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Debbie’s run of her life

We may not all be as talented as Paula Radcliffe — but, as Debbie Matchett says in our BT Runher entrant interview, running is good for you and good fun.

By Jane Hardy

Published 10/06/2009

Debbie Matchett
Debbie Matchett

When Debbie Matchett (42) and her husband Andy, former Ulster rugby team scrum half, manage to book a babysitter and go out running together, she doesn’t try to overtake him. “No, we’re honestly not that competitive!”

But she probably could if she wanted to, as Debbie’s time over the 10km distance that she will be running when she competes in the BT-sponsored Runher on June 28, is an impressive 42.5mins, which she aims to cut to under 40mins.

Debbie owns a physiotherapy and Pilates business — Physio Works NI in Gilnahirk, east Belfast, runs 25-30 miles a week and her credo is a healthy mind is a healthy body. “Health is very important to me, although I don’t go OTT. We’re a healthy family as my husband is a sportsman and my two sons, Michael (9) and Adam (5) are definitely into their sport.”

A former star hockey player at UUJ, Debbie realised that when she stopped the sport just before her first son was born, she needed another challenge. “So I joined a running club, as I’d done a bit before.” She is being modest, as a bit is the London marathon she ran with friend Linda in 1999. She recalls: “I came in at over four hours, which isn’t very good. But I did complete the course and the run itself was brilliant.”

Women and running are a good fit, as sportswomen such as Paula Radcliffe prove. Debbie enthuses: “Running is great for us, as it’s a stress-buster, keeps weight down and is good for the bones, vital with the rise in osteoporosis.”

There is also what Debbie terms the “feel-good factor”.

She says: “I run beyond Stormont and along the Comber Greenway, which is great because you can go off-road. It’s lovely being out of doors and you can work through problems as you run.”

There are tales of runner’s high, a so-called euphoric state brought about when endorphins are released in the brain. Has Debbie experienced this? “Maybe, but all I know is that I always feel better after running.”

With a family to look after, a business to run and training to fit in, Debbie has to play the juggling game. She fits in her training runs late in the evening or early in the morning. Debbie explains: “I have some flexibility at work and I try to be there to pick up the kids from school so that they don’t have to go to the childminder.”

As she says, running is the perfect form of relaxation, but there are certain rules you have to follow to get the most from the sport, and not hurt yourself. As a physiotherapist, Debbie treats running injuries. “We get sprains and injuries when they’re acute or recent, so we can give advice and sort things out. Some people try too hard and then you get sore knees and legs. Your body has to adjust slowly, so start by a walk-run- walk routine and build up gradually.”

It’s important to wear the right gear. Debbie says: “The right footwear is vital, as is the right bra, especially for the generously built who need a good sports bra. There’s a lot of nice stuff out there and my club’s singlet, the North Down club, has a yellow and blue strip which is attractive. Also, it’s visible at night, which is important.”

She begins a diatribe against drivers who don’t seem to want to give way to cyclists and runners. Debbie says: “Motorists don’t slow down for you in the way they used to.”

There is something special about using your body as nature intended, pounding the grass or the track and engaging with the sounds, sights and smells. Debbie says: “In early summer, you gain a lot more energy and I run with my club near Bangor and out to Crawfordsburn. It’s beautiful.”

Debbie is relishing the prospect of the 2009 Run-her. “Whether you do five or 10km, you’ll get some sense of empowerment. Also, its social — at my club, there’s a good crowd and the women go out for a meal together.”

A further plus is that research has shown that running can measurably slow the ageing process. Debbie enthuses: “It affects the DNA, and is good for your skin.” Finally, the best thing post-run, when Debbie winds down, is “a big cup of tea, something like a chicken sandwich. Plus some chocolate...” What are you waiting for?

Runher is on Sunday, June 28 at the CIYMS Sports Complex, Belfast. You can walk, jog or run either 5k or 10k at the Belfast Telegraph Runher. Enter online at

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