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Putting our best foot forward to beat cancer

Three participants in the Glens of Antrim annual fundraising event for Cancer Focus NI tell Marie Foy about their special reasons for pushing themselves out of their comfort zone

Iain Taylor
Iain Taylor
Family time: Oonagh Cattigan with husband Martin and daughters Cara and Niamh
Worthy cause: Caitriona O’Connor out running

By Marie Foy

Energetic cyclists and runners are signing up in their droves for the popular annual Fun Run of the Glens (FROG) charity event through the scenic Glens of Antrim on Saturday.

Now in its 14th year, this successful fundraiser has gone from strength to strength and organisers hope to attract a record number of participants to raise as much as possible for Cancer Focus Northern Ireland.

Last year 620 cyclists and 160 runners took part, raising £45,000 for the local charity, which is celebrating its 50th year. Over the years the event has raised a total of £225,000.

Kathryn Holland, challenge events manager with Cancer Focus NI, said: "Every penny raised this year will go towards our pioneering research at Queen's University, Belfast and our work in the community. This includes family support, a free NurseLine on 0800 783 3339, bra-fitting for women who've had breast surgery, art therapy, creative writing and other therapeutic services.

"We also have 'keeping well' vans that bring health checks and advice into the heart of communities and we do a wide range of cancer prevention work in schools, workplaces and community venues.

"Please do consider signing up and taking part in FROG - your support really will make a difference to the lives of local people affected by cancer."

Participants can choose the FROG cycle, either a 25-mile, 50-mile or 65-mile route, or FROG legs, a 10km or 10-mile run.

For further details and to sign up, visit www.cancerfocusni.org/events

‘Losing mum was very hard ... I do this in memory of her’

Solutions engineer Iain Taylor (45), from Glenravel, got involved with FROG 13 years ago after his mum Elizabeth died from cancer. He says:

My mum was only just retired and was caring for my dad who had Parkinson's. She had been a nurse practically all her life. She probably didn't take the same care of her own health as she did of others. We found out she had adrenal gland cancer and she passed away within two weeks, which was very hard. We didn't have the opportunity to let it sink in.

I stayed with her until she passed away. I wasn't in a very good place at the time with grief. But the organiser of FROG, Paul McToal, kept trying to persuade me to take part in the event. Eventually I thought, why wouldn't I do it in memory of my mum.

If I can do anything at all to help Cancer Focus NI raise awareness and raise money for its great services, then I am more than happy to do that.

I've always been sporty but hadn't cycled since I was a child. Five or six weeks before FROG I went out on the bike with Paul and we covered 34 miles. I had to get a lift back home. I was a little bit annoyed with myself. I wanted to do the 50 miles.

A few days later I went out and did 50 - I can be a little bit stubborn when I set my mind to something like that. Then I thought that wouldn't be a challenge so I got back on the bike and did the 100-mile FROG circuit that year.

As well as cycling up to 150 miles a week, I now do triathlon events too. It was a natural progression. Since the start of FROG I've been pushing my sponsorship as much as possible and help Paul as much as I can. I must have raised over £6,000 over the years.

I don't think I have missed a year yet, even after recovering from an ankle operation in 2017. I recently got the all-clear from the consultant that I could cycle as long as I didn't 'clip in'.

It's a fantastic day out and I'd recommend it to anyone, so please come along and give it a try whether you're a runner or a cyclist.

Cancer Focus NI does so much good work supporting people with cancer and their families. It's very involved with cancer prevention in the community and funds vital research at Queen's University, so it's an excellent charity to support. We'd love to have you on board."

'This illness is no respecter of age, gender or race... and I want to help'

Former exhibition and trade events organiser Oonagh Cattigan (37), from Glenariff, is married to Martin, a TV and film electrician, and they have two daughters, Niamh (6) and Cara (3).  Oonagh is helping to organise FROG to raise funds for Cancer Focus NI. She says:

Like most families, we've been affected by cancer. We've lost several dear friends and family over the years but also, thankfully, my father-in-law is fighting and presently winning his battle. I think for a lot of people, it's very close to home, which is why so many people want to support FROG.

Cancer doesn't hold back - it's no respecter of age, gender or race.

It is a cruel, horrible disease, so I feel it is so important to support Cancer Focus NI, which does so much to help local cancer patients and their families.

I returned to Glenariff five years ago, having lived in London for 10 years, and discovered I had a passion for running.

I signed up to the 10-mile frog Legs in 2018, as it's a wonderful event.

We're spoilt with amazing views and challenging routes, while the pre and post-event refreshments and entertainment are the best I've ever experienced during an organised run.

I'm looking forward to this year's run and I'm insisting that all my friends and family register - there are options available for all fitness levels.

The route is a challenge, but every step will be worth it as every penny raised goes to Cancer Focus NI and stays in Northern Ireland to help local people.

Cancer Focus NI is a charity very close to my heart and it's comforting to know that should I ever need them, they will be there to help and support me or my family in any way they can."

'To raise money I knew I had to push out of my comfort zone'

Caitriona O'Connor (31), from Cushendall, who lost her  grandparents to cancer, is a  special needs teacher. She says:

The FROG is a fantastic community event in the Glens but people also come from far and wide to take part.

I'm really looking forward to the buzz and the thrill of competing again this year, knowing at the same time I am helping to make life better for local cancer patients and their families.

This year our local running club, the Glens Runners, have taken ownership of the running event and hope to attract more and more athletes.

I'm a member and I'm on the organising committee for this year's run.

We have been doing Couch to FROG training. We started doing small sections to familiarise runners with the route and have been building up the distance each week.

Last year's event took place on one of the hottest days of the year, the sun was splitting the skies and FROG HQ was buzzing.

Despite having never run more than 10km before, I signed myself up for the 10-mile race.

I knew if I was going to raise money for this worthy cause, I was going to have to push out of my comfort zone.

The race began at Glenravel community centre, following the rolling country roads to Dungonnell Dam, before joining the trails in Glenariff Forest Park.

This is where the real work started with some challenging hills to tackle. From the top it was a race downhill and back to the finish.

The cyclists began rolling back in soon afterwards and the day rounded off with an excellent barbecue before moving into the community centre for some live music and a well-deserved drink or four.

For me running has always been about the social aspect, so the FROG is my kind of event, fun but also raising a lot of money for a very worthy cause."

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