It’s hard to listen to Danny Sheerin’s story and not feel emotional. Danny is currently receiving treatment for prostate cancer and will celebrate his 70th birthday later this year.
Danny is not and never has been a member of a local athletics or running club but over the last 35 years he has become colloquially known as the ‘Running Man’.
If there is a race to be run in Derry, Danny is usually there giving it a go. Danny has run in every Derry marathon and every single Waterside half marathon.
Desperate to maintain his record of having taken part in every Derry marathon, Danny contacted the organisers and asked them if he could start the race before everyone else because of his illness.
Danny started the race at 6.30am, a full two hours before the marathon officially started but he wasn’t alone.
Bernard, Danny’s son, accompanied his father on the 26-mile long circuit. Bernard carried a coat, water and even an umbrella to keep his father dry.
“I was 12 miles ahead of the eventual winner of the marathon before he caught up with me,” joked Danny.
“It was an absolute pleasure having Bernard with me during the marathon. I would have been lost without him but when I crossed the finishing line I felt empty inside.”
Danny said he felt that way because Bernard disappeared into the crowd a few hundreds metres before the end of the race.
“I was approaching the finishing line and I looked over my shoulder and I couldn’t see Bernard. I thought he had fallen or something but I saw him making his way into the crowd,” he said.
“I asked him where he was going and he said ‘No, daddy, this is your day - go on and finish the marathon yourself’.
“Bernard wanted the day to be about me but when I crossed the line I felt so empty. I wanted Bernard to be there with me.”
The Walled City Marathon took place on Sunday May 31 and for the last few weeks Danny had been trying to think of a way to say thank you to Bernard.
“I contacted the organisers of the marathon and asked them if I could buy a medal for Bernard. Once they heard my story they did everything they could to help.
“I wanted to surprise Bernard so earlier this week I told him the organisers wanted us to come to the Foyle Hospice to tell them how starting the marathon early was for us. Luckily, Bernard believed me and we went down.
“As soon as we got there, I had the medal and walked up to Bernard and placed it around his neck and told him how much his company on the race meant to me.
“Bernard hadn’t officially entered the race but he was there with every step of the way. I was delighted the organisers let me do it. It also showed me that not only do the organisers view the event as just a marathon they see it as an opportunity to invest in people.”
Although he is currently receiving treatment for prostate cancer Danny has already registered to take part in the Waterside half marathon in September.
Danny is a member of local Men’s Cancer Support Group, The Pink Panthers, and he has started to talk to some of the other members about taking part in the race.
“If I die out on the road it’s better than dying of a broken heart. I plan on running the Waterside half marathon to help men with prostate cancer - at least I will be helping others.
“Some of the other Pink Panthers have said they are interested so we have to work out a way of doing it. If everything goes according to plan maybe they could join me on the last mile of the race and we would all cross the line together - that would be amazing.”
Positivity seems to come naturally to Danny and although he is currently battling prostate cancer he has no intention to stop enjoying his life.
“My motto for life is simple, get up and go. Life is there to be enjoyed. That’s why I got into running and other sports in the first place.
“I am just a wee man living in Creggan. I’ve never won a race in my life but I believe once you cross that finish line you’re automatically a winner anyway,” said Danny smiling.