Today, thousands of runners and walkers will pound the city’s pavements as they take part in the Deep RiverRock Belfast City Marathon. Ahead of the big event Karen Ireland caught up with some local people to find out just what is motivating them to lace up and keep on running.
Johnny Breen (46) lives in Banbridge with his wife Catherine and their daughters Rebecca (13) and Emma (11). He is community fundraiser for the Meningitis Research Foundation. He says:
When I took up this post earlier this year I was always asking people to take part in events on behalf of the charity. I soon realised, though, that if I was asking other people to put themselves out for it, then I should be prepared to do the same.
And I’ve also heard so many inspirational stories, including one from a local couple whose young son died from meningitis. They turned the tragedy into something positive by organising a ball in his memory which raised money which is vital to this charity.
At the Meningitis Research Foundation, 92% of all money raised goes directly to the work we do.
That was my motivation and running the marathon seemed like the perfect challenge.
I’ve always been keen on fitness and took up running with friends a few years ago after retiring from competitive sport.
While I’d never run long distances, just a few 10ks for fun, I was confident I could push myself and train for a marathon.
The more miles I ran the tougher it got, but my competitive nature spurred me on to do greater distances with better times.
So far I’ve run 20 miles so it will just be a case of digging deep for that extra six and a bit.
Originally I intended to raise £500, but now the total stands at over £1,500 with pledges coming in from friends and family as far away as Sweden, China and Majorca.
The generosity of people blows me away and that will drive me on during the run.
I don’t want to let one of those people down.
There is a real team spirit about the event and we have 20 people in our team. It’s all we can talk about.
It’s exciting and I can’t wait to get started. The crowds and the adrenalin will kick in and pull me along when it gets tough.
And the money is going to such a great cause, so I know I’ll do it.”
Adrian Moat (43) is single and lives in Belfast. He works for Virgin Media and will be running the marathon for a rather unusual cause. He says:
This is my 27th marathon. I’m addicted to them and love running them all over the world. My friend Dale Hooks and I have raised over £35,000 for various charities over the years by running them.
A couple of years ago we decided instead of asking people for money we would ask them to donate blood in aid of our run.
This was a huge success and we had over 500 donations which was excellent.
Last year we were touched by the story of a young girl Erin Bonar, from Ballycarry, who was five years old when she watched a programme on organ donation. She told her mum afterwards that if anything ever happened to her she wanted to be an organ donor.
Tragically a few months later the little girl took ill and died but because of her organs, which were donated, three children and one adult were saved. Her story was a true inspiration to us and we decided to use it to help raise awareness and increase the organ donors’ list.
We even met her family and they were very supportive of our venture.
So this year and last, Dale and I have been encouraging people to sign up to the organ donors’ list, to back us when we run the marathon.
Last year 300 people signed up with another 150 new signatures this year which is great.
We’ll be running the Belfast Marathon as the Incredible Hulk and Captain America in Erin’s honour as she loved these two superheroes.
Dale and I run about three or four times a week and this will be our seventh Belfast Marathon, so we’re both well prepared.”
Michael Runciman (23) works part-time in a café and is a media designer. He lives in Banbridge with his family and will be running the marathon in memory of a friend and to raise money for suicide prevention charity PIPS. He says:
I’m running the marathon in memory of one of my very special friends — Carla Knox (23), from Tandragee, who sadly took her own life last September.
Carla and I became friends on our first day at Banbridge Academy and went through school together. We were always in each other’s friendship group.
She was a very wonderful person and we just clicked. When I got the call to say she had taken her own life, it was one of the biggest shocks of my life.
I couldn’t take it in. Carla was so beautiful and vibrant and seemed to have everything going for her from the outside.
She left notes for those closest to her and some photographs, but no one really knows what was going on in her head or was so bad that it caused her to think she couldn’t go on.
Our whole group was distraught.
There will forever be a huge hole where Carla used to be. She was the sort of friend who you might not see for months, but when you did, the conversation just took up from where you left off.
Her family were completely devastated by what happened. I went to see them a few times to talk about Carla and tell them how important she was to me.
She was bubbly and confident and very outgoing. She was great craic, loved life and had a big circle of friends. She was the last person you would expect something like this to happen to.
After Carla died, suicide prevention charity PIPS provided wonderful support to her family.
I wanted to do something to mark her memory so I decided to run the marathon — even though it is well out of my comfort zone.
It’s also an opportunity to raise money for PIPS who help so many people. If this charity can prevent just one person from taking their own life then it will be worthwhile.
I haven’t trained as much as I should and, so far, I’ve only got up to 12 miles — but I know I will get through it on the day. I have Carla watching over me and I’ll be doing it for her.
When I was at university in Edinburgh, Carla was studying in Newcastle so I would travel down to visit her. We had some great times together.
I miss her so much. She was beautiful inside and out. Now, nothing will ever be the same again. It is such a loss.
There are four of us running together — all for different charities.
So far, I’ve raised over £1,500 on my Justgiving page and I have collected over £300 in cash. The support I’ve received has been overwhelming.
While I’m not really a runner I keep fit by mountain bike riding.
A knee injury a while ago set my training back but I am determined to make it over the finish line for Carla.
I read the story last week of the guy who was going to jump off a bridge and ran the London Marathon with the man who talked him around and was his saving grace. That was truly inspirational.
Hopefully by sharing Carla’s story and talking about the heartbreak which follows when someone takes their own life, I can do something to break down the stigma.
I want anyone who is in distress to know that there is help out there.
I’m doing this for Carla. She will never be forgotten and is always in my heart.”
Katrine McDermott (48), from Limavady, is a carer to her nephew Jonah (28 months). She has two children, Tom (20) and Ellie (16). She will run the relay race in the marathon, using Jonah as her inspiration, to raise money for two charities very close to her heart. She says:
One wee face keeps me going and motivates me to take part in this event. That is my nephew, Jonah McMichael.
He was born with Down's Syndrome and some very complex needs which required a tracheotomy to help with his breathing.
When he was born, it was such a huge shock to his parents and all the family. I wanted to do something to help, so I trained to become his carer as well as being his aunt. I want to be there for the fun and the cuddles, but also to help his parents in practical ways too.
Because of Jonah's needs, he requires two people to be with him around the clock so, for most of the time during the day, that will be his mum Moira (my sister) and me.
My nephew spent the first six months of his life in intensive care in the Royal Victoria Hospital, Belfast. And during these months he could not play, smile or develop as he was using all his energy just to breathe.
The surgery for the tracheotomy saved his life. After that, and once he was stable, the hospital put the family in contact with the Children's Hospice, where his mum is able to take him for a few days. This helps them get a break from the hospital setting. The hospice can provide the specialist care needed by Jonath due to the complex nature of his condition.
Because of this support, our whole family were able to meet Jonah (outside of the controlled hospital setting) - and I fell in love with him right away. The hospice has been terrific and Moira and her partner Darron have been able to visit and have short stays several times a year.
This enables them to split their time between Jonah and their other sons Kane (26), Matthew (18) and Andrew (15).
The team at the hospice are dedicated professionals and always make us feel like it is a home from home.
There is a multi-sensory room, soft play room and massage for Jonah - the staff are wonderful and offer Moira and Darron emotional support too through some very difficult days.
I've never run before in my life, but when I saw that the Children's Hospice were looking for people to take part I knew it was a fantastic opportunity to give something back. It's a great way to thank them for all their support.
The first person I called was Darron, and said - 'you are always talking about getting fit, what about doing this?' He thought it was a great idea, so we got a relay team together.
As well as Darron and myself, our team will include Diane McLaughlin (also a carer and family friend), Andrew McDermott (Jonah's uncle) and Ryan Kennedy (another family member).
Training has been tough for me.
"I'm a smoker, although I am trying to stop, and I haven't found running easy.
As a group we did the Couch to 5k app as well as training and some Parkruns. While I love running once I'm outside, it can be difficult to motivate myself, especially when I get in from work exhausted.
But all I have to do is think of Jonah's wee face and that pulls me through. He will get me through the running, the sweat and the sore legs on the day.
As well as the hospice, some of the money is going to Butterfly Lodge, which has a respite team to provide care for Jonah at night.
So far, we've raised over £2,500, with more money coming in every day. People have been so generous.
Training for the marathon relay has helped me to get fit and enjoy running. Mostly, though, I want to do my bit to help and thinking of Jonah will keep me going."