Runher: Families, friends and even the weather spurred on the 1,000 women to success
As the sun shone over Northern Ireland's Gold Coast on Friday evening, runners and spectators alike relaxed with their sunglasses and ice creams.
As almost 1,000 women lined up at the start of the Belfast Telegraph Runher Coastal 10K Challenge, the sun picked out the brilliant blue of their official T-shirts. A staggered start meant competitors could take off with others of the same ability and not hold faster runners back. It also meant that each individual group got their own special cheer from the spectators at the start line. Race patron Dame Mary Peters and Bangor mayor Wesley Irvine sounded the claxons in turn.
Due to the rocky course this was not a course to set a personal best, but instead it was all about taking part and having fun.
As there was no official charity this year, runners were encouraged to fundraise for any cause that had a special meaning for them and many did, with a large number of charities benefiting.
The team challenge this year saw groups of professional rugby players, firefighters, police women, hockey players and even footballers taking part.
Many ran but others took their time and walked the course just for the sheer fun of taking part. Grace Davitt, one of the Ireland Women's rugby squad who lifted the Six Nations trophy this year, ran with her Cooke team-mates wearing flowery bras and hula skirts – over their shirts, of course. As is now the norm at any Runher event, there was a party atmosphere at the finish line as husbands, boyfriends, dads, children and even dogs all gathered to welcome the weary runners in.
With the Coastal 10K complete, organisers will now turn their sights to the Runher event at Stormont on October 6. Online entry launches today with the first 100 ladies getting the special early bird price of just £10.
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'Event was biggest and best we've held'
Runher race director Michael Jenkins
"We're delighted with the event this year. Just gauging people's opinion on Friday night I got the real impression that this was the best Runher yet. We trumped last year's numbers by about 300 and spectators at the start line said that the competitors just kept coming.
Opening up the race for any charity made a real difference this year I think. I talked to a lot of people who were walking or running for people who weren't well or in memory of those who had been ill. They'd never done anything like this before but because they could raise money for a cause of their choice, they decided to take part. None of them could get over the scale or the atmosphere. I think those newbies summed up what Runher is all about -- taking part and enjoying yourself."
Denise Watson, sports journalist and presenter
"I walked most of the way but I did run a bit -- I haven't been training enough to run the whole thing!
I love that along the coastal path you talk to lots of people you've never met before and everyone is encouraging everyone else. It was a lovely day to do something so nice for charity."
Junior Apprentice runner-up, Maria Doran
"I've been fitting in my training around my revision. I'm currently sitting my A-Levels so I haven't had a huge amount of time!
I've never done anything like this before but I'm so glad I managed to finish it. I didn't think I would but there was a personal trainer who happened to be running near me and she encouraged me -- I don't know what I would have done without her!
Even though it's been hard work I really enjoyed myself today.
It's amazing to see what people can do for a good cause."
Maureen Thompson (37) is a trainee accountant. She ran the race and was greeted by her family
"My son Harry has spina bifida and is in a wheelchair -- he, my husband Phil and daughter Grace all greeted me when I finished.
I walked the course today and I've been doing a few things lately for charities that have helped Harry. Today I did Runher for the Starlight Children's Foundation which grants wishes for seriously ill children.
They've granted a wish for Harry, now he just has to decide what his wish will be! Runher is a great event and really well organised. I've really enjoyed it and I'm hoping I will raise around £400 from this evening."
Maxine Brown (36) runs a gift shop in Belfast
"I took part today for Sands -- the Stillborn and Neonatal Death charity. We lost my nephew, James in January so I really wanted to raise some money in his memory. This is my third event and we've raised over £1,000 but I thought today was brilliant. I loved the course and I loved chatting with all the women taking part.
It makes me feel good that I can do something nice like this in memory of James."
Noreen Owens (44) is an ambulance driver from Belfast.
"My mum, Marie Owens, died of ovarian cancer on November 1 last year. She spent months going in and out of the Northern Ireland Cancer Centre and for the last month of her life she was waiting for a Marie Curie bed. She was first on the list but she ended up coming home with us in the end.
We talked to people who were at the cancer centre, who were also waiting for beds and they didn't have families who could look after them -- that's why we ran for Marie Curie Cancer Care.
This is the first event like this I've ever done and we've already decided to sign up for the next one. We think we'll have raised about £1,000 between us."