A New York bar owner has begun a mammoth twelve hour run around the city for the Foyle Hospice.
Tom McGrath who is originally from County Fermanagh has been in Derry all week preparing for the run, and for the world premiere of a film about his life ‘Every Five Minutes’ which will be shown in the Guildhall tonight as part of the Foyle Film festival.
Tom, a recovering alcoholic, says the welcome by local people has been amazing.
Today Tom will run continuously around the Peace Bridge and Craigavon Bridge in a bid to raise money for the Foyle Hospice.
On the way he will be accompanied by local runners and members of the city’s many running clubs.
It will be, Tom says, will be the run of his life.
“I have seen so many dedicated runners out on the road,” he said. “This is a magnificent city. So many people have got behind me. Now I have to prove myself and pay back the many people who have been so supportive.”
Tom will run the first two hours alone but for the next ten hours will be accompanied each hour by members of Derry’s running clubs and members of the public. He also take part in Park Run, the weekly timed 5k which takes place every Saturday morning along the quay.
Tom’s life changed forever five years ago when he drank himself into a New York hospital.
“The doctor told me - if you keep on going the way you are going, you will be dead within a week,” he said.
But Tom admits it took time to fight his alcohol addiction.
“It takes times for the brain and mind to develop and realise that alcohol abuse can be fatal,” he said. “There are a lot of mental battles going on when you are in that state of mind. I finally know now that if I drink I will die. That’s a heavy duty statement.”
The film which will be broadcast on Saturday night at a special event in the Guildhall tells the story of Tom’s life, of triumph and tragedy, redemption and salvation.
“Like some of the patients in the hospice I was near the end of my life,” he said. “But I was there because of alcohol abuse. I was lying in a hospital bed surrounded by medical equipment. They didn’t know if was going to make it or not. There may be people I’m running for in Derry who are in the same situation.”
“Running saved my life. I worry periodically that every time I put my foot down that it will come back the same way. I ask God for the strength to carry on my journey. I ask God for everything to go well in Derry.
“The whole idea is to complete the journey, then you are a winner. It’s not about belting out the miles.
“What we want is to make the day successful for the Foyle Hospice. It will be lovely to see the people going round Derry.”