Next month will mark 25 years since the communities of Lanesboro and Newtowncashel first hosted their annual Christmas Run in aid of of the Longford branch of the Multiple Sclerosis Society.
“My brother Ger started it back in 1991,” explained organiser Michael Flood.
“He was running fitness classes and ran a few different races. A few people around Newtowncashel and Lanesboro had connections to the MS Society so it was decided to stage a run and make that the benificiary.”
While he helped out during the early years of the event, 2001 saw Michael take on a central role.
“Ger went to Australia in 2000 and I took over. All of the family help out: my sister-in-law Brigid Mullooly, and my brothers John and Bernard.”
Michael also told the Longford Leader that the event has grown in size considerably since it was first held.
“In the early years, when Ger ran it, 40 or 50 people took part,” he said. “It took a small dip in the early 2000s but we had good years between 2006 and 2008. In the last few years, though, we’ve had more and more people taking part, and last year we had 175 walkers and runners.
“That’s a huge amount for a community of our size on a Christmas morning, considering all the other commitments people have on that day.”
And it is this level of support which has resulted in the MS Christmas Run collecting €180,000 for charity during the past 25 years.
“Peter Hanly Motors sponsor t-shirts for the race and we also get sponsorship from a lot of businesses around Lanesboro and Newtowncashel,” Michael continued. “It means that we have no overheads and so all the money collected can go directly to the charity. Last year, around €7,500 was raised and we’re hoping to match that again this year.”
Taking place on Christmas morning, Michael explained that the run is 11 kilometres long and includes running and walking categories.
“Participants can just turn up on the morning and the minimum sponsorship amount is €10. It starts at Newtowncashel Parish Hall, with walkers leaving at 11.45am and runners heading off at 12.15pm.
“The distance is just over 11 kilometres and the finish line is at the hall in Lanesboro, where we have prizes for the winners.
“It’s a great community occasion with a great atmosphere and it’s a perfect way to build up an appetite for the Christmas dinner,” Michael concluded.