Marie Curran was in town on New Year's Eve to witness the final leg of Paul Fallon's thousand mile running journey to raise funds for On the Road Again, a charity set up to help the homeless through getting people running:
Renmore Church at 3pm on New Years Eve was a hub of activity as a group of people eagerly awaited Paul Fallon's arrival. He was on the final leg of his incredible journey, which started on December 1st in Dublin and New Years Eve was to be the final day of his 1000 miles of running for the homeless.
Due to a sinus infection/cold my body was no good to me for running so instead I put on as many layers as I could, deciding I could at least cheer him on. Our own Adrian Fitzmaurice was there along with a group of Craughwell AC runners and many others including Senator Fidelma Healy-Eames. A few of the group decided to run out towards the Oranmore Coast road to meet Paul and escort him to the church where the rest of the runners joined him. I looked on in sheer disbelief as Paul and the group headed for Galway City.
Part of my disbelief was aimed at RTE's reporter Jim Fahy and his camera man as they ran to catch up with the group of runners and get a coveted interview with Paul, displaying a very good level of fitness.
Before I knew it I was in my car following the group as they headed for the Harbour Hotel. My plan had been to cheer on Paul at the Church and then head home but I just couldn’t turn my back. I felt compelled to follow this man and get a snapshot of his journey.
When I ditched my car at the hotel I was told by Craughwell AC's Aine McGuinness that Paul was going to take an hours rest and then hit the prom to make up the 19 miles or so he had left to complete.
At about 5.30pm I headed for the prom and caught site of the band of runners as they left the claddagh heading for Salthill. I let out a few beeps and then parked up my car and stood on the prom clapping and cheering them on. Watching Paul running into a strong headwind, with his head held high gave me a lump in my throat and I found myself driving on a few hundred meters and again getting out of the car to clap him on. I continued to drive up and down the prom as he counted down the miles.
After about half an hour on the prom Paul was in the company of just one other runner, the rest taking a break. At one of my vantage points Eddie asked my name and thanked me for my support, I joked to them saying I was taking the easy option, using my car. It was a vain attempt at trying to convey my awe to them; I really was speechless as I stood watching Paul get closer to his achievement.
Paul’s crew were parked up in a camper van near blackrock giving much needed support to him and also serving as a base for runners to take a breather and swap out with him. On one of his stops at the camper van I asked how many miles were left to go and was told they were down to about twelve and a half miles. The end was near.
I continued driving up and down the prom, getting out and cheering and I also told passers by of Paul’s feat. I got a few odd looks at times as I asked people to cheer Paul on. I bumped into a work colleague who told me I looked like a “Michelin woman”, I was in a lot of layers, which included two pairs of trousers, a puffa jacket, hoody, hat, scarf, and neck warmer and to top it off I had thrown on a hi-vis vest over these layers to make me look like a very wide truck.
Looking like a “Michelin woman” was worth every minute though, how often do you get to watch someone truly amazing achieve something as wonderful as running for a month, covering 1000 miles, for the homeless? I really can’t find the words to convey my amazement. At one point, Eddie took a break from running with Paul and so Paul was left for a few moments to run on his own while waiting for the next runner to join him.
Without thinking, I found myself running alongside Paul telling him I'd run the few hundred meters to his turning point in Blackrock and then back to my car. We headed into the wind, Paul smiling and chatting, explaining how spent he had been at the Harbour Hotel and how his stomach had been in knots, he had been mentally and physically fatigued. While he was telling me this I tried to imagine how much he must be hurting, yet to look at him, he didn’t look very different from any other person out for a jog on the prom. Yet, he was just a few miles short of having run 1000 miles.
A few minutes later we were joined by his new companion, I think the man's name was Joe, but I am open to correction. We joked with Paul about the New Years Resolution 5k race taking place the following day, asking if he wanted to run it. He laughed with us as he continued forward.
I said my goodbyes to them as I approached my car promising to resume my sideline duties. I drove up and down the prom one last time, another girl had joined the running group and some friends and family were also on the sidelines now to count down the final few miles with Paul.
Just before 9pm they started to make the journey home, the finish was outside the Fairgreen hostel, my last stop to clap them on was at the Claddagh, just before they turned onto the bridge, heading for the docks.
As I hit the Harbour Hotel I let out a beep for the camper van and I let out a roar to the cluster of people on the footpath waiting to cheer Paul on as I turned up for Fairgreen. I ditched my car for the umpteenth time and waited with a group of people for a glimpse of Paul on his run in. It wasn’t long before we heard beeps of the camper van and caught site of him as he ran up the hill and turned for the line.
His family and friends embraced him as one young boy said Paul had “run like the wind”, it was a apt statement given the strong wind that had been present for the evening and it touched on the feat he had achieved. Paul humbly thanked the crowd that had gathered and I stood on watching the smiles of admiration on people’s faces, everyone seemed to be at a loss for words. I know I was as the only thing I could think of saying to Paul as I shook his hand was “congratulations, I take my hat off to you”.
Words just can’t describe what Paul Fallon has achieved. In running 1000 miles he has highlighted his charity “On The Road Again” and has definitely left an imprint on the world.
To see more on his journey or to donate please log onto http://www.ontheroadagain.ie/