Harrier Mums and their Running Experience

One of the many great things about running is that it has something to offer to virtually everyone. No one is ever too fast or slow, young or old. Sperrin Harriers is a club which takes pride in its inclusivity and encouragement offered to all. The club supports everyone, no matter who they are or where they are in their running journey.

Three Harrier mums, Anne Murphy, Joanne Corey and Laura Treanor, share some of their running experiences, what it means to them to be a part of Sperrin Harriers and the wider running community. Anne is mum to 10 month old Cahir, Joanne is mum to 3 year old Oliver and teenage daughter Eilise, and Laura is mum to 1 year old Cillian.

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Anne Murphy first got into running when she moved to England to train to become a teacher. Running was a means for getting out of the house and away from the school books, as well as to simply spend time outdoors and enjoy cardio workouts.

Anne sadly lost her Auntie to cancer, and so decided to raise funds for the Macmillan Unit in Antrim by running the Omagh Half Marathon. After experiencing the atmosphere and the finish line feeling, Anne caught the running bug. She went on to run a further 11 half marathons before signing up to the Dublin Marathon in 2018, her first marathon.

When training for the marathon, Anne was finding the long solo runs difficult. However, a chance encounter with a group of Harriers (also training for Dublin Marathon) gave Anne the support she needed to get through the long runs. Anne was touched by the welcoming nature, kindness and great advice she had received and so decided to join the club.

Anne took a year long break from running when she had her son Cahir in September 2020. However, she kept walking during her pregnancy and said it helped her fitness greatly when she returned to running and was surprised to find how quickly she could adapt to long distance running again. Anne’s focus at this stage is not on speed, but just getting the miles in, keeping the fitness levels up and to simply enjoy running and to meet people along the way.

Anne commented on two recent club challenges that helped many in the club get through the lockdowns caused by the pandemic. She said, “The club challenges were invaluable. The ‘Around the World Challenge’ had the purpose of just to move and be active and I found this to be a big help at the time. Along with others in the club, I set myself a personal challenge. I ran a 5k in 24 mins 24 seconds, which I was over the moon about.”

In addition to running, Anne also attended online Postnatal Pilates, which is organised by the Mid Ulster Pilates. The advice they gave was to wait at least 12 weeks, after the birth of your baby, before running again in order to give yourself time to adjust and to build core strength again. Commenting on the programme, Anne said “I have completed phase 3 of the programme and I couldn’t recommend it enough. They’ve given me specific running advice and meant I could confidently return to running at the club.”

Anne has found that there is often little support and advice for breastfeeding mothers who are trying to balance both running and feeding. But through the club she has been able to meet with other mums and they have been able to share their experiences.

Going forward Anne would love to run a sub 4 hour marathon.

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Joanne Corey first got into running around 12 years ago. She was encouraged by family members in the club to come along and try it out, including cousins Paula Eastwood and Connor Martin, and uncle Doc Martin. At this stage Joanne was into fitness, particularly the gym and so Paula invited her to attend An Creagan 5 miler, part of the club’s Winter League. Like so many others, Joanne describes the buzz experienced after the race. After attending a few more races and with a growing love for the freedom offered by outdoor running, Joanne signed up to the club in 2010.

Looking back at when she became a Harrier, Joanne commented, “At that time we had the two clubs in Cookstown and Magherafelt and believe it or not there were only 3 female members in Cookstown, they were Karen Alexander, Cheryl Cardwell and my cousin Paula. I became the 4th. It has been amazing to see the increase in female members since then, and how much the club has thrived and continues to grow.”

Like many people, Joanne experienced a slump in motivation during recent lockdown periods. As such she put a big focus on short term goals to help her maintain her mental and physical well-being. The club organised a number of challenges and virtual races, of which Joanne was an enthusiastic participant. These include the Stunnerz ‘n’ Hunks Virtual 5k Challenge and the Virtual Stanley Reid Memorial 5 Mile Classic.

In addition, Joanne also managed to complete the Virtual Omagh Half Marathon in the summer of 2020. But like everyone else, Joanne is most excited about getting back to running races for real.

At the beginning of 2021, during the post Christmas lockdown, the club launched a 12 week challenge. Members were invited to pick a goal to achieve during this period and would receive a commemorative hoodie at the end of it. Joanne set herself the challenge of completing 200 hill reps. Upon the completion of the challenge, Joanne said “It wasn’t easy, but it was super beneficial and I am glad to have taken part. The hoodie will be a reminder of the difficult challenges we have overcome.”

Looking to the future, Joanne aims to get back to training with club members more regularly and to get some consistency in her running again. Joanne would also love to complete another marathon again. To date, Joanne has completed 6 marathons including Belfast, Dublin and London.

When asked about the benefits of being in Sperrin Harriers, Joanne said, “Joining Sperrin Harriers has been the best thing I have ever done! It has been literally life changing. Not only for health and fitness, but also from a social aspect. I have met the best group of people and have made life long friends. I even met my husband Dean through the club. I have loved seeing the club grow and evolve over the years. I enjoyed being a committee member for many years and working with a great team of people who have a passion for the club and running! I was even lucky enough to have been one of the team of people who helped set up our first ever Stunnerz ‘n’ Runnerz ladies race, which I’m proud to see has grown bigger each year.”

Joanne also said she is so grateful to the club for giving her the opportunity to achieve one of her lifelong dreams by representing the club in the London Marathon in 2015. This ranks near the top as one of her proudest moments as a Harrier.

Joanne loves the comradery of the club and can’t wait for normal times to return so events like the Winter League, Stunnerz ‘n’ Runnerz and the award winning Stanley Reid Memorial 5 Mile Classic can resume. In addition Joanne recalls fondly the club trips away to races and training days on the beach. Looking forward, she hopes to bring her son Oliver along on the trips when he is old enough, as she has done with her daughter Eilise over the years.

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Laura Treanor first got into running when she set herself the goal of being able to run 5 miles without stopping in 2014. She had always been active and enjoyed sport growing up, but hadn’t taken running too seriously until then. Her husband, Ryan, also a keen runner, encouraged her to complete a beginners running programme that Sperrin Harriers were offering at the time. Reflecting back, Laura commented “I’m so thankful Ryan encouraged me to do it. I loved it so much that I joined the club a few weeks later.”

After having baby Cillian, Laura’s short term fitness goal is to simply get fitter and stronger, whilst staying injury free. In the long term, Laura is aiming to improve upon her 5k time. Overall she aims to keep her training balanced by doing Pilates or strength training alongside running.

Reflecting back upon her time as a Harrier, Laura has seen her running improve greatly. This has been in part due to the structured training and variation of the training sessions offered by the club each week. These include speed workouts, tempo runs and long runs. Moreover, the coaches and fellow members have helped Laura with the training and knowledge needed to run distances right from 5k to marathons.

In addition to learning from coaches and clubmates, Laura is also interested in furthering her own learning about the sport, in particular, the science behind training and recovery. But ultimately, she thinks there is no replacement for hearing stories from other members of the club, a lot of whom are qualified by experience when it comes to different aspects of running and racing.

Furthermore, Laura has found running and being part of the club a great benefit to her mental well-being. If Laura has had a stressful day, she finds it great to be able to go for a run and be able to refresh and refocus.

Throughout the pandemic, many mother-baby support classes were cancelled and so Laura valued the opportunities to be able to talk to other club members who have children of their own to be able to learn from, and share in their experiences.

Laura said that after pregnancy, “The club has been a key part in getting me back to some sort of fitness. Even though there have been setbacks and we couldn’t train the way we usually would because of COVID-19, the club was there with support, check-in texts, weekly emails and virtual challenges throughout lockdowns to help keep everyone motivated. In a year where the world slowed down and it would have been easy to give up on training, it provided great motivation to keep going on the days I may have preferred a nap while the baby was sleeping, instead of a run. That being said, I am sure to take rest days seriously too.”

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Anne, Joanne, and Laura would encourage anyone who is looking to get into running or simply be more active to get in touch with the club to avail of all the support, advice, company and friendships found there.

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