"I was delighted to complete the full Deep RiverRock Belfast City Marathon in May, and I’m proud to say that my time of 3 hours and 12 minutes qualified me for the London Marathon. Neil said. “But my focus for now is getting ready for the half marathon. Training is going well and I can’t wait to get out there on the 1st of May!”

Mencap, which supports children and young people with a learning disability and their families, is the official charity of the Deep RiverRock Belfast City Marathon and the Half Marathon until 2018. Since the announcement of the charity’s partnership with the event for three years, Neil has taken a special interest in the organisation and he has shown his support through running.

“For me running allows me to combine some of my key passions,” Neil said. “First and foremost, it’s a great way to raise money for a worthy cause and, in my opinion, there is none better than Mencap. The charity plays a crucial role in the community, supporting children with a learning disability and their families. I recently witnessed Mencap’s work when I visited the new Mencap Children’s Centre. Simply put, without Mencap’s support many of these children would not be able to reach their full potential. It’s great to know that putting myself to the test like this can make a real difference in their lives.”

But for Neil, a member of the Belfast City Airport Fire Service, running has also proven to be a great way to stay active: “Keeping fit is important for my work, and running has helped a lot with this. It’s relatively low cost and you get to meet all sorts of people, especially at a big race day event like half marathon coming up. It’s fantastic to come together with other like-minded runners to achieve something great.”


I’ve learned so much

“I urge anyone who is considering signing up for the full marathon to fundraise do it and #StepUp4Mencap!

"I’ve learned so much about the charity, I can tell all runners that any money they raise for Mencap will go towards truly deserving children and their families in Northern Ireland.”

For anyone considering lacing up their trainers and taking on a long-distance race like a marathon, Neil says runners shouldn’t be intimidated by the task: “A distance event like the half marathon can be daunting to many people, but actually it can be a great starting point. I think preparation is key. If you plan out your training, and keep up the regime you’ll find it much easier on the day.”

Vanessa Elder, Head of Fundraising for Mencap NI added: “We are very excited to be the official partner of the 2017 Deep RiverRock Belfast City full Marathon and extremely grateful to firefighters runners like Neil for taking part on behalf of Mencap. Without our supporters we would not be able to provide important services, such as our new family support programme which will help parents navigate raising a child with a learning disability. We’re very much looking forward to the big event – we’ll be there cheering for Neil and all the Mencap runners at the finish line!”

James Martin Q and A

James Martin is a Mencap ambassador who attended Mencap’s old Segal House nursery in Belfast from the age of 2.
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Josh Magennis Q and A

Northern Ireland and Charlton Athletic football star Josh Magennis has been named a Mencap Celebrity Ambassador.
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