In a bid to raise awareness and funds for The Cure Parkinson’s Trust (CPT), supporter Clare Walsh (pictured above right) took on the fantastic Belfast City Marathon on the 5th May as her first ever marathon! This year the Belfast race in Northern Ireland took on a brand new flatter, faster route starting in Stormont and finishing at Ormeau Park. Runners were taken through the city center and cheered on by the crowds of local residents who came out to show their support. Here is Clare's inspiring story:

“Since the New Year when the marathon training began in earnest, running has gone from a wee hobby to pass the time, a half an hour out of my day to twenty mile training runs and mad races almost every weekend. If time management was an Olympic Sport, that’s one podium I’d definitely make it on to! Far from the solitary sport it’s sometimes painted as, running can actually be one of the most sociable activities going and I don’t think you could do this amount of it alone. I have had amazing support from family, friends and brilliant running mates in the same, intense hostage situation as myself. Juggling toddlers and busy lives, one mate and I headed out for our weekly long runs before 6am at the weekends, joining the foxes and tweeting birds to cover vast distances, see the dawn break over Belfast and get back to the family by 10am, run done!

At 11.30pm on Saturday 4th May I'm now intently pinning my race and relay numbers to my CPT running vest. The eve of my first marathon, like a childhood Christmas, brings excitement and expectation tempered with fear. Four months of obscenely early winter runs, of enduring friendships and aching muscles has brought myself and my running mate Debbs (pictured above) to the starting line.

We hit Stormont Estate for 8am on Sunday morning. Like all race days, the atmosphere is charged with anticipation, but here the excitement is palpable. Marathons are the holy grail for runners, the triumph of determination over pain and discomfort to cross that finish line.

Debbs and I line up a good 3-4 minutes behind the elite athletes. I greet other runners and wish them luck. I'm as ready as I'll ever be! I can taste adrenaline in my mouth as the gun goes off to the rhythmic throb of 'Everybody wants to run the world' as my feet tip the mat. I follow the bobbing, multi-coloured mass of heads sailing down Stormont's majestic drive. Minions to the left of me, Cookie Monster to the right and we're off!

We wind and weave our way through East Belfast for the first excitable miles. Despite the chilly spring weather, it feels like the city is in bloom. The streets are heaving with life and goodwill. This is the first year that the Belfast City Marathon has been held on a Sunday and most of the churches we pass are making every effort to support the runners. There is bunting, music and refreshment at every turn and banners proclaiming that 'God loves all races' spur the runners on. We smile and clap at each one we pass.

The streets become more familiar to me as we near the city centre. The swarming crowd has dispersed and we're finding our own stride and pace. At this point, the nerves have given way to giddy excitement! I can't believe I'm here. I'm having the time of my life! A boombox on the Ravenhill Road is playing 'the Walk of Life' by Dire Straits! Debbs can see I'm high as a kite and gently warns me not to expend all my energy with 19 miles still to go!

I calm down a bit and we fall into step with the 4 hour 30 minute pacer. He's up for a wee chat as are various friends, strangers and acquaintances we spot in the crowd. Along the Boucher Road, it becomes clear that Debbs is slowing. We would have loved to finish our race together but had both agreed to let the other go on if we needed to go at different paces. We'll not cross the finish line together today, but there'll be other days for that. We part company at Finaghy’s halfway house where my husband and two little girls lie in wait. Blink and I'd have missed them so thank God I didn't blink! They call out in recognition and their tiny, shrill cries of 'mammy' recede as I run on with a spring in my step.

Reaching Andersonstown it feels like a homecoming. There are familiar faces at every corner shouting and waving. I am clapping like an excited seal, but hey I'm still moving! These streets give way to quieter ones and the long, slow climb to Waterworks. The park is a welcome oasis in an otherwise urban run and banners bearing slogans like 'you're running better than Stormont' and 'All this for a free banana' keep me smiling.

I am focussed as we wind our way back towards town and the home strait. I nod in recognition at a fellow runner also wearing a CPT running vest and imagine that this means as much to him as it does to me.

And so to town, to the Lagan towpath for the final stretch. My recce runs hadn't prepared me for the uphill climb of the Ormeau Road at mile 25. At this point, my hamstrings are singing like drunken sailors but I'm not having a bar of them! I'm nearly there. The road is festooned with brightly coloured jelly beans, kids are shouting, cowbells are jingling, and I can smell the finish line from here. I hear the welcome click as my feet cross the finish mat and they call out my name. I am elated and I'm finished. Some complain about the lack of bananas, the aching legs, the extra long course, the unseasonably chilly weather and long wait for bags, but all this pales into insignificance...  I'm a marathon runner. I might have gotten in a few minutes quicker if I avoided doing the walk of life, but sure if you can't do that, what's the point!?

What, you might ask, would make a relatively sane person even think about taking on a marathon? For me, it’s because running has been a lifesaver and a game-changer and it was a pleasure and a privilege to run for CPT in memory of my fantastic, brave and wonderful mam, Anne, who sadly passed away in 2017. CPT is committed to finding a cure for this awful disease, the dream of every Parkinson’s sufferer and their families and friends.”

CPT would like to take this opportunity to congratulate Clare on completing a brilliant first ever marathon! Thank you so much for your amazing commitment to training and truly inspiring fundraising efforts!

To support Clare's fundraising please visit her fundraising page.

If you feel inspired by Clare’s story you can search the many fantastic running events taking place across the UK here. Alternatively please contact George or call 020 7487 3892 to discuss your fundraising ideas and find out how we can support you.