Every Day in May!

Posted on May 24, 2017 @ 12:34 PM in Walking

Thomas Johnston talks about how he was inspired to get outside and active every day in May - be prepared to be inspired!  

In 2011 I reconnected with a cousin I hadn’t seen in years right around the time she was training for the 3 Peaks Cyclo-Cross race, which takes place in Yorkshire. After a couple of decades of not doing a great deal of exercise, except for some token efforts over the years at going to the gym, she inspired me to get out there again and I quickly rediscovered my love of running outdoors, in all weathers, at all times of the year. (I also bought a mountain bike but I really only have eyes for my running shoes.) I didn’t waste any time in entering the 2012 Belfast City Marathon, ticking off a long-held desire to “run a marathon” from my bucket list. In retrospect it was a foolish thing to do from a near-sitting start. It wasn’t a fast time and I got an injury that bothered me for a long time afterwards, but I still crossed the finish line! This led me on to taking part in Every Day in May, which I’ve been doing each year since 2013.


What is Every Day in May?

It’s a charity event designed to motivate people of all ages and abilities, wherever they are in the world, to go outside, to improve their fitness, and to raise money. Participants cover 5km or 10km each day during May using any self-powered means, such as walking, running, cycling, swimming, canoeing, and so on – anything so long as they are providing the power – with the emphasis being on the outdoors. To make it a more approachable event for people who don’t currently exercise they can split their activities over two sessions – it encourages people to get off the bus a stop or to earlier or to go out for a walk at lunch time. May is the perfect to do this because the days are getting longer, the weather is (hopefully) getting warmer and nature is positively exploding with activity. And being outdoors in nature is incredibly therapeutic.

In 2013 – still nursing my marathon injury – I mostly walked or cycled 5km. In subsequent years I overcame that injury and my running improved, so I was able to alternate between running and walking. This year my fitness has improved to the extent that I am able to run 10km each day. And my partner is also taking part for the first time this year – he’s walking at least 5km every day and, being the good citizen he is, he’s picking up any litter he passes along the way! He won’t mind me saying that he’s pretty darn fit for 73 years – which just proves the Every Day in May is indeed for everyone.

We’ve taken the opportunity to explore the countryside on our walks and runs. We live beside Delamont Country Park which has some of the best views you’ll see anywhere in Ireland; from the Millennium Stone you can look over Down Cathedral (where St Patrick is buried) to the Mournes in the distance and then follow the sweep of the county Down countryside over Gibbs Island and along Strangford Lough all the way down the Ards Peninsula. However, Delamont is pretty hilly so I tend to only run through rather than around it!

We’ve also been along the Quoile River several times, around the lake at Castlewellan, the Waterworks in Belfast (using their parkrun route), Rowallane Gardens in Saintfield, Castle Ward, along the road from Portrush to Dunluce Castle which has some spectacular coastal views as well through our picturesque home village of Killyleagh – famous as the birthplace of Sir Hans Sloane (founder of the British Museum) among many other luminaries. County Down in particular has some stunning places to be outdoors. We’re planning to run and walk along the Comber Greenway and wherever else our map leads us.

We’re doing it for charity

I don’t want to sound like I’m blowing my own trumpet – but it’s not easy running 10km each day for 31 consecutive days! It’s extremely tiring and it’s not something people should do as a matter of course. Your body doesn’t have time to fully recover  – but as a one-off event for charity it’s doable. Walking 5km each – for someone not used to that level of activity – is also a massive achievement and something within reach of almost everyone.

As well as the physical aspect it’s also a challenge trying to fit the activity into your day. Factor in the time it takes to get ready and then shower at the end and before you know it you have to find two hours out of every day in between work and family life.

One thing I’m very conscious of when I take part in Every Day in May is just how lucky I am and how much I sometimes take my health for granted. I’m lucky to be fit enough to be able to run 10km every day knowing that at the end of it all I can just stop, recover very quickly, and get on with my life. There are many people in the world who can’t “just stop” being ill – so me running 10km every day is my small way of showing support for those people less fortunate than myself by raising money for charity.

This year we’re supporting two causes:

NI Hospice, in memory of my mum. It's impossible to overestimate her importance in my life. It was difficult to see her health deteriorate, especially towards the end, but she never lost her spirit while her body was failing her. She passed away in 2015. During her illness she was helped by – and always spoke very highly of – the awesome people at Northern Ireland Hospice.

Down Cathedral Organ Appeal, in memory of Helen Walker. Helen passed away earlier this year. She's linked with mum in a sad sort of way because her funeral was the same day as mum's anniversary. Singing in the Down Cathedral choir was a big part of Helen's life and it's our privilege to raise money in her name so that others can continue to hear the organ’s uplifting sounds.

Go outside!

The best thing about running, or walking or jogging, is that you can quite literally do it anywhere. And it costs very little. You don’t need any fancy or expensive equipment – just running shoes, shorts and a t-shirt (all easily packable items), and you’re away, wherever you happen to find yourself. I find it very therapeutic too. If something is bothering me I think about it when I’m out there and by the time I come back it’s resolved or I’ll know what to do to get past it.

Simply going outdoors and listening to the sounds of nature and life passing by (I can’t listen to music when I’m running – too distracting!) is enough to fill up my soul-meter. So my advice to you is Go Outside!

Sarah Nelson
Sarah Nelson  Marketing Officer

Sarah joined the marketing team of Outdoor Recreation NI in 2011. A firm believer in giving anything a go at least once (unless it involves jumping out of a plane at 6,000ft!) she is always looking for new adventures in the outdoors and can often be found wandering the Mournes or Glens of Antrim attempting not to get lost!

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