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Ulster Rugby team's partners running in memory of Nevin Spence

As a moving tribute to the tragic Ulster Rugby star, his team-mates’ partners will take part in Runher this weekend. Kerry McKittrick meets them and others donning their trainers.

The tragic deaths of Ulster Rugby star Nevin Spence, his dad Noel and brother Graham touched the hearts of everyone in the province and next Sunday the young player will be remembered by some of his team-mates’ partners when they take part in Runher.

Tina Wallace, wife of Irish international Paddy, will lead the players’ partners in the 10K charity fundraiser around the Stormont estate on the outskirts of Belfast.

The money they raise will go towards the Oscar Knox Fund, set up to finance treatment for the three-year-old boy, who suffers from cancer.

Nevin visited Oscar shortly before his death and the girls feel their run will be a fitting tribute.

Breaking records every year so far, more that 2,000 women and children are expected to take part in next weekend’s event, for which the principal charity is Childline.

There will be a slight change to proceedings this year.

The ChildLine 5K walk will take place at noon and the ever-popular dash for kids is at 1pm. This will leave the course clear for the main 5K and 10K runs starting at 2pm.

Although this is a women-only event, it will as always be a family fun day out. Bouncy castles, refreshments and the Cool FM van will be there to whip up the atmosphere come rain or shine.

This year, along with the goody bag containing a T-shirt and treats from Nature Valley and Forest Feast, physiotherapists from Apex Clinic will be at the finish line to provide on the spot relief for those aching muscles. Entry is available online or at Up And Running in Belfast.

Last-minute ditherers can even sign up on the day.

This year, Runher has issued the Champion Team Challenge — teams of 10 or more to run under a single banner. Teams can be from the local social club, a charity or even just groups of friends.

We find out from four women just why they are preparing to pound the track around Stormont.

I’m running for Nevin and Oscar

Tina Wallace (37) is married to Ireland International rugby player Paddy Wallace. They live in Belfast with their children, Paddy Jack (5) and Leila (3), and she is leading Sparky's Girls. She says:

Some of the Ulster Rugby team's partners got together a few years ago to run a relay of the Belfast Marathon and we've decided to do it again this year. That's why we're called Sparky's Girls — after the Ulster Rugby |mascot.

We're running in memory of Nevin Spence, who was killed tragically with his brother and father recently. Not long before he died, Nevin visited Oscar Knox — a three year-old boy with cancer — and planned to do it again. We've decided to raise money for the Oscar Knox Fund as that's what Nevin would have wanted.

We raised around £3,500 doing the marathon and we're hoping to do that again this time. There is a mixture of wives and partners taking part in Runher — some are running, some walking. I'm hoping to run the 10K and I'm really looking forward to it, even though I've never done one before.

I've always been quite sporty, although it did fall by the wayside a bit when the children came along. I'm trying to keep up with Paddy though and I've been working with a personal trainer doing weight training on my legs so I can get them strong enough to start running.

I don't get any help or advice from Paddy at all. The rugby players are trained for short bursts of strength instead of stamina. They might be able to pull sledges around, but I don't think Paddy would be able to go out for a run!

I know the Ulster rugby players can't take part in RunHer, but we're hoping a few of them will turn out to show their support on the day, both for their other halfs and for Nevin.”

Sparky’s Girls will be raising funds for Neuroblastoma Children’s Cancer Alliance and the Oscar Knox Appeal. For information, go to Sparky’s Girls Just Giving page at

I’m running for charity that helped save my life

Coirle Butler (45) is a health development manager for a pharmaceutical company. She lives in Donaghadee with her husband, Nick, and two teenage sons. She is running with the Action Cancer group and says:

A friend of mine was diagnosed with breast cancer and that prompted me to get checked out, even though I didn't have any symptoms or lumps or anything like that.

I asked my doctor, but was told they don't screen women for breast cancer until over the age of 50. I decided to take advantage of the Action Cancer free screening programme, went along, made a donation and had it done.

I didn't think anything of it until I had a letter four days later calling me back. I was a bit alarmed at that stage, but I still knew that for those who are called back, less than 10% end up with a diagnosis.

As it turned out, I was diagnosed with a tumour and I then met with a consultant, who recommended a mastectomy. It was quite drastic surgery, but as it turned out, I did not need chemo or radiotherapy. I would only need a reconstruction and would be taking Tamoxifen for the next five years.

I honestly don't know what kind of outcome there would have been for me if the free screening programme run by Action Cancer didn't exist. I do know, though, that 20 of my closest friends have been for mammograms since finding out that I had breast cancer. I also have to say that the support and love of my family, friends and work colleagues has been simply wonderful.

I'm walking the 5K Runher. Walking has been a big thing for me.

It's a chance for my husband and me to be on our own and talk. There is a big group taking part from Action Cancer so I'm looking forward to a girls' day out.”

I’m running to help me get ready for the boxing season

Louise Welsh (24) is a gym instructor from Lisburn and will be leading the Girls In Gloves team. She says:

I've always been into sport and fitness and when I was younger I did taekwando. It was actually my grandad who got me into boxing.

He was involved with the sport and asked me would I take part in an exhibition fight when I was 16. I agreed and I discovered I loved it — I was hooked on boxing from then on.

Since then I have been training at Holy Trinity Boxing club in west Belfast.

Usually, I'm the only girl in the club and most of the time I love it because we all train together.

It's a very male-dominated |environment, though.

I'm always on my own in the changing rooms and we have to find girls from other clubs to spar with me.

Although I spar with boys in our club, I still need to spar with girls so I know how they fight.

I have to run for fitness and because of that I decided to get a team of girls together — other boxers — to take part.

It will be great for us to loosen up for the upcoming season.

I'm really looking forward to doing something that's just for the girls.

I’m running to help keep the weight off

Sara Ball (43) is a Weight Watchers leader and lives in Belfast with her husband Alan and their children Mark (11) and Helen (8) and is leading the Mums On The Run. She says:

I joined Weight Watchers in 2006 and through it I managed to lose six stone.

As part of my weight loss I started going for walks at weekends and in the evenings and as time went on and I lost weight I thought I would give running a go.

I decided I would run when no one was around so I would stop when the next car came along.

I'm sure it looked a bit strange — they would see a woman walking along the road all red faced and out of breath.

I just took it from there and I've kept running as it's been a good way to keep the weight off — it's always been something I enjoyed.

I ran a 10K race and also took part in a Runher, one of the very first ones and I really enjoyed them.

I felt I needed a bit more motivation and company so I put up a notice on the children's school noticeboard to find other like-minded mums who wanted a run.

We've been Mums On The Run for a couple of years now. We meet at the school gates a few mornings a week when we're dropping the kids off. Then we walk or run two miles to a coffee shop.

Everyone's different, some people are natural runners and will speed ahead while others struggle and take it at a slower place.

Everyone tends to find someone who can go at their speed, even just take it at a walk if they prefer. We get to the coffee shop, have a natter and coffee and then walk back.

There will be 12 of us taking part in Runher. I love the event and I've found it a very humbling experience. You really don't know what a person can do just by looking at them and I've seen women in their 60s speeding around the track.

You'll look at one person and think, I've got to be faster than her, but you never actually are! I'm never going to be a fast runner but I like the craic on the day — it's all ladies together.

Could you go the distance?

  • Runher takes place from noon on Sunday, Oct 7 and registration costs £20 with each entrant receiving a goodie bag.
  • Race pack collection will start at Up And Running, Belfast, on Thursday, Oct 4
  • Participants can walk 5K or run 5K or 10K as they so wish
  • You can follow Runher updates on both Twitter and Facebook

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