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Running for Grace

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EYE ON THE FINISH LINE Garda Shane Nallen finishing his 300km challenge in Westport on Friday last, June 5.  Pic: Conor McKeown

Garda runs seven marathons in 30 days for little neighbour

Feature
Ger Flanagan

LAST Friday evening Shane Nallen stretched his legs along the Greenway in Westport for the final leg of his ‘300km for Grace’ fundraising challenge and crossed the finish line having blown all expectations out of the water.
The Belmullet native concluded his challenge – the equivalent of running over seven marathons in 30 days – at the local Garda Station where he is based in Westport and received a hero’s welcome from his friends and colleagues.
Thirty days previously, he set out on his journey with the hope of raising €1,000 for ‘a very special little girl’, Grace Walsh – his neighbour from his home in Binghamstown, Belmullet. Grace, who has just turned nine, lives with a condition called Cytomegalovirus (CMV), along with a number of other conditions, and requires 24-hour care.
However, by the time his GPS watch hit the 10km mark around 7pm last Friday evening, the GoFundMe account had surpassed an incredible €50,000, all of which will go towards making Grace’s life that little bit easier. By Friday, June 12, that figure had increased to over €65,000*.
“The support has been unbelievable,” Shane told The Mayo News. “The family usually hold a fundraiser every June Bank Holiday Weekend, but obviously that’s not possible right now.
“They usually raise two or three grand from that, so my first target was to raise €1,000, and within four hours it was done. The family, and her mother, Mary, were absolutely blown away by the generosity of people, and it just went from strength to strength.”
Nallen’s challenge was simple but difficult: run 10km every day for 30 days.
Whilst maintaining Government guidelines and working full time on the frontline with An Gardaí Síochana, this was no easy task. And being a former Mayo senior footballer, as well as a current Belmullet GAA and Westport United player, Nallen’s competitive drive meant he wanted to test himself as well.
“The first week went slow, but it has flown by after that,” he said. “My whole day was sort of taken up around preparing for it, and because I do shift work it means I could be running at any time of the day, so there was a lot of planning.
“There were days that were really hot and I wouldn’t run until half nine or ten [pm]. I was aiming for less than 50 minutes for each run and was trying to be as consistent as possible.
“Thankfully I picked up no injuries either, not even a niggle, which I was very lucky to do. When I go back football training, I’ll probably pull my hamstring in the first session knowing me!”
The monies raised will go towards upgrading Grace’s wheelchair and towards a sensory garden for home, which Nallen says ‘is going to make a massive difference to her life’. “It’s basically like winning the Lotto for them,” he said proudly.
The campaign has been picked up nationally too, with many big names getting behind the ‘Egg, sugar, shot’ challenge on Facebook, which was started by a family friend of Nallen’s, Peter Heffernan, to ramp up the fundraising even more.
The challenge involves drinking a raw egg, eating a spoon of sugar and then taking a shot of alcohol in quick succession, and has seen the likes of Fair City stars Johnny Ward and Ryan Andrew take part, as well as Irish country singer Cliona Fagan and Mayo GAA star Pádraig O’Hora.
From registering tens of thousands of views on Facebook, thousands of euros of donations have flooded into the account for Grace.
“I’ve been tagged in thousands of videos on Facebook of people doing the challenge, and I was on with Ian Dempsey on Today FM last week too,” he said. “After that there’s been €20,000 raised which is just absolutely mental.”
The fundraising account won’t be closed until Friday, June 12 and anyone that wants to donate can still do so.
Nallen was fulsome in his praise for the support he received over the 30 days of the challenge, both directly and indirectly, admitting he might not have being able to complete it without it.
“It was definitely harder than I expected,” he laughed. “In the start I was thinking that maybe 5k a day would have been a lot easier, and I did hit a wall around days 17 and 18, which were the most difficult.
“Some days were tough to motivate yourself, but you know, I wasn’t doing this for myself, and because I was trying to raise money for Grace, there was no day where I said I didn’t want to go out and run.
“The support I got from everyone, including my colleagues in work, made it a lot easier, and I’m very grateful for it.”
That gratitude, no doubt, is shared by more than him.

MORE To donate, visit the ‘300km for Grace’ page on www.gofundme.com.

 *This article was amended on Friday, June 12, to update the sum of money raised.

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