AFTER completing a 1,000-mile running challenge on New Year's Eve, Paul Fallon is looking forward to putting his feet up in 2012.
He pounded out an average of 33 miles a day for the past 30 days and finished in an exhausted but elated state in his home town of Galway shortly before the bells signalled the arrival of 2012.
The marathon run across each of the 26 counties was to highlight the On the Road Again project, which Mr Fallon set up to help the homeless and people with mental health issues get back on their feet.
It is modelled on the Back on My Feet programme, which has been successful in the US and offers people a chance to get into job training, education or a route to proper housing.
To avail of that chance, participants in the six- to nine-month personal development programme must have a 90pc attendance record at training sessions, which focus on the positive aspects of running.
A pilot programme, supported by Simon and Cope Galway and which was overseen by Mr Fallon, has already proved a winner, with almost half of the 34 initial participants making it through to the end. Testimonials from some of those who took part stress how it has helped them quit smoking and taking anti-depressants.
Now, homeless agencies in Dublin, Limerick and Dundalk want to get involved, and NUI Galway's health promotion and research department is to undertake a study of the project. On Thursday, Mr Fallon met Taoiseach Enda Kenny in Castlebar to discuss the programme and a meeting is now being arranged with Sports Minister Michael Ring to examine possible avenues of funding.
With wife Melanie and daughters Saoirse (11) and Sophie (9) cheering Mr Fallon home, he said was now looking forward to seeing how close he had come to reaching his sponsorship target of €100,000. "I've no idea how close we've come as many of the donations were being made online (www.otra.ie).
"I was hobbling at times with various injuries and some days I just couldn't reach my mileage goal. But I got there in the end", he said.