Dublin fireman runs marathon with 'child' on his back, pops the question on the finish line

Among the 14,000 people from 47 countries who took part in yesterday's SSE Airtricity Dublin Marathon, there was one figure who stood out - Dublin fireman Padraig 'Podge' Thompson.

Tallaght-based Podge ("only my mammy calls me Padraig"), a fitness fanatic who is also runs a training bootcamp in Dublin which works with local community groups and disadvantaged youth, took on the marathon carrying a 40kg mannequin on his shoulders, representing the weight of a young child.

Podge's run was in aid of raising mental health awareness for young people and funds for the Irish Charity Suicide Or Survive (SOS), which is 'dedicated to reducing the incidence of suicide in Ireland'.

"My big thing is tha exercise can be just as good for people experiencing mental health issues as anything," he told breakingnews.ie.

"People say to me 'oh you run marathons, you're so fit, I couldn't do anything like that' but really if you went out tomorrow for your first jog - that's _your_ challenge," Podge said.

"It's not about doing big events but about taking on a challenge for yourself - a jog, a 5k, anything - and accomplishing it.

"If you can get up and accomplish that… that's all you need."

His efforts to date have raised over €4,000 for SOS, which he says will be enough to fund two workshops for a year.

And if that wasn't enough, once he made it over the finish line - in a time of 5:53:44, no less - he dropped to his knees to propose to girlfriend Emma O'Reilly.

"Believe it or not I tried to do that on the QT," he said.

"I tried to do it away from the finish line so as not to take the focus away from the mental health awareness, but I got spotted by a cameraman and suddenly the story was in the papers," Podge said.

And she said yes. Phew!

Podge revealed that his chosen cause was one close to his heart owing to his own experiences during his eight years as a firefighter.

"As part of the job, I've been called out to a lot of cases in the past few years where young people - and I class anyone younger than myself as 'young' have taken their own lives, and it's been a real struggle for me to understand it," he told breakingnews.ie.

"My reason for doing this is to raise awareness of the issue of suicide, and hopefully to help remove some of the stigma when talking about it.

"I think that when people saw me yesterday with the mannequin on my shoulders it makes some kind of an impact, and then people make the connection with mental health and suicide.

"My message to anyone would be that talking about it is the way forward - even if you can't donate or whatever, pick up the phone to somebody you know is struggling. Ask them how they are. Reach out to them and connect with them.

"You don't have to try to solve their problems. Just give them somebody to talk to."

Although he had earned a rest, Podge went from yesterday's marathon to an all-night shift in Tallagh Fire Station.

Here's he is speaking after his feat in a video posted to Facebook last night:

Fair play Podge. Enjoy a well-deserved rest.

Donate to SOS via Podge's mycharity page


By Conor Hallahan

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