Matt Shields started running 49 years ago during which time he has taken part in many competitions and marathons. He is now the country manager for ParkRun in Ireland as well as the administrator for ActiveNI.org.
Asked to name Northern Ireland's five best running events, he recommends...
My first choice as an entry level event would be ParkRuns, a worldwide network of over 350 free weekly recreational 5K events. The events are not competitive so challenges are personal and what you make them. There is no other event that is as welcoming or accommodating to beginners. My favourite Northern Ireland and home event is at the Waterworks but you will have the same experience at any of the 18 Northern Ireland parkrun events.
The Belfast Telegraph RunHer
These five and 10K events (left) are run twice a year and are excellent examples of a low pressure, mass participation event even if not
totally inclusive — they're women-only. As an introduction to organised races in a welcoming, friendly and scenic environment, RunHer ticks the boxes.
The Causeway Coast Marathon
The physical challenge is a step up in distance. You can run the full or half -marathon, take park in the 60K Ultra Run or do the 10K race for a lighter option.
The Laganside 10K
This is a proper 10K race with a mass start but it still retains the carnival atmosphere with the kids’ one mile event before the 10K to set the tone and keep things relaxed. www.laganside10k.com
The Lisburn Half Marathon and 10K
Again this is an event that has been going for some years and has stood the test of time. There is a fun run, a 10K and a half-marathon all on one night. The field is one of, if not the, biggest starting lines in the Northern Ireland calendar. There always seems to be good weather on the night and the crowds turn out in force to support the runners. The finish area has a lot going on to entertain and retain the crowd post-event.
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