Ordinarily, the sight of a competitor completing the Waterside Half Marathon on all fours would be a signal that they’ve hit the wall in the final yards and cue a response from First Aiders.
But one participant in the 2011 event will finish the race in just such a fashion, except her tail will be wagging and she’ll be fit to complete the course a second time.
Coco, a Weimaraner hunting dog, will be running the 13 mile course alongside her owner Ian Galbraith to raise money for the Rainbow Rehoming Centre for unwanted dogs and cats.
Ian is an old hand at the Waterside Half Marathon, having competed in the event in each of the past two years, but he will be breaking new ground this year.
“I have done the Half Marathon twice before and I’ve never seen anyone running it with a dog. I take Coco with me when I’m out running and just thought it would be nice to run the event with her to raise money for the Rainbow Centre.
“Coco didn’t come from the Rainbow Centre but where I live in Eglinton, my running route takes me past the centre and I see all the dogs and cats that are in the centre. I think it’s pretty sad that people don’t look after animals they get, so this seems a nice way to raise some money for them,” he said.
After some prompting from his wife Michelle, 39 year-old Ian gave up smoking and took up running four years ago to get fit and healthy: “I’ve been running for four years, ever since I stopped smoking. I suppose my wife Michelle had a part to play in it. We have three kids - Jade, Luke and Lucy - and I want to be around a fair while yet and see my grandchildren.”
When Ian first mooted the possibility of Coco taking part the event he wasn’t sure how the organisers would react. But to his delight they had no problem with accepting their first canine competitor: “The organisers are happy enough. They’ve just told me to keep Coco to the back of the race at the start so that she doesn’t interfere with any of the other runners,” said Ian.
“Coco actually makes me run faster. She’s built for running. I’ll be tired a long time before she is!”
The 30th Waterside Half Marathon, which will take place on Sunday, September 11, is organised by Derry City Council with support from its sponsors BT and Seagate.
For more information on the Waterside run: www.derrycity.gov.uk/halfmarathon