Hundreds of women, like Gillian Logan, will take part in the Belfast Telegraph’s RunHer event next month. Kerry McKittrick and Jane Hardy report
The Belfast Telegraph RunHer, which takes place on October 9, is the biggest women-only run in Northern Ireland. It has raised tens of thousands of pounds for charity and this year is celebrating its fifth anniversary. In other words, RunHer is something of an institution.
It was the brainchild of race director Michael Jenkins, who wanted to create a run that wasn’t too daunting, suited women of all abilities, and would provide an enjoyable yet challenging outing through the countryside round Stormont.
RunHer is a flexible race, or rather two races, one measuring 5k, the other 10k. Some women run, some walk, some walk and run like Kirstie McMurry of Cool FM, who is interviewed overleaf.
From the beginning, the run has attracted women of all ages and backgrounds. Celebrities have also been keen to lend their support. Mary Peters has been seen on the Belfast Telegraph RunHer, also Brenda Shankey with her daughter and Cool FM’s Sonya Mac, who got into running via the November 2010 New York marathon, is encouraging her female fans to join her in the 2011 10k run. “I’m getting as many lady listeners as possible to join in. I’ve run with my mum and know that you’re less inhibited in a women-only event than you would be working out next to guys in the gym.”
There are great prizes too supplied by Joico salons and DKY hair salon. DKY director Michelle Young says: “Following the success of our involvement with RunHer in May, we are pleased to get behind this great cause again.”
This year, The Belfast Telegraph RunHer is supporting the Cash for Kids charity whose slogan is: ‘A helping hand for local children’. The cash raised will help the neediest children in our communities and give them a brighter future while funding support services for families and children going through tough times, like the Children’s Hospice carers providing home respite breaks.
‘Running has boosted my confidence ’
Gillian Logan (27) is an IT consultant for Hewlett Packard and lives in Larne. She says:
I started running in April last year. It was just one of those things that I wanted to improve my fitness and do something healthy. I joined the novice programme provided by Larne Athletics Club which was fantastic. They take you from running less than a mile all the way to up to running a half marathon.
I heard about The Belfast Telegraph RunHer just when I started running so I did my first RunHer when I’d only been at it for six weeks. I was very dedicated, though. I didn't miss any runs and turned up at every meet. I managed to run the 10K that first time round which I was very proud of. I decided to choose RunHer for my debut because it's an all-ladies event. It was my first time out and I was worried about my confidence but all of those women together was a real boost.
It's a real event to enjoy because everyone just takes it at their own pace and you don't feel any pressure because it's only for ladies.
Going out with a group really motivates me because there's lots of chat and craic going on around me although I will go out on my own. I kept training after the first RunHer and I've even managed to complete the Larne Half Marathon.
This year I'm a RunHer Champion. It means I'm getting 10 other women to run with me. I decided to become a champion because I enjoyed RunHer so much last year and I've found running a real boost to my confidence. Hewlett Packard are promoting a wellness initiative among their staff at the moment so I thought this would be a good way to get people up and moving.
It's the kind of event that anyone can take part in by running or walking or anything like that.
I simply sent an email around the office asking for people to sign up and quite a few people have been been enthusiastic about the event.”
‘It brings women together for a bit of craic’
Denise Watson (39) is a sports presenter for BBC Northern Ireland. She lives in Belfast with her husband David Scott and their children Beth (3) and Sam (7). She says:
I ran the very first RunHer because Ed Smith, one of the organisers, is my former boss from the BBC. At the time Sam was only about three, so I just popped her in the pram and pushed her round — walking mostly!
It was great craic along the way with lots of women stopping to admire her. One thing I noticed was the wide ranges of ages that took part — from Sam in her pushchair to women older than my mum.
Now that Sam is older, she's actually taking part in the race for kids which is a lap of the Princes of Wales Avenue and kicks off at 1.30pm.
She was happy to take part as long as she didn't have to do a lap of the whole estate! She hasn't really started running yet, but she plays football and tennis, so she is very active.
My youngest daughter Beth was actually born with dysplasia of the hip which needed three operations to correct it, so any charity that raises money for kids is OK in my book.
I like to run and strangely my favourite time for running out on the roads is when it's dark and raining. The last event that I took part in was the Lisburn 10K last year so at RunHer this year I'm only doing the 5K — I need to get my skates on with the training!
I like my food too much, so running is the only way to work off the cheese and chocolate I tend to munch on.
I think an all-women event is a good thing. It's not about excluding men, instead it's about bringing women together for a bit of craic. It's fair to say there's less pressure to perform when you aren't competing against men.”
‘I’ve run it four times now’
Kirstie McMurray (38) co-presents Cool FM’s breakfast show with Pete Snodden, lives in Bangor with her partner and two children, Connor (12) and Katie (10). She says:
This year is my healthy year. I’ve had a few life-changing experiences recently, gave up smoking in April, then put on a bit of weight, and I wanted to get fitter.
I’ve done four previous RunHers but missed last year as I was busy with other things. But this year I wouldn’t miss it as I’ve done the training and love the atmosphere. No matter how you feel racing up Stormont hill, there’s always amazing banter with the women next to you.
Giving up smoking took six weeks and I did it partly because of the cost. My other half and I both had a 20-a-day habit and one day we totted up how much it cost. The two of us have been spending just under £5,000 a year. So we went to our chemist and signed up for this great 12-week scheme.
Then I put on about a stone. I was used to being either side of nine stone and had never been 10 stone before. So I set myself the challenge of losing 10 pounds in four weeks. I’m, in the final week and have lost eight pounds. It’s important to say I haven’t crash-dieted and am now eating more than before, but different things.
I eat six times a day, starting with porridge and eggs, then chicken and broccoli, rice and broccoli, more eggs and finally salmon or turkey. Before, I never really enjoyed exercise and how can I put it, was strongly encouraged by people at work to sign up for RunHer.
I would walk and run the course, running until I couldn’t breathe then walking the rest of the way.
But since I started keeping fit, I breathe better and am in training for the race.
I am looking forward to the Belfast Telegraph RunHer much more this year.
Anybody who read my blogs in the Belfast Telegraph will know I didn’t train properly before.
And the whole thing about The Belfast Telegraph RunHer is that everybody can do it, women who are heavier than me, women who want to walk.
What’s unique about RunHer is its female solidarity, I guess, plus the great atmosphere. And it’s all for charity.
Cash for Kids, which we’re supporting this year, is Cool FM’s charity and one that’s dear to my heart as a mum.
A couple of years ago I met a young man, Ken Corrigan who was diagnosed with a spinal tumour just after taking his 11-plus.
He was very poorly and sadly he passed away some months later.
The money from Cash for Kids, which all stays in Northern Ireland, supports the type of care his family got at the hospital and hospice, where they help families during illness and afterwards if they lose their child.
The hospice sends out carers to people’s homes, so the family can have a break.
Sonya Mac and I are asking women to join our teams — I’ve said on air it’s not a competition but I want more people in my team.
You can join me by emailing: firstname.lastname@example.org.
‘It’s not about competition, it’s about just having a go’
Rachel Farrell (36) is a barrister and lives in Belfast with her husband Mark. She says:
I actually started running in 2007 with my mother-in-law. It was about just getting out and having a bit of craic and my mother-in-law was a runner so it was easy enough to start.
I did the spring RunHer in 2007 and then the Lisburn half marathon that June and after that I was hooked. I joined a running club — The Up And Runners — in summer 2007. However, in August 2007 I was involved in a scooter crash and suffered a head injury. I couldn't run for the next nine months because I spent most of the time being concussed. I was very dizzy all of the time and couldn't drive either although I did manage to organise my wedding! I managed to get back running, though, and did the Lisburn 10K in 2008. After that I found myself training for the London marathon. It took me longer than I thought it would — 5 hours and 15 minutes but after that I was hooked again. Now I've run eight marathons and I've taken part in every single RunHer although I had to marshal last year instead of actually run as it was too close to the Edinburgh marathon.
Last autumn I was part of the team that pushed Phoebe Lyle around the route. Phoebe was paralysed when she was hit by a car when she was three. She's a brilliant ambassador for charities and always has lots of people up and training for some fundraising event or another.
I've taken part in a lot of different events but The Belfast Telegraph RunHer is one of my favourites. It's not about the competition, it's all about just having a go and it doesn't matter if you walk or run or sprint.
It's a tough route because of the hills but the great thing about a hill is what goes up must come down!”