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'Remember why': How Seanie Meyler used NHS motivation to raise £24k through shed marathon



Marathon man: Seanie Meyler in his shed

Marathon man: Seanie Meyler in his shed

Flashback: Seanie Meyler in 1989

Flashback: Seanie Meyler in 1989

Marathon man: Seanie Meyler in his shed

By way of explaining how he climbed onto a treadmill and just completed a marathon that at last count had raised over £24,000 for the nursing staff in the Intensive Care Unit at the South West Acute Hospital (SWAH), Omagh man Seanie Meyler keeps returning to the themes of nature and nurture.

It's a thread that runs right through the generations. As a 15-year-old, he stood at the finishing line of the Dublin City Marathon watching his own father Sean coming home in a time of two hours 55 minutes in 1982.

While Seanie himself has been a runner and club coach with Omagh Harriers running club, it was in Gaelic football he excelled most, winning an Ulster title as a half-back, then half-forward in the 2-13 to 0-7 replay victory over Donegal in the 1989 final.

After his football career he took to running and has completed a few marathons, but none as novel as last Monday when he spent his 54th birthday running 26.2 miles on a treadmill in his garden shed to raise money for the nursing staff in the Intensive Care Unit in the SWAH, where his wife Paula works.

"You felt as though you wanted to do something," he said.

"I read the article about Cathal Freeman, the Mayo hurler who did a marathon on April 6. I went onto the treadmill the next day and ran 10 miles, it was the longest I had ran on it.

"So I just thought, 'I am going to do this'. And nine days later it is over and you have over 20 grand and it is just a case of telling yourself it was the right thing to do, and it made sense to me.

"It was all about putting a few things in place and doing it."

When it comes to resilience, the Meylers have it. Prior to last year's All-Ireland semi-final, his son Conor, the current Tyrone player, spoke intently in a group media interview about the importance of it, something he had to acquire when he was left off the 'A' teams for Omagh St Enda's in his under-age career.

"It's funny because my dad was manager of the 'A' team a lot of the time, and I was down in the 'B' team playing teams in Division Three and Four, getting tanked. He was winning the U16 Championship and stuff, which I wasn't part of, but he knew himself that sitting on the bench wasn't going to get me football, so it was better for me to be playing games," he said.

He also recovered from a broken tibia - suffered in the final Super 8s game against Donegal in 2018 - within four weeks to mark Dublin ace Brian Fenton in the All-Ireland final.

"There are small things you can do, sleeping in an oxygen tent and getting advice on nutrition and trying to help the bone repair. Just different machines and icing it," he said of his recovery. You can spot the trend.

Seanie Meyler hadn't run very much last year until October, and picked up an injury in December that kept him off the roads for a couple of months. He only started back to light training in February.

What kept him going was the support of those around him. Conor posted updates on social media about his progress. A cold cloth was always nearby and daughters Aoife and Emer were about to fetch drinks and offer support.

But still, he had to turn the legs, and that requires more than reserves of residual fitness.

"It was about 17 miles in that I realised I had never done more than this in a couple of years and you know that your legs are starting to feel sore," he explained.

"So you then go into 'purpose' - the reason why you are doing this. You switch your thoughts away from the soreness and you focus on the purpose."

A homemade sign facing Seanie in the shed - which soon became as hot as a sauna - had a simple message: 'Remember Why'.

"Yes, remember why - why am I doing this?" he said. "Because the 'what' and the 'how' are easy. It is the 'why' that moves people."

And the 'why' is his wife Paula and her nursing colleagues.

"She is a nurse in Omagh, a theatre nurse, and she has been moved to Enniskillen to work in the Intensive Care Ward for the Covid-19 patients," he said.

Asked if that is a difficult situation at present, he explained: "Not really. She is a nurse and she has been doing it for 36 years.

"She has a job to do and she is one of hundreds of thousands of people in the healthcare profession, whether they are in a nursing home or a ward.

"Each of them, they have that vocational sense inside them from when they start nursing. Nurses basically step up and do what they do well."

• Anyone who wishes to make a donation can go to Seanie Meyler's Go Fund Me page.

Belfast Telegraph