Marathon men's amazing feat raises €490,000 for charity
TEARS, cheers and hugs greeted two charity runners as they completed an amazing 32 marathons across 32 counties in 32 days ending in Co Westmeath.
Hundreds of well-wishers turned out to give Gerry Duffy (42) and Ken Whitelaw (30) a rousing reception as they crossed the finish line together in a time of four hours, nine minutes and 29 seconds.
Their extraordinary feat has seen them run a full marathon every day since they started in Longford on July 2.
So far they have raised nearly half-a-million euro for Irish Autism Action (IAA).
To huge applause, IAA CEO Kevin Whelan confirmed the two men had raised €490,000 for the charity -- with more still coming in.
More than 220 people turned out to run or walk all or part of the marathon route with them amid a party atmosphere at the finish line in Mullingar Town Park.
Mr Duffy said he got the idea in 2008 after reading about a similar feat by a marathon runner in the US.
The Mullingar fitness instructor and Ironman distance athlete had been involved in raising funds for Irish Autism Action for several years.
"Ken is also a very fit guy and so I asked him to be my partner. I'm proud to call him my friend,'' Gerry told the Irish Independent. "I'm fighting back tears today. We didn't expect this kind of reception."
""When I ran past my 87-year-old grandmother's house and she and my father were there cheering us on, I couldn't help the tears. Gerry is a huge friend of mine but if he rings again with an idea, I'm going to be busy,'' joked Ken.
A number of well-known faces turned out to support the two on their final marathon.
These included Ryanair chief Michael O'Leary, Rose of Tralee winner Charmaine Kenny and Johnny Donnelly of The Saw Doctors.
Showing he is no slouch when it comes to pounding the tarmac, Mr O'Leary completed a half-marathon in support of the fundraiser in a timely one hour, 42 minutes and 36 seconds to take 13th spot in the half-marathon placings.
Peter Mooney of Clonard, Co Meath, was the first home in two hours, 51 minutes and 13 seconds.