Meet the running mates who are part of a first-of-a-kind initiative which is forging links with people living in direct provision.

Ann O’Regan, of Clonakilty Road Runners AC in West Cork, and Alleta Ndhlovu, who lives in the Clonakilty Direct Provision Centre, will be among those taking part in the Sanctuary Runners’ first official training session tomorrow for the Irish Examiner Cork City Marathon 2018.

Alleta, who is originally from South Africa and who has been living in direct provision since 2016, ran several marathons in her native country.

“Running is in my veins. I’ve run several marathons but it was a long time ago. This will be my first marathon in 25 years and my first marathon in Ireland,” she said.

“When I came to Ireland, I was looking for something to do but there was nothing, and I was a little bit bored.

“I didn’t get the opportunity — until now. I am really looking forward to it.”

The Sanctuary Runners initiative will see people from all over Ireland running with asylum seekers and refugees in the marathon as part of an initiative to show solidarity with those living in direct provision, and to build friendships and community.

Almost 120 people have signed up to take part in the initiative, which is supported by Cork City Council, the HSE, University College Cork, and the Tomar Trust.

Sanctuary Runners founder Graham Clifford, a journalist and broadcaster originally from Kerry but now living in Fermoy, Co Cork, and who is organising the initiative with photographer Clare Keogh, said it’s a fantastic opportunity for Irish people to show solidarity with those in direct provision.

“Here they’re letting their feet do the talking. Our hope is that the concept will be carried on by other groups across the country,” he said.

“Also, it’s very difficult to meet people living in direct provision, to get to know them and hear their stories. This makes that possible for many.”

Sanctuary Runners, Ann O’Regan, of Clonakilty RoadRunners AC, training with Alleta N Ndhlovu, who is originally from South Africa, in preparation for the Irish Examiner Cork City Marathon, which takes place on Sunday, June 3. Pictures: Clare Keogh
Sanctuary Runners, Ann O’Regan, of Clonakilty RoadRunners AC, training with Alleta N Ndhlovu, who is originally from South Africa, in preparation for the Irish Examiner Cork City Marathon, which takes place on Sunday, June 3. Pictures: Clare Keogh

Lord Mayor Tong Fitzgerald gave his backing the initiative.

“It’s a new chapter for our city and we’re thrilled to see it unfold,” he said.

Marathon participants from the direct provision centres will run in footwear funded by the Tomar Trust and tomorrow’s training session at the Mardyke Sports Arena will be led by fitness coach Kieran McKeown.

After the marathon on Sunday, June 3, the Our Table Pop Up Café will feed the Sanctuary Runners afterwards, thanks to funding from Cork City Council.

You can still sign up to be a Sanctuary Runner by emailing Sanctuaryrunners@gmail.com before May 11.
You can run the full or half marathon, or as part of a relay team running a 9km leg.


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