Sunday, 25 February 2018
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May 2017

Run, NI, Run

Driven forward under the expert eye of local fencing legend Johnny Davis, the Run Together series of family-friendly 5K Action Cancer charity fun runs have increased to six events (from four) for 2017...

Ni4kids finds out more from its event ambassador about why he believes this is the perfect opportunity to get the entire family off the sofa and up running and active…

Showing the popularity for the concept of the idea the first Centra Run Together event on April 23 in Belfast at Queen’s Dub Playing Fields quickly sold out. Johnny explains, “We had just over 500 registered and it was exactly what I had hoped it would be, families, kids, people of all shapes and sizes running together and helping each other. We were fortunate to have lovely weather and it was a really positive experience.”

Running can be seen as a solitude sport but the Run Together series aims to beak that myth. Johnny enthuses, “There’s a really nice dynamic where you can see that the children are inspiring the parents to get active, or it’s the other way around. At the first event we had maybe ten family groups of four or five from one family, who had never done anything like this before, and it was amazing to see the reciprocal love and respect. The nature of the runs are that parents aren’t being pushy or shouting at the kids to keep up, but instead encourage them to just do what they can. The kids therefore feel confident and will do more. You can tell that the parents are so pleased, the kids are getting into sport at an early age and thinking ahead about taking on challenges in life, but the most important aspect is that the kids and parents are sharing an experience together – something which I have to say I think is all too often missing from our society today.”

It’s an important point. Outside of a visit to the local swimming pool, there aren’t that many sports where all ages are all taking part together, or activities which the entire family can get involved in. How often do we just drop the kids off, or go and have a coffee and watch from the sidelines?

But being one of the few who has made the journey from sports-loving teenager to two-time Olympian and Commonwealth Games Champion, how did it all happen? Johnny says, “I’ve been lucky to spend my life in sport and travel the world. I did every sport when I was little, I rode a bike, ran, played football. I made a decision when I was fourteen or fifteen to pursue just one sport, up until that point I had been a keen cross-country runner and I played hockey, but then I discovered fencing and realised that this was the one for me! I won my first fencing competition and it just all snowballed from there. In 1972 I was in hospital after an accident where I watched Mary Peters win her gold medal from my bed on the ward. I remember clearly that was the exact moment I made up my mind, that this was what I wanted too, to go to the Olympics. For good or bad that became my obsession then for many years.”

But does he believe that we have enough of the world-class facilities here to support our children’s dreams of making it to the biggest competitive stages in the world? Johnny says, “I think we have many talented sportspeople here who need a lot more support and investment from Government than they currently have now, but ultimately you just have to go and find the opportunities. I’ve lived in England, Germany and in Hungary. I now coach and one of the boys I work with from Newcastle has just been to Munich for a week to train with German kids and he was also in Hungary for two weeks last year. It’s difficult, but you just have to be determined, dig deep and get a good team around you. Somebody will go to the Olympics, someone will get to the World Championships. The question is, will it be you?”

So in your opinion a great place to start your child’s love of sport for life is an event for the entire family where everyone can run together? “Absolutely! It’s a relaxed event with a sense of community, a bit of music, a bit of face-painting… there’s no pressure, no times – you just take it at your own pace – bring the dog, bring a buggy, lots of the kids come with their friends. It’s a very safe and friendly family environment with a positive message for young people about keeping fit. If you take a look at the photographs on the Centra Run Together website from our first event, all you will see are lots of smiling faces.”

Interview by Nadia Duncan

Forthcoming Events

• Quayside, Derry Wed June 14 @ 7pm
• Parkanaur Forest, Co Tyrone Sun June 18 @ 10am
• Lakeland Forum, Enniskillen Sun August 20 @ 10am
• Antrim Forum, Sun September 10 @ 10am
• Ormeau Park, Belfast Sun October 22 @ 10am

To register visit

Images – Johnny (far right) pictured with David Hearty from event sponsors Deep RiverRock and Kate Ferguson, Communications Manager, Musgrave NI.

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