By Grainne McCool @grainnemcool
Six women from Donegal had a dream – it might not have seemed too tall an order to many – but on Sunday they achieved it and ran their first half marathon.
The six friends from Muff, Co Donegal; Maria McColgan, Niamh McColgan; Serena McMenamin, Madaline McColgan; Cecila Kearns and Sara McGoldrick, decided just a few months ago that they would embark on a training schedule that might enable them to achieve their shared dream: to complete the Waterside half marathon in Derry.
The girls had all got together earlier in the year to do some ‘fun running’ and their aim was then to complete the Ladies Foyle Hospice 5k in June – a task they succeeded in.
They were so proud of this 5k achievement that they joked about doing the Waterside Half Marathon come September. Then… the joke became a reality.
Niamh McColgan said: “The Foyle Hopsice run really inspired us. Everyone was standing at the finish line, proud as punch, when Sara thought the WHM would be a great idea.”
Shortly after the Foyle Hospice run, the ladies started preparing. There were short runs and walks to begin with and this developed into longer stretches of running.
And as the summer drew to a close there were long distance miles being clocked on the running shoes. There was a sheer determination among these friends to achieve their desired goal.
Maria was leader of the gang, inspiring and encouraging her comrades weekly. She posted training schedules on Facebook so everyone could manage and work together.
Marie had achieved a long term goal of completing the Derry Marathon in 2014. She had never run before training earlier that year. This achievement instilled in her a desire to encourage others to take to the roads.
Maria said: “We had the option to do the WHM as a relay, but not one of the girls was prepared to do it that way. It was all or nothing.”
The training sessions in recent months saw the six ladies go running a number of times weekly together. If one was unable to make a training session, another waited and went along when a time allowed for two or more to pound the streets of Muff and Derry.
On Sunday morning, the Facebook updates were alive with nerves and excitement. The six friends really were about to embark upon the challenge of their life – fulfilling personal goals.
The girls had bags of support along the sidelines. Family and friends gathered to encourage them along the way. As they each crossed the finish line on Sunday they wore pride and exhilaration on their faces.
Friends and family were there to greet them. Tears of joy were at the fore. These six ladies had done it. They really had just run and completed what had seemed an impossibility just six months ago.
Will this now lead to the Walled City Marathon in Derry 2017? Time will tell. But for now, these ladies have much to be proud of.
There was huge excitement at the finish line as Freddie Sittuk from Ranheny Shamrock AC battled to claim first place on the men’s race just ahead of Scott Rankin, while local runner Catherine Whoriskey, from Derry Spartans AC, was the first female home, but there were winners throughout the record field as runners reached, and even surpassed, their individual goals.
Hundreds of supporters lined the scenic race route that hugged the River Foyle, among them Mayor of Derry City and Strabane District Council, Alderman Hillary McClintock, who presented the winners with their medals at the race finish in St Columb’s Park.
But the ladies were still pinching themselves – they’d done it!