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!

Bear Grylls Island Survival Academy – it may hurt a little…

Posted on May 11, 2017 @ 3:17 PM in Adventure

Just as I was beginning my après lunch coffee in Belle Isle Castle’s Grand Hall a team of menacing uniformed figures marched in.  They were on a mission, their leader Will quickly briefed us on the afternoon ahead. In fact, he told us very little (a theme which would remain for most of the day), only to dress appropriately as we will get wet and dirty and to be in a Land Rover outside at 1400. They left to the sound of a pin dropping in the background...

We piled into the Land Rovers and raced off into the grounds of Belle Isle Estate before arriving on the shores of Upper Lough Erne.  Following more instructions from Will (again suitably brief), we were equipped with buoyancy aids and paddles before venturing out onto the Lough. Just as I was beginning to take delight in the peaceful tranquillity an orange smoke flare set off from an island begin us.

After landing our kayaks on mass at the wooded island, we followed Will and his brigade to a pre-prepared campsite. Heath (another man not to be messed with) further focused our minds as he instructed us on how to safely use a knife during the remainder of the day.  The term ‘triangle of death’ (the area between your two kneecaps and you know where) will remain with me for a while.

The first task was to prepare a warm drink with a spark, a tampon and a Kelly Kettle.  Although no Café Latte, we were able to fashion a nice cup of coffee. Will and Heath then demonstrated their soft side and passed around the Jaffa Cakes. Just one each, they didn’t want to spoil us.

We split up into groups and rotated through several different exercises.  During the first, Will provided detailed instruction on the dark arts of concealment before issuing some camouflage cream and netting.  He then gave us two minutes to hide in the undergrowth within 20 paces before he came to find us.  I am immediately ran over 40 paces away, frantically covering myself in netting, diving into the biggest bush I could find and then closing my eyes in the hope that this would further help prevent my capture – it didn’t!  

With Heath’s guidance, we then became trackers carefully following a trail of footprints through the forest.  We achieved our goal with 20 seconds to spare. My two-year-old doesn’t stand a chance the next time we play hide and seek.

Following a short exercise in shelter building we returned to camp to be greeted by Venison Hot Dogs – a magic combination. After which the competitive spirits were raised with a round of axe-throwing.

As we walked back to the kayaks, this previous group of strangers were laughing and sharing fond stories of an excellent adventure. As it turned out we didn’t quite have one foot into the luxurious Belle Isle Estate just yet. Somebody had stolen half of the kayaks.  Will and Heath looked slightly sheepish although no one dared make any accusations.

The newly bonded group worked together to construct a raft to bring the remaining party ashore. I overheard the instructors trading bets on the raft’s chances of success – our odds weren’t good!

However, the raft optimistically named ‘Titantic II’ defied the odds and we reached the shore successfully.

The Land Rovers whisked us back to the luxurious accommodation afforded throughout Belle Isle Castle and Cottages, before enjoying a delicious dinner in the Castle’s Grand Hall, produced using the finest local ingredients.

Belle Isle Estate is the exclusive destination of the Bear Grylls Island Survival Academy. For more information on tailored incentive and corporate experiences contact:

Belle Isle Estate  

+44 (0) 28 66 387231

info@belle-isle.com

Chris Scott was a guest at the official launch of the Bear Grylls Survival Academy at Belle Isle Castle and Private Island

Photos within this blog are kindly provided by Ken McBride Photography

 

Chris Scott
Chris Scott

Having 'retired' from competitive sailing he is trying to find something new to fill the void. Currently mixing it up with 10ks, trail running and adventures with his two year old son.

Get Wet With A Watersports Club Near You

Posted on May 9, 2017 @ 10:53 AM in Adventure

There are lots of exciting come and 'have a go' watersport sessions happening across Northern Irleand over the next couple of weeks for £10 or less as part of Get Wet NI 2017. With no experience necessary, all equipment provided and many of the activities suitable for individuals, families and groups of friends, there really is no excuse not to try something new out on the water this May!

Sailing Northern Ireland

Set Sail

Try Sailing Day, Lough Neagh Sailing Club, Craigavon, Co. Armagh, Sat 13th May
An introductory session aimed at providing a taste of sailing to beginners on the largest freshwater lake in NI.

Try Boating Session for people with DisabilitiesBelfast Lough Sailability, Carrickfergus, Co. Antrim, Sat 13th May
Come and have a go sailing in speciality boats for wheelchair users and those with limited mobility.

Sailing Taster at Cushendall, Cushendall Sailing & Boating Club, Co. Antrim, Sat 20th May
Set sail and learn the basics before taking the helm in the stunning setting of Cushendall.

Come & Try It Day, Royal North of Ireland Yacht Club, Holywood, Co. Down, Sun 21st May
A day of fun on and off the water experiencing the excitement of sailing.

Womens Introduction to Dinghy Sailing , Newcastle Yacht Club, Co. Down, Sat 13th May
An opportunity for the ladies to try out sailing in picturesque Dundrum bay. 

Push The Boat Out Northern Ireland

Push The Boat Out & Try Something New

Introduction to Sailing, Canoeing & Stand Up Paddle Boarding, Holywood Yacht Club, Holywood, Co. Down, Sat 13th May
An action packed day of activities on the water inlcuding sailing, stand up paddle boarding, kayaking and driving a power-boat. Ideal for beginners and families, come along and give it a go.

Try Sailing & Kayaking, East Down Yacht Club, Downpatrick, Co. Down, Sat 13th May
Try sailing and kayaking at East Down Yacht Club in a variety of boats, no sailing experience needed. A fantastic opportunity to learn more about the sport, chat with members and feel the atmosphere of the club.

Try Sailing & Windsurfing Taster Day, Craigavon Watersports Centre, Sun 14th & Sun 21st May
Try the exciting sport of sailing and windsurfing with experienced instructors at Craigavon Lakes.

Diving Northern Ireland

Diving

Try Sub Aqua DivingLisburn Sub Aqua Club, Lisburn Swimming Pool, Co. Down, Thur 18th May
Experience the freedom of swimming underwater without needing to come up for air during this fun intro session. This pool based session is a low cost way to have a go at this truly unique experience.

Canoeing Northern Ireland

Canoe/Kayaking

Come & Try It Canoe SessionsCounty Antrim Paddle Sports, Portglenone Marina, Co. Antrim, Sat 27th May
Learn the basics of canoeing before paddling upriver to Porglenone Forest. 

Sunset Paddle, Share Discovery Village, Lisnaskea, Co. Fermanagh, Wed 31st May & Fri 2nd June
An excellent introduction session to canoeing. Take in the spectacular scenery as you learn the basics or improve your skills at sunset with an expert team of instructors.

For more events check out GetWetNI.com

Jayne Woodrow
Jayne Woodrow  Marketing Executive

Jayne joined the marketing team of Outdoor Recreation NI in March 2014. She enjoys getting out and exploring the fantastic adventures on offer across Northern Ireland.

Getting to know each other by getting to know Ireland – A weekend of Exploration on the Causeway Coast

Posted on May 8, 2017 @ 12:53 PM in Walking

The metaphor of the journey is often used to describe a person’s life. Never has it been more fitting than in capturing the experience of Dublin woman Mairead Donnelly. Since meeting her boyfriend Donal McAsey last year Mairead has literally been on a journey through Ireland. Early in their relationship the pair decided that they would use travel and discovering Ireland as a way of getting to know each other. Over the past eight months the couple has explored Dublin, Wicklow, Tipperary, Kilkenny, Wexford, Clare, Meath and Belfast. 

 Causeway Cliff Path Walk

From left - Donal, Mairead, Hope and Conor 

An avid walker Donal was keen to share his love of hiking with Mairead and as any Irish walker will tell you the key to enjoying it in this country is having the right gear. So in autumn last year determined to throw herself into the walking adventure Mairead took herself off to the wholly Irish owned store 53 Degrees North in Carrickmines.  

As luck would have it the visit coincided with a competition co-hosted by 53 Degrees North and WalkNI. The coveted prize a three night stay for four people in Atlantic Way Portrush, a popular self-catering accommodation and a guided cliff walk along the world renowned Causeway Coast Way with Belfast based company Away a Wee Walk. Without thinking too much about it – Mairead completed the entry card and was delighted when she received news that she had won the competition.

“I was thrilled to win the prize. It has been awhile since I was up North and I knew instantly who I would bringing with me – Donal of course and my friend of 22 years Hope and her husband Conor.”

Mairead and her boyfriend Donal travelled North on Friday morning. “We would love to have driven the entire coast from Dundalk but it would have taken too long, so instead we opted to drive to Belfast and from there we followed the Causeway Coastal Route from Carrickfergus, through to Cushendall and on to Ballycastle via Torr Head.”

Stopping off en-route at Carrickfergus Castle to have a look Donal described the experience:  "The castle was beautiful and oozing with history, I was told by an employee in the castle that he was giving a demo on the different suits of armour and weapons used back then, I was excited when he chose me amongst other adults and children that I was able to try out the plate suit of armour. This gave me an insight of what it felt like on, but I couldn't imagine going into battle with something as heavy"

The intrepid pair later stopped off and took a courageous and breath defying walk across at the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge before arriving in Portrush in the late afternoon.

“Una had texted me a code for the key safe and we were able to let ourselves in. The house is beautiful, very cosy, everything you could need including a stocked fridge and we immediately felt at home. We were greeted by a welcome note and four chocolates on the table, and a chocolate by our bed side. It was such a lovely gesture”.

 Atlantic Way Portrush

A keen walker herself Una Lynch owner of Atlantic Way Portrush added “It has been great to meet Mairead and her boyfriend Donal. I was delighted to sponsor the competition. Atlantic Way Portrush is a new venture for me and I have tried to create a little ‘home form home’ for visitors. Over the past year the house has provided a second home for visitors from all over Europe, USA, Australia and China. But it is always lovely to have Irish guests. Those who are visiting the North Coast for the first time are often surprised by how beautiful it is. The Giant’s Causeway is usually the reason for visiting but the spectacular coastline, beaches and restaurants are some of the reasons for returning.”

 

Hope Hand a doctor in Dublin’s Mater hospital travelled up after work with her husband Conor Hand on Friday evening. “I was delighted when Mairead invited us to join her for the weekend. It is great to get out of the city and into the countryside – breathing in the Atlantic air is such a tonic.”

On Saturday morning Mairead and her friends met with Eimear Flanagan of ‘Away a Wee Walk’ for a guided walk from Dunseverick Castle to the Giant’s Causeway.

Driven by passion for walking and sharing the beauty of nature with visitors Eimear explained:  “We are so lucky to live in a country with such magnificent scenery. The cliff walk from Dunseverick to the Causeway rivals any walk in the world for beauty. The National Trust has done some great work conserving the path condition and making it accessible and I love sharing the experience with visitors like Mairead and her friends, it is such a privilege. Observing the awe with which people react to the scenery is so rewarding. We were blessed with fantastic weather and magnificent views of Rathlin and Scotland. The highlight for me was hearing Donal say that if he had 'come to the Causeway and only learned about the cliff path afterwards, he would have been so annoyed'.  The Victorians were more familiar with the path than we are today, that is changing though.  Without a doubt the Causeway stones are a significant feature of the coast, but they are certainly not the entire event.”

 

 

Walking is only part of the odyssey that Mairead and Donal have embarked on. Mairead explained “Coming to Portrush has also given us the opportunity to visit the Bushmills distillery and sample the world famous whiskey. In addition to the walking this past year we have also been visiting other Irish breweries and distilleries. James Gate, Teelings, the Whiskey museum and Smithwicks.”

On Sunday morning Mairead and her friends took the ferry from Ballycastle to Rathlin Island, Conor explained "we agreed we would walk around the Island instead of taking the bus, it was a beautiful walk up towards the lighthouse and I was amazed that we could view Scotland from there it was beautiful, I could of walked for miles.”

Maximising every minute of the trip the group returned to Portrush from Ballycastle via the 200 year old "Dark Hedges" made famous by the Game of Thrones.  Mairead explained "We wanted to visit as many places as we could during our stay, we are early risers and love to learn about each county we have been to and this was a great opportunity to do the same while being up North,”

On Monday morning everyone was up early. Inspired by Mairead and Donal’s experience Hope and Conor headed home along the scenic Causeway Coastal Route.  Mairead and Donal took time to explore the ruins of the 16th Century Dunluce Castle on the fringes of Portrush, "It's history was explained well by an Audio we had seen in the discovery room, we then made our way around the castle and got spectacular views out across the Coastline."

Poignantly yet fittingly the couples final stop was to pay their respects at the Dunlop Memorial in Ballymoney" Donal explained "Joey Dunlop was described as "King of the Roads, himself and his brother Robert were legends and tragically lost their lives doing what they did best, motorcycle racing, the memorial was set up in Ballymoney in 2010 and I wanted to go see it personally myself so we stopped by.”

Reflecting on their trip Mairead said "We were sad to leave, we really enjoyed our stay and plan to come back one day soon again, Una and Eimear had really made it special for all four of us, we have learned so much and love it up North.”

Looking to the future Donal said "We have plans to travel around Ireland within the next coming weeks months and years, we want to head down south, possibly around Co. Cork, Kinsale etc. eventually when we have our own country travelled we will be travelling abroad for new walks and adventures. Mairead added "I will be putting our first scrap book together of all the places we visit so we can look back on it in years to come." I'm very blessed I have someone to venture from place to place with creating great memories and learn new things. Anyone who feels that this country is short of places to see and things to do, I'd love to show them differently.”

Giants Causeway

Atlantic Way Portrush accommodates four people and can be booked via AirBnB, TripAdvisor and Booking.com.  For more information contact Una Lynch + 44 7825509441 AtlanticWayPortrush@gmail.com

Guided walks with Away a Wee Walk can booked online or contact Eimear Flanagan for more information +44 78 3770 3643 eimear@awayaweewalk.com

Article by Una Lynch 

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!

Torr Hell! The Giant's Causeway Coast Sportive - Cycling Northern Ireland

Posted on April 28, 2017 @ 1:00 PM in Cycling

The summer has been busy for me with lots of work and of course tonnes of cycling. One final sportive before the end of season, I headed to Northern Ireland in September to complete the Giant's Causeway sportive.

I had been very busy all week so I arrived in Antrim with no notion of what I was cycling, where I was headed or what to expect! Usually I would read the official website, look at the route and the elevations but time just ran away for this one. Luckily I rang a friend on the way up  who has done the sportive numerous times and she warned me to only to do the 126km route. The 180km would be a big ask especially with Torr head at the end. She kept coming back to Torr head, saying it was tough, it goes up and up some more... to be honest, I have cycled up the Alps so didn't really pay attention.  How hard can it be?

It's not often I listen to anyone but I was very glad that on this occasion I did. 126km was more than enough. The route is hilly enough and then, having already cycled 103km the fun begins! Or not, I'm still not sure how I feel about it.

Have you ever been on a roller coaster? At the start it chugs up almost vertically and your mouth goes dry. Then it drops considerably along with your tummy. That was the first bit. I don't know how I had never heard of this climb until the day before. Even cycling in the Alps I don't remember any of it being this bad. This Torr hell was relentless. 17 kilometers in total. I would climb up a very steep aspect, it would get a bit level and then it would go up again. I don't know. It seemed to go on and on. Parts are 23% gradient, (that's steep!)  I honestly thought I would just fall over. My arms and abs were killing me later from pulling so hard on the bike. My front wheel kept lifting off the road in an unprovoked wheelie. The views were lovely though, looking up and up and up at a wall ahead with little tiny cyclists. Thankfully the weather was being kind to us so that was something. I had to dig deep and get up this wall. I found my inner Serena Williams, I was grunting and shouting good-oh, along with some fine sailor swearing and it seemed to help no end! Certainly made the guys around me work a bit harder, they thought I was shouting at them!

Gringing my gears on Torr Head

The part of the climb that nearly broke me was when I thought it was over. It had leveled out and seemed like a natural finale. I always look for the top tree / telegraph pole, there was nothing else higher. Then, there, pinned to a fence was "King of the Mountain starts here." I actually screamed at the top of my lungs "AGH F*** RIGHT OFF!!" It meant there was another climb and this section was timed.  No amount of obscenities was going to make this one go away.  Like the lovely demur, classy lady that I am I remembered cycling rule #5, "Man Up." I grew a proverbial pair and got stuck in there.

Not sure how long that stretch was but finally I saw the "King of the Mountain ends here" and that was it done. Some of my group were waiting for me here, others were still behind me. I actually couldn't stop and had to ask the lads to hold the bike still while I fell of it in a heap. One of the chaps was white and looking like he might vomit. My little legs were shaking and I was drenched in sweat. The good news was though we only had 6 kilometers left to the finish. Downhill. The pictures and write ups don't do the climb justice at all, if you want to experience it, get in the car and go. If you're a cyclists and you intend on cycling it,  pack a swear jar.

So the season closed for me on a very steep high. It was tough but I am very glad that I took on the challenge. Another box ticked, another new place visited!

Follow Sinead's blog here.

Sinéad Kennedy
Sinéad Kennedy  Orwell Wheelers

Sinéad Kennedy is a Physical Therapist, Yoga Siromani and Pilates Instructor, based in South County Dublin.

She treats and teaches people from all walks of life, including many athletes, especially cyclists, runners and golfers. Recently featured in the Irish Independant, FIT Magazine, her Yoga 4 Cyclists class has gained notoriety. A keen cyclist and proud member of Orwell Wheelers she has completed numerous cycling events including La Marmotte Sportive.

Sinéad has also completed three Dublin City Marathons, numerous Adventure Races, Half Marathons and the Camino de Santiago.

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