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Why we love to jog: Women getting ready for Runher

We catch up with Belfast Telegraph Runher official trainer Melissa Eccles and meet some of the women she is helping get fit for the event. Starting today, and for the next eight weeks, follow her training exercise programme.

A team of local women hit the ground running this week when they started a special nine week training programme in preparation for the next Belfast Telegraph Titanic Runher in October.

The training plan, devised by our expert trainer Melissa Eccles, is being followed by hundreds of Runher participants online from this week, as well as a small team of nine women who will be joining her for weekly training sessions.

It is aimed at all levels - from those who have never run before, to more advanced runners who hope to improve their times.

Last Friday we featured the first four of our Titanic Runher training team and today the remaining five explain what their hopes are for taking part.

‘I wanted to take part in a proper, organised event, and it looked fun’

Emma McArdle (33), from Armagh, is joining the programme at intermediate level and hopes to progress from 5km to 10km. Emma works as the challenge events manager for Cancer Focus Northern Ireland. She says:

I organise events for the charity, which I love as I get to meet new people and travel all around Northern Ireland raising funds.

When I am not working I like socialising with friends, going out for a walk and just having a cuppa with a friend and catching up on the gossip.

I initially started running to keep fit, as I am not a gym person and felt I should be doing something active. Also, I meet so many people through my work who run for charity and they really inspired me to give it a go.

I am always so busy with work and on the go so much, that I feel as if I never get a minute to myself, so running was something I felt I could do just for me, which would get me out and help clear my head. I started running a couple of years ago and then gave up and only recently got back to it.

I signed up for the Coastal Runher and I loved it. I wanted to take part in a proper, organised run and it looked like fun as it was a girly event. I took part and came seventh, much to my surprise, and loved the feeling of having achieved a 5km run.

I hadn't signed up for anything else and was running on my own, which I found quite boring. It was hard to motivate myself to go out in the evenings when winter came around.

At the start of this year a friend asked me to sign up to the Ormeau Park Couch to 5km course and that got me out running again and I really enjoyed it.

When I saw the Titanic Runher training programme, I thought it would be great to take part and have that encouragement and do Runher again.

I like the idea that it is a structured training programme and that there is someone there to help motivate me. I am hoping to do the full 10km and who knows what after that?

I would like to keep my running up this time, as I don't really do any other exercise and you do feel great after a run."

'I hope to run all 10km, and that nine weeks will be enough to train for it'

Katherine James (56), from Holywood, is hoping to progress from 5km to run the full 10km at the Titanic Runher. Katherine, who is head of small business for Danske Bank, is married to Harry (60), who runs his own travel company, Uniglobe. They have three sons, Ben (25), Oliver (24) and, Gregory (22). She says:

I have run on and off for about 10 years, albeit inconsistently and I consider myself a "plodder". I would love to learn to run "properly" and overcome my belief that I could never run fast.

I initially took up running to lose weight.

But then a cousin was diagnosed with cancer and I did the Race for Life to raise money for charity.

Next, I then ran the Edinburgh Marathon in 2006 for Macmillan Cancer and my company matched what I raised pound for pound, reaching a total of £12,000. Then, in 2011, I ran the London Marathon for Cancer Focus and again Danske Bank matched the funds and we raised £5,000. If I can run a marathon, anyone can.

I really miss running as I find it very therapeutic and a great way of managing stress. I think life just gets in the way and it is easy to let it go.

For me it is a mindset issue. If my head's in the right place I could train for anything. Training for me is more of a mental challenge than a physical one.

When you run you feel brilliant, there is no doubt about it. You feel that you have more energy and mentally you are more focused and more able to deal with stress.

I've never been trained to run at all and I am really looking forward to the Runher programme and having someone there to tell me this is how to do it and how not to do it.

I did Runher before and walked the full 10km.

The atmosphere was fantastic and I just thought wouldn't it be great to run the whole 10km. I'm hoping that the nine weeks will be enough to train for that."

'Running keeps you fit, clears your head and sets you up for the day'

Donna Healey (50), from Belfast, is starting the programme at beginner level and hopes to improve her 5km time. Donna is a theatre manager at the Ulster Hospital and is married to Neil (53), a Pilates instructor. They have two children, Kerry (22) and Erin (20). She says:

I started running a year ago to keep my daughter company when she started the park runs. I thought I would go to the first one or two. I walked most of the first run and I really enjoyed it. The atmosphere was great. I kept going back and after a few months I was managing to walk less and run more until I ran it all - although very slowly.

As I saw myself improve the distance I could run each week, it gave me the incentive to continue. Within a few months I was able to run 5km without stopping, but I seem to have hit a point when I'm not improving. My legs are still sore at the end and sometimes I feel like I am never going to get there. Even though I am finding it hard, when I reach the end I feel so much better. I find running is a great way to keep fit and clear your head. It sets you up for the day, making you feel much better after the effort put in.

I love getting up early on a Saturday morning and no matter what the weather, going out for a run. You have this great sense of achievement at the end.

I signed up for this challenge to meet other runners and hopefully learn from them. I would like help to improve my technique and time and I am looking forward to having an expert there who can tell me what to do and what not to do.

I've heard about Runher and about girls all running together and supporting each other, and I am looking forward to being part of it. I also like the idea of training with the group and making friends and having that support.

I've worked in paediatric theatre in the Ulster Hospital since 1987 and it can be quite busy and stressful, and running is a release from stress. When you feel the air on your face, you feel so much better."

'Exercising helps me deal with the pressures of family life and work'

Primary school teacher Emma Holmes (35), from Lisburn, is entering the programme at an advanced level with the hope of improving her 10km time. Emma is married to Paul (34), a product developer, and they have two children, Ciaran (3) and Katie (1). She says:

I love teaching, but working full-time and juggling the children means I don't have a huge amount of time for indulging in hobbies.

I have tried to do some exercising in the past, but never stuck at it. I started running last year when I joined the Jog Lisburn Couch to 5k programme. It was a great opportunity for me to get fit after having my second child. It was a huge achievement for me and I also made a great friend through this process.

We kept up with regular running sessions when the programme finished and then progressed to the 10km. I was delighted to finish the Lisburn 10km without stopping in just over an hour.

I decided to sign up for this year's Belfast Telegraph Runher 10km Titanic Quarter event to keep me motivated to get out and run.

While sometimes it's really hard to get out there, the feeling when you are out and about and when you have finished is hard to beat. I enjoy the feeling of getting fitter and having something to aim for. I find that exercising in general really helps me deal with the daily pressures of juggling family life and work.

I would love to know how to run faster and hopefully the programme will help with that. I am really looking forward to Runher as I think it will be a great atmosphere and the Titanic Quarter is a great place to run."

'Sometimes we have to just take that step out of our comfort zone'

Aoife Carlin (25), from Lurgan, is starting her running journey from scratch and hopes the programme will help her to complete the Titanic Runher 5km. Aoife works as a nurse in Daisy Hill Hospital in Newry. She also teaches Irish dance. She says:

I have been going to the gym since January and have lost two stone with the help of a personal trainer. I have a friend who is into running and I always felt I would love to start, but I didn't know how to go about it.

My friend tagged me on Facebook about the Titanic running programme and I applied.

I am a complete beginner. I am really excited, but at the same time worried that I won't be as fit as some of the others. But it is reassuring to know that there will be an expert there to help and guide me.

I think it will be good to have the support of the other girls as well and I will be thrilled if I can do 5km in a good time.

Having never run before, I wanted to set myself this challenge to get fit.

Working full-time it can be hard to fit in the training and stick at it.

Sometimes I think we have to just take that step out of our comfort zone, so that's what I have done and I am excited about this opportunity.

I really like the idea that Runher is about women. I have volunteered for the past two years at the girls' summer camp set up by the Michaela McAreavey Foundation.

The foundation is based on five different elements that were important to Michaela, such as faith, wellbeing and fashion and the camps aim to help young women grow and be comfortable in their own skin.

It is about helping to create something so positive out of something so tragic and so the all-girl ethos behind Runher is something I really like."

Melissa's weekly plan to get you stronger and faster

To become the best runner you can be, running alone is not enough. In order to become a stronger, faster and more injury-proof runner, strength and conditioning are key.

Each week we will show you an exercise to incorporate into your training plan.

If you're already hitting the gym, these exercises can be added to your current programme.

For strength and conditioning newbies, each exercise over the next nine weeks will help you to build your own running-specific gym workout.

Not a member of a gym? Don't worry. The majority of these exercises do not require any equipment.

Those that require a Swiss ball can be performed without the ball.

Melissa kicks off her weekly exercise programme with tips for readers on the Side Plank.

Muscle groups emphasised: it works your core muscles; transverse abdominus and internal oblique, as well as the superficial muscle known as the external oblique.

Value for runners: The side plank will strengthen the deep core muscles, to prevent excessive twisting when you run. Performing this exercise will help to stabilise the hips and correct any imbalances in the hips that could lead to injury.

Intensity: Begin by holding for 30 seconds, then progress to 45 and then 60 seconds.

If you're new to this exercise, you can start by performing the side plank with your knees bent and feet behind you at 90 degrees. Just make sure there is a straight line from your shoulders to your knees.

Instructions: Lie on your side with your legs straight. Prop yourself up on your elbow, keeping your forearm on the floor, so that your body forms a straight line from your shoulders to your feet, which are stacked one on top of the other. Note, with your elbow bent and forearm on the floor, there should be a straight line from your shoulder to your elbow. Do not let your hips aim for the ground or point towards the ceiling; keep your core engaged throughout and be careful not to have your hips too low to the ground or too high - think of that straight line from your shoulders to your feet.

Whether you're running with friends or running by yourself, we want to support you all the way to the finish line at Belfast Telegraph Runher Titanic Quarter, where we will celebrate success together.

If you would like some advice on your training, please email your queries to or get in touch with us on social media by using the hashtag #BelTelRunherTips.

Your questions will be answered in a weekly Q&A feature on the Belfast Telegraph website in the Belfast Telegraph Runher section.

Good luck with week two of the training plan!

Remember - consistency is key and your hard work will pay off ... but make sure you're having fun along the way!

Belfast Telegraph


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