In 1986 three men from Derriaghy Running Club met up with countless others to take part in the world’s largest ever sporting event ‘Run the World’, a marathon event headed by Bob Geldolf, that gathered together 20 million runners across 274 cities to run simultaneously — raising over $100 million to alleviate famine in Ethiopia.
What made south Belfast residents John Watson, John McGill and Tom Wilson stand out is that 25 years later, they have ensured the event has become one of the city’s legacies, taking place the same time every year and continuing to raise thousands for Africa’s humanitarian plight.
Last Tuesday (March 21) Lord Mayor Pat Convery honoured those behind ‘the Third World Run’ by hosting an informal reception in the Lord Mayor’s Parlour at Belfast City Hall.
At the event, John McGill, who lives in the Dunmurry area of the city told the Community Telegraph: “When we ran in ‘86 we felt there was such a great atmosphere — it was a day off from The Troubles, time out from all the problems we had and brought people together from all backgrounds.
“It was a wonderful feeling that was not around anywhere else in the city and so having met each other for the first time on the race, we decided to keep it going. It was the only part of the British Isles to do so.”
John Watson, a former high school headmaster, who lives in the Dunmurry area said: “We were so inspired by the large numbers who turned up at Maysfield Leisure Centre in ‘86 that we were determined that it should not be a one-off event.
“The Belfast Third World Run is a unique charity fun-run set up during the height of The Troubles in 1987. It was deliberately organised so that it would attract cross-community support, with the money raised being distributed to four of the main charities engaged in relief and development work in Third World countries.
“Two of the agencies benefiting are the major aid agencies of the Protestant and Roman Catholic Churches, Christian Aid and Trócaire, along with two non-denominational agencies, Concern worldwide and Oxfam Ireland — over the years men, women and children of all ages taking part in the run have raised over £150,000 for these charities.
“And we have to remember, the need in Africa is still there, their problems haven’t gone away. That’s what has kept us going.
“As well as encouraging more participants to take part, we too are very keen to hear from anyone who took part in either or both of these events.”
Belfast Lord Mayor, Councillor Pat Convery, urged everyone to support the venture.
“I applaud the efforts of all those involved in organising this event down through the years and congratulate them on their 25th anniversary. On behalf of the citizens of Belfast, I wish them every success for this year and in the future.”
To take part in the 10k, 5k or 3k family fun walk that will take place on May 22, or to contact the the Third World Run team with your own stories, visit www.thirdworldrun.org.