AS the start line quickly approaches for participants in this weekend’s Evening Echo Women’s Mini Marathon, groups across the county are preparing to put their best foot forward.
In north Cork, a band of women are blazing a trail through the running scene, and bringing their community along with them.
Sinead Edwards, the treasurer of the Bweeng Trail Blazers, says that since the group was founded on the back of a local Couch to 5K initiative in 2015, they haven’t stopped moving.
“There are actually some really inspiring stories in the club,” she explains. “There are people who came to a session not expecting anything and they are now running their first half marathons and marathons.”
Sinead never expected to become a regular runner herself, but says she has been bitten by the bug after joining a local gym.
“I took redundancy from a bank in 2010. My husband was working abroad and I had one child at home. I wanted to do something to get fit and socialise. Back then I hated running and would never have believed it if you were to tell me I’d love it some day, let alone that I would do my second full marathon this year.
“The Evening Echo mini marathon was the first race that I ran and it really stands out to me. I ran by myself and I remember the buzz and excitement and the huge sense of achievement.”
The Mini Marathon is marked in the club’s calendar each year, and they expect to have up to 30 runners taking part.
“The big thing about the club is that we always bring family and supporters with us,” Sinead says. “If members are not running we make sure to turn up with flags and colours to cheer the others on.”
Marking their 20th anniversary this year, Duhallow Athletics Club will also be flying the flag for their locality this Sunday.
“We’re a small club, but a busy group with a big spirit.” says member Lisa Quirke. “We have around 50 club members and are trying to build on that. It’s a great mix of abilities and ages, men and women of all different backgrounds and stages of their running career.”
For some, the club is purely a social outlet, but for others, who are more competitive, it’s a way to train and work on bettering their racing career.
“We run a Couch to 5k each year and follow along with Operation Transformation. We take part in the mini marathon each year and I’ve personally run it every year since I started running.”
The appeal of the Mini Marathon is its accessibility, Lisa believes.
“It’s a fantastic event. It’s a great event because it’s very do-able. It’s four miles so that is a little bit more challenging than a 5k, but it’s manageable enough that we can do it in a group.
“We had a couple of brave men talk about supporting us on the day, but that remains to be seen. Hopefully they will come along!”
Heading west, the Barryroe Walking Club may be new, but they are busy racking up miles and making friends along the way.
Founder Una Mullin started the club last winter, primarily for social reasons, and is delighted with their success to date.
“I moved to the area three years ago and had wanted to meet new people outside of work,” she says.
“We are still just getting started, but we have 120 members on Facebook and about ten people come out with us every week.”
Una, who works in Clonakilty Community Hospital, also stresses the physical benefits of walking.
“I think it is so important to get fresh air and vitamin D,” she says. “We walk as fast as we want, there’s no pressure, and it all helps to build fitness.”
Fitness instructor and runner Rosaleen Mackeown, known to many through her running courses and online persona Run With Ros, also encourages everyone to lace up.
“Running is a fantastic sport, and there are so many benefits,” she says. “It’s so accessible, all you need is a pair of runners. A 40 minute run will leave you feeling better for the rest of the day. Long term, you will tone up, but there are so many other benefits too.
“I see women’s confidence transformed when they reach milestones like running 5k, 10k and even full marathons. It’s fantastic to see.”
Rosaleen, who teaches running in Rochestown and Crosshaven, says that most of her clients are mothers and working women. Exercise gives them some much- needed headspace.
“95% of my clients are women, and most of them are aged 35 plus and working moms. Sometimes they get so bogged down in doing things for everyone else that they don’t think about themselves.
“Taking the time to exercise is so rewarding. They are getting fresh air, meeting new people and doing something for themselves. They also love the feeling of being in a group and the accountability that brings.”
Rosaleen has a long family association with the Mini Marathon. Her sister, Olympian Lizzie Lee, won in 2011 and 2012, and she has taken part twice herself.
“I have great memories of the mini marathon.” she says.
“My mother ran in ’85, ’86 and ’87, and Lizzie and I would come out and support her.
“We both raced it too of course, and she won it twice. I am dying to come in the top ten. I’ve raced twice and been 11th both times, but I’m trying again this year!”
To register for the Evening Echo Women’s Mini Marathon, log onto www.eveningecho.ie/registration.