Meet Derry’s cool runners

The Running Club pictured at Rafters for the first ever outing. (0403SL24)
The Running Club pictured at Rafters for the first ever outing. (0403SL24)

They may not have a bobsleigh but ‘Cool Runnings’ running club in Ballymagroarty are every bit as determined as Derice, Sanka, Junior and Yul.

The aforementioned quartet are movie characters from the 1993 film, ‘Cool Runnings’ but members of the new running club in Ballymagroarty are very much real and are all alive and kicking.

The ‘Cool Runnings’ running club met for the first time in the car park near Holy Family Church on Monday February 25. Tomorrow night will be the third outing for the new fitness focused group but they are still interested in recruiting new members.

“I absolutely love this new running group - I really look forward to Monday nights at 7pm because that’s when we all meet up and go running,” said Lillian Wright.

Lillian is 48 years-old and lives in Kylemore; she works for Clarins in Debenhams and is a mother of two.

“It takes dedication to go running because working and family life take up a lot of time but it’s made easier when you enjoy running as much as I do,” she said.

Lillian first tried out running when she took part in ‘Creggan’s Biggest Loser’ (a community initiative aimed at helping people to lose weight and live a more healthy lifestyle) last year.

“‘Creggan’s Biggest Loser’ was great fun and during it we set-up a running group - I’ve had the running bug ever since,” she smiled.

Lillian said that while the main focus of the running group is to improve the fitness of its members there’s also a social aspect to their outings.

“I knew a few of the people in the group from the time I did ‘Creggan’s Biggest Loser’ but I didn’t know everyone.

“I made a few new friends in the group and myself and Declan Thompson [‘Cool Runnings’ club member] have become real running buddies,” she smiled.

The benefits of running have been so rewarding for Lillian that she’s even managed to convince friends and family members to join the club too.

“I’ve a relative who recently gave up smoking. I brought her out with me on the mountain bikes a few weeks ago and she loved it - I think I’ll try and get her to join the running club too - the more the merrier, as they say.”

Tommy McCallion is Community Health and Well Being manager for Derry City Council and along with colleagues, Kit McCallion and Daniel Quigley, he leads the group when they go running and answers any questions any of the club members may have.

“Tommy is great - he immediately puts you at ease,” said Antoinette Hampsey from Ballymagroarty.

Antoinette is 41, works in a residential care unit in the Waterside and is a mother of two. She said if someone told her she’d be taking part in three mile runs on a Monday night in February she’d have thought them “off their head”.

“I think the last time I went running was when I was at school but I am now 41 and a while ago I decided I wanted to get fit.

“The last place I wanted to go was a gym so when I heard about the running club I decided to come along and try it out.

“I might not be able to run marathon but at least I am getting off the sofa and trying to improve my fitness. It can be tough going at times but as soon as you finish a run you feel absolutely amazing,” she said.

“I didn’t think I’d be able to do anything like this but once you’re out on the road running you feel great. Don’t get me wrong it’s hard work but I enjoy it. I didn’t think I would enjoy running and had anyone told me that at the age of 41 I would be out running the roads I’d have said they were off their head,” she laughed.

Declan Thompson is a 42 year-old father of three from Ballymagroarty. Declan works full-time for Extern and since taking part in various health and fitness projects he has shed five stone in weight.

Like Lillian and Antoinette, Declan joined ‘Cool Runnings’ when they went for their first run two weeks ago. Declan said that he was a bit worried about how he would complete the run but explained that despite finding it difficult, he felt a great level of pride when it was over.

“I thought I was going to be the slowest person in the group but after a while I realised that I was stronger than I was giving myself credit for.

“Tommy McCallion is great too. Tommy manages the group in three different sections. There’s a fast group, a intermediate group and a beginners’ group. The club is there for people of all ages and abilities and Tommy is always telling us to never leave anyone on their own.

“The first night we went out I said to everyone that I thought I’d be pretty slow and I’d be holding everyone up. I told them to go on without me but before I knew I was up near the front,” laughed Declan.

The ‘Cool Runnings’ running group is funded by Derry City Council and is facilitated by Ballymagroarty and Hazelbank Community Partnership.

The ‘Cool Runnings’ running group meet in the car park beside Rafters Restaurant every Monday evening at 7pm. It costs £1 per person per run.