Runher October 2013: Dame Mary joins in with golden girls

Olympic winner praises another successful event, writes Maria Marsella

Jesica Craig leads the women off at the start of the 5k race
Jesica Craig leads the women off at the start of the 5k race
Naomi Stewart  finishes the 5k race
Naomi Stewart finishes the 5k race
(L-R) Jenny Mc Cready, Ali Robinson, Catriona McKorkle, Brian Hamilton and Michael Jenkins - Pure Running
(L-R) Jenny Mc Cready, Ali Robinson, Catriona McKorkle, Brian Hamilton and Michael Jenkins - Pure Running

Olympic golden girl Dame Mary Peters swapped the running track for the steps of Stormont as she took part in the Belfast Telegraph Runher race.

A warm autumn sun shone on the 1,400 runners as they gathered at the Parliament Buildings' start line.

The sunny weather matched the mood on the ground, as around 1,200 women and 200 children pulled on their running shoes for the Dash for Kids, 5k and 10k runs.

Some women ran for themselves, to keep fit and to have fun, running in teams or with friends.

Others ran for charities or for someone close to their heart.

Whatever their reason, competitors of every shape, size and ability gave it their all.

Despite her experience, the track wasn't what the winner of the 5k run, Kelly Neely (35), was used to.

"My background is track running so I'm not used to steep hills," she said.

"That is the first time I've ever done a Runher event. It's strange it all being women. There's less of a competitive feel about it, but it's a great event."

Northern Ireland sporting icon Dame Mary was present – but not just for appearance's sake.

"I take part every year and it's a tough course – it's a challenge," the 1972 Olympic pentathalon gold medal winner said.

"I admire the organisers and what they do for the women. It's about camaraderie and health and it's a big achievement for some ladies.

"All the men around the course were giving us great support and for them to give up their Sunday was great to see."

In second place was Rachel Gibson (22).

"It was brilliant; a well organised event and I would recommend anyone to take part," she said.

Jessica Craig (23) came in third in the 5k, despite recent illness.

"It was tough as I'm recovering from a throat infection but it's a great day for it," she said.

Michael Jenkins from Pure Running was delighted about how this year's events were received.

"Since August 2007 we have had two events a year and together about 2,500 have taken part. Today we are looking at about 1,200 women taking part and about 200 children. It has been fantastic," he said.

"Weather was the main worry but everyone is really enjoying the sun. As an organiser you get this nervous anticipation and you want everyone to get round safely."

 

Over 1,200 turn out to enjoy a run in the autumn sun

It was all sun and smiles for the second Belfast Telegraph Runher event this year.

Following the success of the Runher coastal run, the autumnal event didn't disappoint.

Although browning leaves fell from the trees around Stormont estate, the clear sky and sun made it feel like a summer day.

And the weather was unseasonably warm as 1,200 women and 200 children battled the course during their races.

Those taking part in the Dash for Kids were up first. The klaxon began the first race as hundreds of painted faces, thanks to the SOS bus team, sprinted from the starting line.

The kids' race was closely followed by the exclusively female 5k and 10k races, with hardened runners at the front, followed by those who chose to walk or jog their way around the course.

Andrea Chambers ran for her father who was diagnosed with lung cancer last year.

"I'm here to raise awareness because lung cancer is one of the lowest funded out of the cancers," she explained.

"This is my first Runher and the atmosphere is brilliant."

Now in it's seventh year, the Belfast Telegraph Runher event is proving to be an unmissable event for runners. There was a carnival-like atmosphere on the hill at Stormont yesterday, and the picturesque views of Belfast, cloud-splitting sun and family fun topped off an event well worth attending. A few famous faces were also in attendance; Cecilia Daly from the BBC and Dame Mary Peters took the time to join in.

It wasn't just athletics clubs which took part either. New mums from Buggy Babies, based in Antrim, took to the course.

Susan Crawford (40) gave birth just six months ago.

"We're taking part as an exercise challenge," she said.

"I have been in Buggy Babies for the last few months and it's good exercise for people who have just had children.

"We're running for ourselves and close friends who have had breast cancer."

Elaine McElhill (38) spoke highly of trainers Michelle Raphael and Elaine Williams.

"This run was something I wanted to take part in and see if I can run the 10k. We got to know about the Runher race through Buggy Babies who are such a feel-good team," she said.

Competitors were given goodie bags after completing the gruelling run. They included treats like Apex Physiotherapy vouchers, T-shirts, sugar free chocolate and cranberry juice as well as other run-related items. Race winners were awarded special prizes including a stay at a Premier Inn, and physiotherapy sessions and sports massages, which will be provided by Apex.

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