Glenswilly man Joe Gibbons has two more reasons to be smiling as his New York City marathon fundraiser comes to a close.
Not only did Joe run the world-famous course in under three hours, one year after chemotherapy, but he recently discovered he has set a personal best at 2:52:26.
Joe is also nearing a €25,000 total for his chosen charities – Cancer Care West Support Centre Donegal and Pieta. The GoFundMe page will be officially closed this Friday evening.
“Never in my wildest dreams did I think I’d be anywhere close to 25,000,” Joe tells Donegal Daily.
“I’m absolutely blown away. When I started, I thought we would get two or three thousand, but when you ask the people of Donegal to donate, they definitely do dig deep.”
Joe’s marathon PB was yet another chink in his armour after an unforgettable few weeks. He did the Belfast marathon in May 2022 in a time of 2:52:42, but the 16-second gain in New York was an extra triumph as he returned to form after illness.
For Joe, it’s been ‘onwards and upwards’ after a tough year of cancer treatment. He was diagnosed with lymphoma in the summer of 2022 and completed chemo by Christmas.
“From my point of view, I want to let people know that there is life after chemo, I am in remission and that’s as good a piece of news that you can get,” he said.
Joe’s fundraising campaign was a strong motivating factor that got him to the start line on Staten Island on 5th November. And when times got tough during the race, he knew he had hundreds of supporters back home.
The New York City route is notorious for grinding inclines up bridges and hills on Fifth Avenue.
“When I was getting it tight after 25 miles, I thought half of Donegal is tracking me here, and if my time drops they’ll be saying he’s gone!” Joe said.
Joe said the atmosphere in New York was unbelievable, with throngs of people lining the streets and lively bands keeping the pace up.
“I can honestly say I never looked at a watch less in my life, I ran with a smile from ear to ear and took in one of the best atmospheres I have ever endured,” Joe said.
“Even though the atmosphere was unbelievable, the body is going to start shouting back after 2.5 hours. I was worried at one stage but it was a matter of holding on and steering home.”
Perhaps it was Joe’s ‘lucky marathon top’ that gave him the boost too.
The vest, made by O’Reilly Sports in 2019, shows the smiling face of Joe’s late friend and rally legend Manus Kelly. Joe wore the vest during his first-ever marathon in Dublin, which he did in support of Manus’ wife Bernie and their children.
Joe said that Manus, and his friend Paul Sweeney who passed in October, were likely watching over him and “having some stark words” when his legs were aching on the stretch up Fifth Avenue.
“Somebody was guiding me anyway, and got me over the finish line,” he said.
Joe’s support crew in New York included his wife Susanna and their friends Paul and Geraldine Rodgers and Tommy and Louise Duddy. At home, Joe and Susanna’s boys, Jack (8) and six-year-old Oisin were cheering him all the way and gave him a heroes’ welcome on his return home on Wednesday last.
There are just a few days remaining for people to donate to ‘Joe’s New York Marathon’ GoFundMe in aid of Cancer Care West Support Centre Donegal and Pieta. If you would like to support the causes, please visit: https://www.gofundme.com/f/joes-new-york-marathon