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For Ann Tracey, from the Gary Kelly Cancer Support Centre in Drogheda, standing at the finish line of the Flora Mini Marathon can be surprisingly emotional.

"Many of our clients see it as their goal to finish the mini marathon. While they are coming to us, they may not be well enough to take part. When they finish -- at whatever pace, whether they walk, jog or run -- they are the most elated women you will find. Many have surprised themselves by their own ability," she says.

Already, queries are coming in since the date of the race and information on how to enter was posted on the centre's website. "We get a buzz going around the centre -- that's all that's needed. One woman will persuade another to join in, and once you get them out they're hooked."

Training from the centre takes place on Wednesday evenings. "We gather everyone together first for some warm-ups and stretching, and then head off on a nice path beside a river," says Ann. "We then turn a corner and face a steep hill. This is very daunting at first, but it's amazing to see how the women improve, even within a month. Some become quite competitive."

The Gary Kelly Centre came about after the ex-Ireland and Leeds footballer donated all the funds raised by his testimonial match in 2002 to the charity. His beloved sister Mandy had died of breast cancer, devastating the tight-knit family of 13, and Gary was well aware of the need for a support centre in the area.

A building was found at George's Street in 2003 and renovation work began. Today the Gary Kelly Cancer Support Centre provides counselling, education, information and support to cancer patients and their families from Louth, north Dublin and nearby counties such as Monaghan. The centre can offer holistic and complementary therapies free of charge, thanks to an array of sponsors and private donations.

"Every cent we raise through fundraising efforts, such as the women's mini marathon, goes into our services. We get everything sponsored -- the T-shirts, the sponsorship cards; even the dinner we organise for the evening," says Ann.

Up to 400 head off in a flotilla of buses and cars from Drogheda every year. "You would think the enthusiasm would be diminishing but, if anything, it's growing," adds Ann. "Everyone looks forward to it, with the men staying at home to mind the kids. Even after the race our women can still bop the night away!"

For further information on the Gary Kelly Centre call 041-9805100, or visit www.gkcancersupport.com.