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comeback girls on mini mission

Reinhild Cullen describes herself as a "well past sell-by-date" beginner when it comes to running. She turns 50 this year and, like many others, remembers running the women's mini marathon many years ago.

"I did a few when I was in my 20s and it was easy. Then other things came along!" she says. That included three children -- two of them twins.

Last year, inspired by the continuing success of the Flora Women's Mini Marathon and with the children grown up, Reinhild (she has a German mother) decided to make a comeback.

"I needed a bit of encouragement, found the name of the Swords Meet and Train in the Evening Herald and started training with them."

She wasn't the only one. Sinead Moran, aged 35, has three children aged 19, 11 and 10, and, with her sister Catherine, wanted to get fit again.

"Like Reinhild, I wanted to run the mini marathon, found the contact for the Meet and Train group in Swords and contacted Dolores Evans. That was a year and a half ago," she said. And Sinead has found her fitness and enjoyment of the sport increasing all the time.

Along with most of the group in Swords, which is organised by the Fingallians club, both train three times a week. Even more dedicated is Barbara Tobin, who celebrates her 45th birthday today.

Barbara, well known as the PRO of the Meet and Train Leagues, started training five years ago and has moved up to the marathon distance. "I met up with the group in Santry stadium near where I live. That's how it started and I would train five days a week now."

All three are raising funds for the Irish Motor Neurone Disease Association.

"My father-in-law died from it," says Reinhild. "He was a strong, fit 79-year-old, playing golf and enjoying his life when he was diagnosed. He started getting wobbly on his feet and they thought it might be a stroke. He died a year later -- that was three years ago and I still get emotional when I think about it."

Like all Meet and Train groups, Fingallians welcomes runners and walkers of all ages and standards, with numbers steadily increasing. "We would have about 40 regulars, ranging from Bronagh Snow, who is a strong veteran, to women who are just starting out and mostly walk," says Barbara.

So ladies -- although your Flora Women's Mini Marathon journey is almost over for this year, you can continue training with qualified experts at the many Meet and Train and Fit for Life groups around the country: see the full list elsewhere on these pages. They're cheerful, they're cheap and they welcome everyone!