A DROMORE man had plenty to cheer about when he not only ran up a top charity total but learned the friend whose accident spurred him on had achieved success at the Spinal Games in London.
William Halliday (37) took part in the recent Belfast Marathon in aid of the spinal unit at Musgrave Park Hospital, after his friend and former colleague, Sharon Small, was injured in a serious accident.
Hoping to raise some 400-500 from his first ever marathon attempt, he actually managed to top the 1,000 mark thanks to support at work, at home, among the wider Dromore community and beyond.
Meanwhile, Sharon herself won acclaim while representing Belfast in her first Spinal Games.
William had earlier explained how Sharon had developed a newfound interest in sport after suffering serious spinal injuries.
"Sharon had no interest in sport whatsoever," he said, "but after she lost the use of her legs because of the accident, (the charity) Aspire has not only helped her focus on regaining her independence, but on competing in sports such as archery, bowls and others."
It was in table-tennis, William reported, that Sharon took third place in the recent games, also receiving a medal of endeavour for taking part.
On hand on Thursday to receive William's cheque on behalf of the charity, Sharon was just as delighted, said William, with his own success in finishing the marathon and with the many generous donations he received.
"She's over the moon," he said, "especially with the donations to the charity and with the many people who knew her who contacted me to donate.
"A lot of people contributed and donated; I had a target figure in my head of about 400 or 500 but when it was all gathered in the actual sponsor money was 1,050.
"So many friends and members of the public phoned in after seeing the write-up in the Leader and people who knew Sharon years ago phoned in and donated money."
William offered a big thanks to everyone who supported his efforts and/or donated cash, not least his employers and colleagues at Olympic Lifts in Lisburn, the people of Dromore, staff at Dromore Community Centre, his brother Nicky, of Nicky's Tattoos, Banbridge and the people of Banbridge who donated through him.
Having now completed his first marathon, William is keeping an open mind about future endurance events on behalf of the charity, who have congratulated him on his efforts and are keeping him in mind for a number of upcoming fundraisers. They are also lining up a tour of the local spinal unit so he can see where and how the money will be spent.
"It was a lot tougher than I expected," he said. "The route was a lot tougher and it was a gruelling run; they took us up the Antrim Road, a seven-mile incline that was tough for even the veteran runners, but the crowd was very supportive in carrying you around."
William had hoped to complete the marathon in under four hours but didn't fall far short with his time of four hours and 12 minutes. Two others with whom he had taken on the challenge - Dromore woman Caroline Boyd and Wendy McGregor from the Waringsford area, each
running for other worthy causes - were forced to slacken their pace through injury, but successfully completed the marathon.
William, whose training prior to the event included leading his colleagues in lunchtime fitness sessions, said the training certainly paid off, and he is continuing to help his workmates in their efforts to get in shape and stay in shape.