnoses of family and friends have caused me to think again and drop the excuses.”
In late 2010 he got the idea to do 52 half marathons in 52 weeks.
“I tried to bury the idea but it just kept resurfacing,” he said.
“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’.”
It began a journey that will see Owen and Patrick run 1362.4 miles between them, probably well in excess of 3,000 miles if you count training runs, in the space of 12 months.
They aim to raise at least £15,000 for Action Cancer and Bowel Cancer UK in Northern Ireland.
If you want to make a donation go to http://www.52-half-marathons.co.uk.
If you want to take part Owen and Patrick have a couple of local runs lined up on Sunday, May 27, at Craigavon Lakes and on Saturday, June 2, at the same venue with Wolfe Tones GAC.
They hope to finish their marathon challenge with the daunting ‘Extreme Mourne Way Half Marathon’.
“We might as well go out with a bang,” said Owen.