Northern Ireland Chest Heart & Stroke, is encouraging local people to take active steps towards healthier hearts this winter. And, with February marking National Heart Month, there’s never been a better time to give your heart the love it deserves. 

Raymond from Mourne Runners

The charity’s latest ‘Step by Step’ campaign is designed to encourage people to actively consider their cardiovascular health and puts forward easy steps that everyone can take towards a healthier, stronger heart. Step one is simple - increase those steps and sign up to the charity’s annual Red Dress Run, supported by Mace.

Raymond, 65 from Newry, discovered a love for running and exercise later in life and has built up his fitness and stamina gradually, step by step:

“I started running at 63. On February 26th I’ll be 66 so I’ve only been running this last 3 years.  You can start at any age. I have taken part in a fair few runs in that time including Dublin Marathon in 2019 and 4 half marathons, as well as many others. So, I suppose I get out running rightly for an old man!”

“I’m not a fast runner by any means, I can do a 5K in just under 30 minutes and I’m not overly fast, I just plod away myself. It took me 6 hours to do the marathon, but I did it and I finished it – a whole 26.2 miles of running and walking. It took me a long time getting to this point, at the start I was running a bit and then walking a bit, but at the minute now I could run 10K without it costing me a thought.”

Since starting his running journey, Raymond has participated annually in the NI Chest Heart and Stroke’s Red Dress Run, supported by MACE. This year, together with hundreds of others, Raymond will be joining in the Run virtually, on the morning of Sunday 21 February:

“I’ve been taking part in the Red Dress Run for the last few years when it was up at Stormont. At the last one, in 2019, the Rugby player Chris Henry was there and we got our photographs taken with him – it was great.

I will miss that this year when you’re not out there joining all the craic, going out to the event makes the day of it, and everyone coming dressed up in their wigs and their red bows. But I’ll still be wearing red – not a red dress but I will be wearing red!”

Raymond, who also suffers with type 2 diabetes, recognises the positive impact his running hobby has had on his physical health, but he also advocates for the mental health benefits and social side of the sport:

“I do enjoy running and it takes your mind off things, it is a lot healthier of an option than sitting around on the couch!”

“There are a few others in the community who have signed up as well [to the Red Dress Run] who I run with in a group, most of them started off doing Couch to 5K with me. At the moment, we’re not able to run with anyone outside of our bubble, but I hope soon the lockdown will be eased and the vaccine will be available to more people, so that we can run together again. I’m still going out running myself in the run up to it. My wife and I go out together – she walks and I run. I will definitely be taking part on the day of the 21st February”

“I try to support as much as I can, anything to do with heart, chest, stroke and diabetes - to give a bit back.”

With chest, heart and stroke disease responsible for 16 deaths per day in Northern Ireland, the charity is passionate about keeping local hearts healthy. Funds raised through this year’s Red Dress Run will help rebuild thousands of lives. In the last year alone, the charity has invested £2.9 million in services and supported over 3,300 people living with a heart, stroke, or respiratory conditions.

If you’ve been inspired by Raymond’s story, then step out of your comfort zone and step up to the challenge! Whether you are running to keep fit or in memory of a loved one, sign yourself, friends, and family up to the Virtual Red Dress Run on Sunday 21 February at 11am.

Don’t worry if you can’t take part on the date, you can run or walk your way, any day throughout February. Sign up at WWW.NICHS.ORG.UK

If you’re not in a position to take part, you can still donate to the Red Dress Run by visiting the event page.

 NICHS Red Dress Run

Run or walk 5km in your local area on Sunday 21 February at 11am. Don’t worry if you can’t take part on the date, you can run or walk your way, on any day, because working together, step by step, we’ll help get local people fit, healthy and back on their feet.

By taking part, you’ll be helping us to rebuild thousands of lives across Northern Ireland.

Entry - £10 | Under 14s - FREE

Raise £50 per participant and receive a Red Dress Run medal.

Sign up now and receive your fundraising pack! Your fundraising pack will include a heart for you to wear on your sleeve and some other goodies.

We encourage everyone to dress in red, you could dress up as your favourite red character or go wacky with red hair and a red tutu. Proudly supported by MACE.

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