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27/09/2021

Going the distance to harness the #PowerofMe for Amber and the Vhi Women's Mini Marathon

As Siobhan Donohoe laces up her runners for the Women’s Mini Marathon she talks about what the event means to her

Kilkenny News

READY TO RUN: Siobhan Donohoe, the County Champion for Kilkenny, will take on the virtual Women’s Mini Marathon on September 19 Pictures: Christopher Dunne

I am honoured to be this year’s Kilkenny’s County Champion for the 2021 Vhi Virtual Women’s Mini Marathon. I am a 44 year old mother of two and this will be my second year taking part in the Mini Marathon, which this year is on September 19.
The theme of this year’s Mini Marathon is ‘The Power of Me’, which celebrates the power of someone to make a difference in their own life and the lives of others.
When Vhi asked me to be Kilkenny’s County Champion I had to admit that I am not exactly a runner, I only took it up last year for their 2020’s Virtual Mini Marathon!
Running was something to work towards during the lockdowns as the gyms were closed and exercise is key to keeping my daily pain at bay while living with Psoriatic Arthritis. The good folks at Vhi said I fitted the bill for ‘The Power of Me’.
Charity
I am very excited to be involved in this event which celebrates the strength of so many amazing women, hence my chosen charity.


Last year I ran the mini marathon for Arthritis Ireland. This year I have picked a charity closer to home, a charity which has experienced a massive increase in their services in the past 18 months – Kilkenny’s Amber Women’s Refugee.
Lisa Morris, Manager, Amber Women’s Refuge is delighted that my group and I have chosen their charity. She told me that since the Covid-19 pandemic, there has been a 43% increase in the amount of women and children reaching out to domestic abuse services for support. This has put extra pressure on already stretched local domestic abuse services like Amber.
Together, with the Active Kilkenny Dolls Group, every cent raised from our run will directly support local women and children living with or fleeing domestic violence and abuse.
‘The Power of Me’
‘The Power of Me’ has a twofold meaning for me. Firstly it’s for my chosen charity and why a story my mother told me years ago will always stick in my head.
Mum was driving late on a stormy night when she came across a woman hitching a lift with her five children in tow. She was wearing her night dress and all she carried was a black bin bag of whatever clothes she could grab before fleeing her home and the domestic violence she experienced.
Mum drove her to the nearest refuge on that dreadful night. To this day I wonder what became of this woman and whether she is safe in her own home. So if I can raise any awareness, I want to raise it about these vital services.
What ‘The Power of Me’ means for my journey is about my health and learning to believe in the power of my own body and its strength to overcome the daily pain I live with. Through exercise and healthy eating I have turned things around - I suppose I had to get sick to get healthier! I went from not being able to lift my knife and fork six years ago to now lifting 60kg in the gym on a good day!
From the outside I look fit and healthy all the time but on the days my joints flare up and it’s hard to even type, I hide. Those days are few and far between now, but it is like living with an invisible disease all the time.
I was diagnosed with Psoriatic Arthritis at the age of 38, it can attack any joint in my body and also my skin. That was only the start of it. Since than I’ve been diagnosed with more auto-immune diseases. There are over 60 auto-immune diseases out there, hopefully my body stops at three!

Siobhan Donohoe, Lorna Doogue and Sonia Coady are all set for this year’s Women’s Mini Marathon

I also experienced first-hand the power of the support of others, people like my yoga teacher Imelda Norris, my gym, the Kilkenny Active Club and my trainer Sonia Coady. They believe in me and that is so important when you are nervous about what limits your body can take. I lift weights to build muscle in case the joints give in someday, but each month I get stronger and stronger and joint failure fears are pushed well down the road, if I keep working out.
They asked me when I joined to be their gym ambassador to inspire others with health issues to work out. That was two years ago and I’ve never looked back. The gym gave me the confidence to try my first mini marathon and this year we decided to take it another step and create the ‘Kilkenny Active Dolls’ group for the 2021 Mini Marathon. We are looking for more ladies to join us on Sunday, September 19 at 12 noon from Hotel Kilkenny. You can crawl, walk or run the 10km - we’ll all be there to cheer each other on.
What I love about this marathon the most is that it is virtual, it’s a great way to start your first mini marathon. I don’t particularly like running and normally only do 3kms on the treadmill for a cardio workout but the Mini Marathon pushes me to try the bit extra. Plus it’s virtual so I’ve friends as far away as Dubai joining our group on the day.
My plan is to run 5km on Friday September 17, have a rest day inbetween and run the other 5km on Sunday, September 19. Pre-covid this would not have been the case but being virtual I can spilt it up - which my joints are thankful for!
Running advice
The best piece of advice I have received about running is get the right footwear and take it easy. My brother Noel Sugrue is an osteopath and a keen runner himself.
When I started running he advised me to gradually increase my volume of running and intensity relevant to my ability. Avoid running too hard too soon and run your easy runs easy!
My trainer Sonia Coady, who I run and train with, always checks my breathing. If I am struggling we take five deep breaths in and out to keep us going that extra mile. So try to get a running buddy, it’s good to feel good together.
“For this year’s virtual event, we selected County Champions to represent every county in Ireland to act as ambassadors for our event,” said David O’Leary, General Manager, Women’s Mini Marathon: “We’re delighted that Siobhan agreed to represent Kilkenny, as she truly embodies our event theme this year, #PowerOfMe.
“Siobhan’s amazing efforts supporting the Amber Women’s Refuge in Kilkenny shows that she has the power, and is helping to make a difference in her local community,” he added. “We hope that everyone in Kilkenny gets on board, both by supporting Siobhan, and by joining her to take part in the 2021 Vhi Virtual Women’s Mini Marathon.”
To support Siobhan and the Run Dolls fundraising efforts for Amber, log on to the vhi mini marathon fundraising site: www.givengain.com/cc/amberrunforlives/

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