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Belfast Telegraph RunHer: the special causes that make us go extra mile

As the countdown to next month's Belfast Telegraph RunHer event gets under way, Kerry McKittrick talks to two women who have very personal reasons for taking part

What started as a simple fun run in east Belfast seven years ago has now turned into one of the biggest events in Northern Ireland's fundraising calendar. The Belfast Telegraph RunHer event returns to the Stormont Estate on October 6, not just as a sporting event but a fun day out for all the family.

As well as a 5K or 10K run, jog or walk for women of all ages and abilities there will also be the firm favourites of the Dash For Kids, a Cool FM roadshow and professional warm-up. There also will be a bouncy castle for the kids to make it a fun day out for the whole family.

'I'm running in memory of my mother-in-law who sadly died in March this year from cancer'

Heather (42), works with her husband Raymond in the family business, Comber Commercial. She says:

I've been running since I was about 30 when I started with my sister Rosie as a way of keeping fit. I joined the Ballydrain Harriers running club last year. The club has been around for a long time but their numbers dwindled recently – down to just five.

They moved to Comber in a bid to rekindle interest in the club as there was no running club in the area. The move has proved a success and now there are around 50 members.

The club has runners of all abilities and ages. It's just about having a bit of craic and socialising with other people. Everyone gives everyone else support and advice.

I'm running RunHer this year in memory of my mother-in-law Gwen. She passed away in March this year having been diagnosed with cancer two years ago.

She was nursed from home by my husband and his family which is where she wanted to be. We had tremendous help from the Northern Ireland Hospice too.

It's always been in my mind to raise money for a charity but Gwen's illness brought Action Cancer to the forefront. After overhearing a bus driver talk about how brilliant running the New York Marathon had been Rosie and I decided to go for that to raise money.

We are taking part in RunHer as part of our training for that marathon.

We've done RunHer for a few years now. It's wonderful having all the women together and everyone talks to each other and spurs each other on as they go around the course. There's no pressure either. I did the Coastal 10K Challenge back in May and I took my time as I went along so I could enjoy the scenery. It doesn't matter if you can't run, this really is an event for everyone as it's so relaxed.

At the moment the training for the marathon is going well. It's on November 3 and we're up to 18-19- mile runs on Sundays. We're just going to do the 5K run at RunHer this year – the short runs are important too!"

'I thought it was just a problem with his eyes, but my son had MS'

Helen (54) is a part-time administrator and lives in Belfast with her husband Leonard. They have three children, Peter (26), Justin (24) and Hannah (18). She says:

My son Peter has just finished his Masters in Human Rights Law at Queen's. He hopes eventually to work in policy research where he feels he can put his talents to best use.

As a student Peter was still living at home. In May this year he woke up with double vision. I just thought it was a problem with his eyes and sent him to the optician straight away.

I got a shock when I had a phone call telling me he was being sent to the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast for tests. I followed him up there. The medical staff said they were concerned as they had detected some swelling of the brain stem.

While he was there he started complaining of tingling in the tips of his fingers and toes.

Peter was given a CT scan and an MRI scan before they gave him steroids for his symptoms. The following Sunday we were given the shock diagnosis – Peter has multiple sclerosis.

He has what's called relapsing, remitting MS. He could have another attack in a few days time, or it could be weeks or even years. We just never know when the next one will strike.

It's like a ticking time bomb and it's difficult to live with. Our children mean the world to us and we've put their health then their education as top priorities.

We've all started researching the illness. That's actually how I found out about RunHer as it was advertised on the MS Society of Northern Ireland website. This is a small charity but they've been thoughtful and supportive to us so I decided to raise money for them.

I've never been a runner so I'll be walking RunHer with my daughter, Hannah. It's nice that the pair of us can do something that will raise awareness of MS. It's not a hereditary illness and we wanted to let people know that it can effect young people too.

Our news has been devastating but it could be quite some time before Peter has another attack."

'It's a timebomb, so I just try to stay healthy'

Paul (26) currently works in student support in Belfast colleges and universities. He says:

When I woke up with double vision it didn't strike me as anything to be particularly worried about and I even went on a night out. It was mum who told me to go the opticians.

The optician could see it wasn't a problem with my eyes so she sent me into the Eye, Nose and Throat department at the Royal Victoria Hospital. I thought I was just going for some tests until all of a sudden they told me they we keeping me in for a time.

Eventually I was told I had MS. Up to that point we had thought it was some kind of virus. When you hear of people with MS you think of them in a wheelchair but often that's not the case. I have relapsing remitting MS which affects around 70% of those diagnosed with the condition. We carried out some research and found that it was one of the least serious types of the condition.

Since that first attack in May I haven't had any other symptoms and it could be years until I do again. The best thing I can do now is take care of myself. I go to the gym more, eat better and I've cut down my alcohol intake.

There are a lot of different opinions out there as to what you should and shouldn't eat. Some people say cut out dairy and gluten altogether, others say a bit is okay. I just drink lots of green tea and eat less bread than I used to.

It is a ticking timebomb but I'm doing everything I'm supposed to do now and all I can do is try to keep myself healthy. It seems that the worst stories about MS come from people who weren't diagnosed until their 40s or didn't take good care of their health. My condition has been caught early so I'm able to plan for the future."


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