Up to 1,600 local athletes will be lining up in a few weeks for one of the city’s most challenging endurance tests, the Waterside Half Marathon, which notches up its 33rd year on September 14.
Many take on the challenge as a personal test of stamina or as part of a fitness drive, but for some it provides the opportunity to raise money for a special cause or charity. And for one local fitness club this will be a particularly poignant event, as they will be completing the event in memory of a young mother and fellow club member who lost her life in a tragic accident just months ago.
Fighting Fit are entering the event, which is organised by Derry City Council, on behalf of Siobhan Hutcheon, the 38-year-old mother of three from Ardmore in Muff, Co Donegal, who lost her life on the road from Derry to Letterkenny in May, to the shock and sadness of communities on both sides of the border.
Siobhan had been a regular participant in the bootcamp sessions run by Fighting Fit and sadly, had just said goodbye to her friends at the Springtown club that morning before she set off with her three children on their way to a much anticipated family holiday in Kerrykeel.
Sean Heaney is one of the trainers currently working with club members preparing them for the gruelling fitness challenge, and he said club members had been deeply affected by her sudden loss.
“Siobhan was a lovely girl and had been regularly attending our bootcamp sessions, so it was such a complete shock when everyone heard the news – especially as she had just been training here that morning,” he said.
“A few of Siobhan’s cousins and friends are also members, and since the tragedy everyone has been asking what we could do to remember Siobhan show our support for the family.
“Seamus Fox, who owns Fighting Fit, suggested the Waterside Half Marathon and we all thought that would be a fitting challenge for our members and we have been overwhelmed by the response. “On the first evening over 100 people turned out to the training session in the worst weather just to show their support, even if they won’t be taking part in the event. We have over 30 people training now regularly, both for the Relay and the full race, and we’re anticipating a big turnout of supporters on the day.”
Sean is delighted with the progress of all those involved. “Local athlete Pius McIntyre has compiled a 14 week training programme that’s suitable for people of all abilities, and he, along with myself and Seamus, are leading the training sessions and providing advice on things like nutrition, fitness and hydration,” he explained.
“Everyone is doing really well and I’m confident that everyone taking part has the ability to complete the half marathon, and in a decent time. But I keep telling everyone that it doesn’t matter if they do it in twice the time as everyone else - as long as they get to the finish line.
“Everyone will be filling in a sponsorship form and the money raised will go towards Siobhan’s family. Seamus also organised an event which took place recently in Dungiven and Siobhan’s husband Warren brought the children along and it was a great night. Warren has been training with us, as well as lots of Siobhan’s family and friends, so I think everyone will experience a real overwhelming sense of achievement when they make it over the line - not just because they have completed the race, but that they’ve achieved that for Siobhan and her family.”
If you would like to find out more about the Fighting Fit for Siobhan campaign, you can contact the Club via the Fighting Fit Facebook page www.facebook.com/Fighting-fit-bootcamp
Registration forms for the Waterside Half Marathon are available from Council run Leisure Centres, and online. To find out more about the event and to sign up go to www.derrycity.gov.uk/halfmarathon