Fergal Mulgrew's grieving sisters in forest race tribute
The sisters of a Co Tyrone runner who died suddenly while training in Davagh Forest are to take part in a 10-mile race at the beauty spot to mark the first anniversary of his death.
Fergal Mulgrew from Kildress was aged 40 when he collapsed while running with a friend in his favourite training location on October 12 last year.
He was in the final stages of preparation for the Dublin marathon, hoping to complete it in under three hours.
It was later discovered he had hypertensive heart disease, a common feature in cases of sudden death during sport.
A popular member of the Acorns Athletics Club and a joiner by trade, Fergal's family were heartbroken by his death but have since found comfort taking up the sport their brother loved.
On October 14, his sisters Sinead Rice (44) and Roisin Corrigan (43) will compete in 'Fergal's 10 miler' in Davagh Forest with his former clubmates and many others in his memory.
"He loved Davagh Forest so much, especially the way it changed through the seasons which would let him run in the autumn or in the snow," Sinead said. "It's such a beautiful location in the heart of the Sperrins.
"When the Acorns club asked us about doing an anniversary run it was very hard for us, but we knew it would be something that Fergal would want us to do."
Having never shown an interest in running before, Sinead said getting fit had proved an unexpected comfort.
"You actually don't realise it at first, but it's like a therapy for us to help cope with the grief. He'll always be there and I suppose running has made us closer to him," she said.
"He always said: 'It doesn't matter how fast you run, it's about taking part' - and it's so true. I used to beat myself up at the start, saying 'I'm not Fergal, I can't run', but gradually it's built up my confidence."
Recalling her brother's death, Sinead said: "It's still raw for us but I suppose we've been learning to accept it, as we know that's what Fergal would want - not for us to think about how things should have been, but how they are and coping with it."
Mr Mulgrew's parents, Gerald and Brigid, will also officially start the race in memory of their only son.
"Their life revolved round Fergal," Sinead said. "They've been so brave and strong and this means so much to them. Everything that's happened has been really touching, everybody's kindness has been overwhelming."
Since Mr Mulgrew's death, various fundraisers have led to a defibrillator and two benches being installed in Davagh Forest in his honour.
The Mulgrew family have also campaigned to improve the poor phone signal in the popular spot for runners and mountain bikers, in case of future emergencies.
Hoping to attract top racing talent, 'Fergal's 10 miler' will have £2,000 in prize money on offer. The first 300 finishers will also receive a custom medal.
- Registration details can be found at athleticsni.org, by searching for Fergal's 10