Newly-formed County Derry running group to compete in Waterside Half Marathon
14 August 2018
Among the expected 2,500 participants taking part in the 2018 Waterside Half Marathon will be a running group from Glenullin with members who have been running for as little as three months.
Event organisers Derry City and Strabane District Council and City of Derry Spartans introduced the three member relay team element of the event a number of years ago to allow runners who aren’t ready for a Half Marathon to be involved in the field of one of the biggest events in the Irish athletics calendar.
The initiative is a perfect fit for the County Derry running group, formed last Autumn by Michelle Comer who had only taken up the sport herself the year before.
The club will have entered five relay teams while Michelle and group member Lorraine McKeever will be completing the full distance.
“I started running in March 2016 and caught the bug really quickly,” explained Michelle. “I have gone on to run in numerous 5k, 10k and Half Marathon events to date and in October of last year I decided to extend my passion for running to coaching by completing the LiRF qualification which allows me to deliver running programmes.
“I organised a ten week programme in Glenullin in Autumn of last year to encourage female beginners to take up running and it has taken off.
“I knew there was nothing in my community for ladies who felt they weren’t fit enough to go to the gym or an exercise class.
“I stressed from an early stage that all goals were individual and personal and that no comparisons should be made with other runners in the group.
“The programme concluded with an organised 5k event with participants receiving a custom designed t-shirt.”
“We had 41 ladies taking part in the first programme and it was uplifting to see a stream of runners fill the roads of Glenullin and everyone running across the finish line to rapturous applause from family and friends.
“I believe this programme made a huge difference in the lives of the people who took part, as well as the training I wanted them to believe in themselves and realise how important their mindset is in turning new behaviours into habits.
“The benefits of this initiative were huge, although it seemed daunting at the start, everyone involved was healthier and happier as a result.”
Buoyed by the high of completing their first 5k, Michelle was delighted to discover that there was an appetite among the group to continue their running by attempting to improve their times and increase distance.
“We took a break for the Christmas period and started again in January 2018,” she continued. “My intention was to use the Couch to 5k as a stepping stone and extend the programme in the New Year to reaching a 10k goal.
“Some ladies decided to embrace the 10k challenge whilst others wished to improve their 5k running so we started mid-January and finished up with a local 5k/10k event on March 25th.
“These ladies ran their sessions in hail, rain, sun and snow.
“The March event was another success and another eight week programme started after a four week break and again the runners were as keen as ever to get going.
“I aimed the third programme at 10k runners with the focus on getting stronger and quicker and I opened it up to the men in the community.
“Our finishing date was the Glenullin 10k on July 6th, this was an open run and the first time some of the group members had run in such an event but they achieved their goals on a very warm evening on their home territory.”
After their latest run in the high temperatures of July’s heatwave, the Glenullin runners would be forgiven for putting their feet up and basking in the glory of their latest milestone.
But the running bug can be infectious and the prospect of taking part in one of the longest running events in Irish athletics on their doorstep was too good an opportunity to turn down.
“We were supposed to take a break from structured programmes over the summer but that soon ended when interest was shown in participating in the Waterside Half Marathon,” she admitted.
“We re-grouped on July 30th and are following a five week programme, we have a nice mix of runs planned which will see us well ready for the Derry relay.
“We have entered five relay teams and one of the running group members, Lorraine McKeever is undertaking her first Half Marathon.
“I am really looking forward to running alongside her on the day and seeing her cross the finish line.
“It’s remarkable to think that some of my group taking part on September 2nd will only have been running 10 months and some of them only three months.
“Our newest running group member Christina will have just completed the five week programme in time for her first event but like the other programmes I’m confident that she will have had sufficient training and guidance and will complete the event without any bother.
“For some members this will be their first time participating in an event outside their local area so it’s one for them to really look forward to.”
The Waterside Half Marathon is one of the longest running athletics events in Ireland with a scenic route that takes in both sides of the River Foyle, passing many of the city’s historic landmarks including its famous walls and the Guildhall.
The 13.1 mile course has runner, wheelchair and three person relay categories, the event is open to athletes of all levels and abilities and all entrants to the main race must be aged 17 or over on race day.
For further information and updates on the Waterside Half Marathon visit http://www.derrystrabane.com/whm