Dedicated long-distance runner and charity fundraiser Tom McGrath, the Co. Fermanagh-born owner of the Black Sheep pub on Third Avenue in New York, is finally tackling the long distance course of his dreams -- all six counties of the north of Ireland.

When McGrath lost his 44-year-old brother Colum to cancer 12 years ago it gave him personal as well as sporting reasons to tackle his long distance runs.  This year the proceeds raised from his charity run will be donated to Action Cancer and the famous Marie Curie Cancer Care organizations.

“I’ve been doing fundraising runs in aid of cancer research and aid for years,” McGrath tells the Irish Voice. “I especially want to fundraise for the children affected by cancer, and my next run will be 300 miles long and it will take me through every one of the six counties.”

McGrath has often been touched by the stories of the people he has met along the routes he has run.

“Truthfully everyone I have met have had their lives touched by cancer in some way,” he says. “What keeps me going, when the road is getting long, is thinking about the children. Even more than the adults in a way, because at least the adults got their chance.”

Stamina and determination are required to run a course the length of the one McGrath has selected for himself, and he’s the first to admit it.

“It’s an effort but I’ve been long distance running for 30 years now. And from the beginning I’ve always said I should put these to use for myself and for charity. You should put all the training that goes into a long distance run to good use I think.”

McGrath’s been in the Guinness Book of World Records for crossing the U.S. in record time. He’s raced a thousand times around the reservoir in Central Park to raise funds for Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (and he did this six years in a row) and he’s run 24-hour non stop races. You can say he’s been in ship shape throughout his life -- and he’s always found a way to make the most of it.

McGrath’s six county run will start and end in Belfast on Wednesday, October 5 through Saturday, October 15, covering 300 miles.

“To run the six counties route will be a dream come true, to be honest with you. I’ve often thought that through all the routes I’ve done in America that I’d like to run a home, especially my own village. This time I’ll pass through it on a Sunday evening, the village where I was born and raised in Fermanagh,” he says.

McGrath will be joined by fellow runners in each county, but he will be the only one to complete the entire six county run himself.

“There’ll be fundraisers in the evenings in each big town I reach. You can see a list of them on the map on my website. And I’ll bring a letter from the mayor of New York to the Mayor of Belfast, and with that kind of publicity it should snowball,” McGrath says.

“We’ll hold a fundraiser here in the Black Sheep on September 30, starting at 5 p.m. We have already raised $10,000 as we speak. That’s a good start.”
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New York Irish publican’s six-county run for charity