FOUR local men will be pounding the streets of London on Sunday as they embark on the city’s 26-mile marathon challenge in aid of charities close to their hearts.
It will be a family affair for Sam Neill, who lives in Tartaraghan, as he will be running the course with sons Andrew and Adam.
Sam (57) who has been refereeing for 15 years, mainly in the Mid-Ulster League, decided to ‘do his bit’ for breast cancer research after the death of his sister, Georgie Forde, from the disease four years ago.
He will also be supporting the charity Prostate Cancer as he has a friend who is currently battling the disease and has become aware of its prevalence in recent years.
Both Prostate Cancer and Breast Cancer Care have been chosen as joint official charities for this year’s Virgin London Marathon with the aim being to support people affected by what are now the most common cancers in men and women in the UK.
This will be Sam’s first marathon, having tried for four years to get a place. He said, “As soon as I heard in November that my application was successful, I started to train again and although I am a football referee I quickly realised running a marathon was not going to be easy.
“I have been running around the roads doing six or seven miles a night and two weeks ago I did a big run. I ran from my sister’s house at Kernan, did six laps of the Balancing Lakes (each lap is 3.4 miles) and then ran back to her house again. I managed it fine but was just really hungry afterwards!”
Son Andrew, who plays for Bourneview, will be raising money for the NI Children’s Hospice, while Adam, who is employed by Tesco’s construction arm in London and is also a keen footballer, will be fundraising for the Whizz-Kidz charity which works to help disabled children lead more independent lives.
Meanwhile, Laurelvale man Kenny Clarke will team up with Gareth Turkington whose brother Neal, a lieutenant with the Royal Gurkha Rifles, was killed in Afghanistan in July 2010.
Both Kenny and Gareth, who went to Portadown College and university together, will be raising money for the Royal British Legion, and it was a Christmas get-together which decided Kenny that the time had come to do his first marathon.
He said, “Gareth did the London Marathon last year for the first time and said it was a fantastic experience. I had been thinking of doing the Belfast one but decided then to join Gareth and raise money for the Royal British Legion.”
Since then, the 33-year-old father of two has been hard at work, not just training but fundraising. A keen runner already, regularly clocking up 10-12 km each week, he upped his mileage, with his longest run now standing at 17 miles.
A pulled muscle in February curtailed his training for a few weeks but he is hopeful that if he sticks to the advice of ‘one mile every 10 minutes’ he will make it to the finishing line. “If I got round in four hours 20 minutes I would be delighted,” he said.
As for fundraising, Kenny completed the Mourne Ramble in March and has also secured an iPad, courtesy of Ballylisk Car Sales, which he will raffle the Saturday after the marathon.
Tickets cost £5 or buy three for £12 or five for £20. Anyone who sponsors Kenny £5 is automatically entered into the draw. Donations may also be made online to uk.virginmoneygiving.com/KennyClarke.
Anyone wishing to sponsor Sam’s run for his charities can do so through www.virginmoneygiving.com or contact him directly at email@example.com.