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Runher at Titanic Quarter: Pounding pavements has really turned our lives around

Women of all ages and abilities will pull on their trainers for the Belfast Telegraph Runher event at Titanic Quarter on October 23. Karen Ireland talks to Dewi Russell, from Larne, and Sandra McFadden, from Ballycarry, who turned to running to overcome depression and self-esteem issues.

‘I lost my parents and best friend, then fell ill myself... running helped me to cope’

Dewi Russell (38) is an account assistant who lives in Larne with her husband Ian (40) and their two children Ayinta (8) and Luke (3). She says:

Earlier this year I hit a real low point in my life and was worried about my wellbeing. So on March 31 I told my husband I wanted to take up running and the next day we were out doing it.

He agreed to do it with me, though I had never run before. At the start we walked a bit then picked up the pace and ran for a minute or so at a time.

My life started to spiral out of control about five years ago when my mum died in Indonesia, which is where I am originally from.

She had been ill with cancer for a number of years before passing away. It was hard being so far away from her and not being there when she died.

I travelled over for her funeral and to see my dad.

Then two years after mum passed away, my dad died suddenly. He had several strokes - but I think he died of a broken heart. Again, I suffered all the bad feelings of not being there for him.

I was overcome with grief and felt so helpless, not being with either of my parents at the end. I didn't know who to grieve for - it was dreadful.

I was so close to my parents, especially my mum, who I spoke to nearly every day, and she was the one I always turned to for advice. I was completely lost without them, but fate hadn't finished with me yet and a week after my dad died my best friend, Yeti (48), died suddenly during surgery.

Having lost three of the most important people in my life, I felt as though I couldn't go on.

I wouldn't take anti-depressants, choosing instead to keep focused on my husband and children, who needed me. I always tried to be upbeat in front of them.

Last October, though, I collapsed in work and was rushed by ambulance to the City hospital, where it was discovered I had septicaemia.

Medical tests also revealed cysts on my ovaries, with a large abscess on one. After surgery I suffered internal bleeding, so I had to have another operation to remove an ovary.

I felt so low when I was sick and I just wanted my mum.

I just wanted to talk to her or Yeti and for them to tell me I was going to be okay.

Ian was great - but there is no-one who can replace your parents.

When I came out of hospital I could barely walk and wasn't allowed to pick up the children. I felt so alone and every day I would just sit and cry.

I would wonder 'why me?' and how could so much have happened to me? I was devastated and heartbroken.

After my illness I found it difficult to go back to work as my mood was so low, but I still refused anti-depressants.

That night in March I decided that if I wanted to be there for my children I needed to get fit and well. I promised myself that I would snap out of it and start training.

It was difficult at the start and I would walk more than run, but soon I was running for several miles.

Ian was brilliant and I don't know if I would have stuck at it without his encouragement.

I actually did my first 10K in July. I was so proud of myself.

When I'm running I feel a real release and am able to leave all my troubles behind.

It completely clears my mind.

If I don't run, the family know all about it, as I am grumpy. So I run now to keep me happy and balanced. It's the best thing I ever did.

I am really looking forward to the Runher event, which will be all the more special running with so many other women."

‘I had been carrying issues from childhood and these had weighed me down’

Sandra McFadden (34) is the acting manager of the charity Mindwise. She is single and lives in Ballycarry. She says:

I had always struggled with my weight and it had been a real issue for me all through school.

When I reached my 20s, though, I decided I couldn’t go on like this any longer and needed to do something about it. It was getting me really down and starting to affect my mental health.

I began running about 12 years ago — just a little bit at a time with my mum’s dog. At the beginning I could barely run for a few minutes without getting out of breath, but I persevered and then started running with my own dogs.

Each time I went out I ran a bit further and set goals for myself.

I started losing weight and feeling better about myself. Eventually I shed three stones. It was then I realised I had been carrying a lot of issues from my childhood and these had been weighing me down and affecting my mood.

They had also indirectly played a role in me putting on weight as I was comfort eating to compensate for what was going on.

My brother is disabled and as a family we spent our time looking after him. My mum suffered badly from depression and I now realise there is a thin line  between feeling low and getting depressed.

Exercise helped me a great deal and I even started doing Boxercise and eventually became an instructor.

I joined a running club of other women and we run together three times a week. That has been really great and it keeps me socially active too, so I don’t become isolated which is another trigger for depression.

Some of our volunteers  at Mindwise take groups  to the gym and swimming too, as it is really good for keeping them fit and active as well as the social aspect which is good for their overall well-being.

Running clears my head as I’m concentrating on my breathing and running. It is great for just switching off.

When I have a problem I will go for a run to help sort out the mixed up thoughts in my head — and I always end up feeling better afterwards.

With the running club I have completed a half marathon and the Belfast Marathon together — now we will be doing Runher together.”

Choice of two runs for a Titanic effort

Runher returns to Titanic Quarter on Sunday, October 23 with 5k and 10k events.

There is a new 10k route, which is flat, fast and fun. If you are after a PB, then ladies, this could be the event for you.

Online entry is £18 and the price includes race entry, Runher event T-shirt, Runher goody bag and Championchip timing.

Charity teams, running clubs, women’s running groups, Couch 2 5k groups and Parkrunners are all welcome.

wIf you enter as a team of 10 or more, each team leader (per 10 entries) will receive an exclusive Runher Saucony hoodie. Please add your team or charity name when you enter for our records in order to claim your special Runher Titanic event hoodie.

Online entry to 5k or 10k event visit

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