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Runher May 2015: Evening of inspiration as record 1,300 women coast it for Runher

By Claire Williamson

For some it is a physical test. For others, every kilometre is a step on an emotional journey.

Record numbers donned their trainers on Friday night as more than 1,300 women gathered in Co Down to take on the Belfast Telegraph Runher Coastal event.

As well as a gruelling test of personal fitness, many of the women taking part were spurred on by the memory of a loved one, or their own personal and inspirational fight with illness.

>> For 10k results click here <<

 >>For 5k results click here<<

There were two events - a 5K and the 10k - which meant that women of all levels of fitness had the opportunity to have a go. After a fun warm-up with Fitness Freddie, the women were raring to go and enjoyed the beautiful coastal route under the May sun in search of the finish line. They were of all ages and with different stories as to why they were inspired to take on the event - some easily distinguishable by group T-shirts bearing the name of chosen charities.

The 10k was won by Cathy McCourt (40) from Lisburn in a new course record of 36 minutes and 21 seconds.

The 5k was won by Jodi Smith (35) from Bangor, who completed it in 20 minutes and 10 seconds.

Cathy said: "I've won Runher five times but not this course.

"It's fantastic to have an all-women event and so many people are doing it for charity and all abilities taking part."

There were plenty of tears of joy and relief and plenty of selfies at the finish line at Crawfordsburn Country Park - where a well-earned barbecue awaited. Runher is now a firm fixture on Northern Ireland's running calendar and the largest all-female running event in the province.

Race organiser Ed Smith said: "Runher is all about participation and that's what we want, we are trying to encourage women to come out in a friendly, safe, community-style environment, really to give it a go."

'It's for a late colleague'

Maressa Anthony (45) from Bangor and Gillian Noble (43) of Holywood were running in memory of colleague Cecilia Hamilton, who died from cancer aged 38

"It's a team effort with colleagues from work after the death of our young colleague Cecilia. We wanted to raise money for Marie Curie, who was involved in her care towards the end of her days. We just wanted to do something to contribute. She was on our team at work and we saw her every day and that's what motivated us. It's a fitting tribute to her and we've hopefully raised a few pounds. Cecilia wasn't even ill this time last year, so it all happened very quickly, but coming into the summer, you are thinking about her."

'We wanted to give a little back'

Leanne Gouck (35) along with Ashleigh Clark (35), both from Belfast, ran for Marie Curie in memory of brother-in-law Dean Cauldley

"I'm running for my brother- in- law Dean Cauldley.

"He was a serving soldier in the British Army and he got his leg blown off in Afghanistan. He was just getting over that and was diagnosed with cancer last Good Friday and he died this year in March - he really got no time at all.

"The last few weeks he was in the Marie Curie centre in Belfast, so just the care he received there just made it easier. We just wanted to give something back, so we decided to do this and we've raised about £250. We asked him to help us over the finish line because we aren't runners."

‘Mum was inspiration’

Kelly Courtney (37) of Ballymena ran with Ballymena Ladies Running Club for Northern Ireland Kidney Patient Association

“My husband had chronic kidney disease so I ran for Northern Ireland Kidney Patient Association.

“I ran the Dublin Marathon for him. He had his transplant in December and I want to raise awareness for them. Runher is a fantastic event.

“My mum inspired me in running. My mum passed away in September 2013 — so a lot is for my mum and trying to inspire other ladies.”

‘There is life after cancer’

Diane McCaughan (45) of Bangor completed the 10k after being diagnosed with incurable breast cancer a year ago

“I just want to show other people there is a life afterwards, if I can do it anybody else can. I didn’t make the Titanic event, I vowed as I was sitting in hospital that I was going to be here this year. I’m just really chuffed to have done it and be here and still be standing.

“I’m doing the race for life and the Great North Run half marathon in September and I’ll probably fundraise for that.

“I was diagnosed at the end of May last year — when they told me I thought I wouldn’t be alive in a year.”

‘I pick a charity every year’

Emma Morgan (37) from Portaferry ran for the Children’s Heartbeat Trust RVH

“I pick a charity each year and run it. I have a couple of friends who had little babies who needed their care. A little boy called Tom McCready and Cahir Gordon, so they had a lot of support and we wanted to repay them.

“It’s a lovely run, gorgeous route and all the people out supporting you and cheering you on is brilliant.

“You don’t care about the time, as long as you cross the line. My target was £500, so we’ve reached that.

“It’s absolutely emotional — all the wee things that go through your head, thinking why I’m doing this, and thanks to all the nurses at the ward.”

‘Society are big support’

Sharon Kennedy (51) of Portrush ran in memory of her mum and to raise awareness for NI Alzheimer’s Society

“My mum was diagnosed with dementia four years ago and passed away two years ago. My sister was diagnosed with it three months ago as well, so we have a double reason for it now.

“It was emotional earlier on. Three of us are running the Edinburgh half marathon next weekend for Alzheimer’s.

“The society were really good for support and advice, especially for the family, showing how to deal with it.”

‘Runher is like a family’

Julie Balmer (38) from Dundonald completed the 10k after recent hip surgery

“On March 5 this year I went in for major surgery and have the ceramic and ball bearing and titanium in my leg. I haven’t run at all since my operation, maybe a few jogs of four miles in the past 15 months. Normally I would be in the first two or three in the Runher.

“I was smiling the whole way, at every marshal that said ‘well done’, I was like, you have no idea how much I am clinging to these ‘well dones’.

Runher is like another family.”

‘Son’s epilepsy was the spur’

Judith Pollock (36), from Ballyclare ran to raise awareness of epilepsy

“My six-year-old son Andrew was diagnosed with epilepsy in September and they gave us a lot of help and advice. People die from the condition, so it’s to help the cause, really.

“I’ve raised £300. When he was diagnosed it was a bit of a shock, you never knew from one day to the next if he was going to be affected, or if you were going to get a call from the school.

“It’s hard as well, you are used to having your healthy baby and then the next thing you are up in A&E looking at him on a hospital bed. It’s a big shock to try and get used to that.”

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