The months of hard training paid off as Team Archie and competitors running on behalf of ‘Miles for our Boys’, crossed the finish line following a gruelling Dublin City Marathon last Sunday week. Over 70 participants took part to raise money and awareness for the Join Our Boys Trust and three Roscommon boys, Archie, George and Isaac Naughton, who suffer from Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy.
The boys’ mother, Paula Kerr, who also took part in last month’s event, said she felt immensely proud.
“The overwhelming feeling is pride. I’m so proud of Sinéad Gannon and the other coaches. I’m so proud of everyone who did this, wherever they’ve come from and very, very proud of an 11-year-old little boy, who happens to be my son.
“The first time I really got emotional about the whole thing was on the Thursday (following the marathon). I think I was (running) on adrenaline. I was never worried about Archie the whole time; he had five brilliant parents with him so there was never going to be an issue with Archie,” she said.
Archie’s supporters created a sea of orange along the route and again at the finish line, and Paula said it made for some emotional scenes.
“I suppose the most emotion I felt came from the support of the crowd. Magnificent is the word I would use to describe the whole lot and there were a couple of stops in the crowd.
“There was a woman called Maeve who we’d got in touch with through a running page. It’s a long story but essentially her brother had died from Duchenne. The streets were filled with people last Sunday but there was this massive sign which read ‘Go Archie!’ or ‘Team Archie’ or something like that and there was a family with kids playing drums. We just had to go over. We went and shook hands and hugged everyone but it still didn’t click. The woman looked at me and said: ‘It’s me, it’s Maeve.’ We both just started crying.”
Paula added that Join Our Boys and the positive message associated with the trust was important for people like Maeve who had lost loved ones to the disease. She also paid a special tribute to those who had supported Archie and his brothers, including Gleeson’s Townhouse, which acted as Team Archie Headquarters.
“It’s meant to be a story of hope and resilience, despite this being a very, very difficult situation for our family and all the other families who have children with Duchenne. I think it demonstrates the power of community and as for the community of Roscommon what do you say about them? It’s been commendable across Roscommon and beyond.
“These amazing people who never would have done this. Hopefully they’ve got some personal satisfaction from what is an amazing achievement.”
Resilience is certainly a skill the world’s top marathon runners need in abundance and it’s one Paula and her husband, Padraic Naughton, are trying to instill in Archie and his brothers.
“The thing is, you know what, the situation that our family is in…you wouldn’t wish it on anyone, it’s dreadful. I suppose one of the main skills we’re trying to equip our children with is the gift of resilience.
“Archie knows he’s got a terminal disease, Archie knows it’s not going to get better, it’s going to get worse. Archie knows that unless a medicine is found he’s going to be paralysed and he also knows that he’ll die prematurely. I think to know all that stuff before you’re an adult and to still go out in the rain and the cold to train and to go to the gym after school when you’re tired, and to want to do all that, that’s the measure of him really.
“I think as long as he can do this stuff, our job is to support him. They say it takes a village to raise a child, well we’ve got a town and beyond who are willing to help Archie and the boys and other people with DMD so we’re very privileged to have this community.”
A huge part of that support has been Archie’s team of five coaches, led by Roscommon Harriers coach, Sinéad Gannon. Sinéad says the tough training regime was worth it.
“We started training back in April. We couldn’t have had a better team supporting Archie, with Frank Murphy, Tonya Hand, Adrian Smith, Mark Gilleran and myself.
“It was great fun. It was alien to some of the serious runners among us, all that singing and talking during the race! Frank Murphy turned to me in the Phoenix Park and said he’d never seen anything like it.
“I never saw a bigger support on the (DCM) route. All the runners, including elite runners like Pauline Curley and Gary O’Hanlon offering support too. Archie loved it; he was lapping it up!
“Everyone has things going on in their lives but the spirit at the event brought everyone together as one family for the weekend.”
Sinéad was proud of Team Archie’s achievement but also had one eye on next year’s event.
“Archie’s running buggy was okay for this event but to be honest, it wouldn’t be supportive enough so I’ve set up an ‘I donate’ page for a new buggy and we’ll be hoping to double the number of participants next year!”
What Archie thought…
‘Marathon man’ Archie said he was “very happy” with the huge amount of support he has received since his training began back in April.
Speaking to the Roscommon People in the aftermath of the Dublin City Marathon, he explained how he kept his coaches on their toes throughout the race.
“I had fun. Sinéad’s (Gannon) scared of dogs so we were winding her up. I was making dog noises (as Team Archie made their way through the Phoenix Park).”
He also confirmed that he maintained morale among Team Archie through humour and by making his coaches laugh on their way around Dublin.
When asked if he would take part in next year’s marathon, Archie took a long pause.
“Maybe,” came his eventual response. With the continuing support of his family, coaches and many, many supporters, another marathon effort is certainly not beyond this resilient and brave young man.