As the organizing committee looks forward to marking the 20th anniversary of the North West 10k, the story behind the charity event actually goes back much further to 1985.
It was the year that a group of soldiers based at the Rockhill Army Barracks came up with the idea of a run that would raise money for local charities. Led by Patrick Price and Martin Giblin a committee was formed and the first Rockhill 10k took place in 1985.
It became an extremely successful charity race from very humble beginnings when there were just around 40 entries and went onto raise a significant amount of money for a number of very worthy causes across the county. So big did it get that the Rockhill 10k became the first event of its kind to be filmed when UTV came to Letterkenny for one of it’s programmes. However, in 1996 when the committee decided it wasn’t in a position to continue there was a huge groundswell of public support for new people to come and keep the event going.
Charlie Kelly a well known figure in Letterkenny and Donegal athletics recalls the success that the Rockhill 10k had been and the widespread public disappointment when it was learned that the charity run was no longer going to be run by the soldiers committee. “The soldiers in Rockhill had come up with a great idea and the 10k was a marvellous event raising a lot of money for charities over the years that they had ran it. Patrick Price and Martin Giblin and the rest of the committee members deserve great credit for the huge amount of work that they put into it” Mr Kelly said.
However, he says reaction from the general public, when the news broke that the Rockhill committee was stepping down, was that it had to continue and be carried on for the sake of the many charity groups that could be supported by what had been a very successful fundraiser. “People wanted it to continue and there was a very clear call for a new committee to be formed. I remember at the time people calling Highland Radio to highlight the importance of the 10k and need for it to continue. I had a conversation with Gerard McGinley about it and we agreed that we should try and form a new committee”.
The Chamber of Commerce in Letterkenny obviously seen the economic benefits of the annual event and pledged their support which included making an office service available to any new committee. “A public meeting took place in the Mount Errigal Hotel and from there a new committee was setup. Terry McEniff at the Mount Errigal has always been very supportive of the 10k and up to the present day makes rooms available for our launches, meetings and presentations” Mr Kelly said.
The first committee in 1997 included Chairperson Charlie Kelly, Anne Condon, Brendan McDaid, Gerard McGinley, Michael Cullen, Norman Spratt along with Patsy and Bridgeen Doherty. Anne Condon who has been Secretary from the start is a key link with Letterkenny Chamber where she is an employee of the organization that has played a crucial role in the success of the event.
With a new name needed the committee opted for ‘North West’ in order to try and expand the interest from outside Donegal giving potential sponsors a bigger market also. The first North West 10k took place at 6 p.m. on Saturday evening the 10th of May. Over 650 took part with St. Vincent de Paul, Multiple Sclerosis Donegal and the Breast Care Unit at Letterkenny General Hospital being the three charities to benefit.
The winner of the inaugural event was Seamus Power from the Kilmurray Athletic Club in Co. Clare in a time of 29 minutes and 26 seconds. At the time Power was the National Cross Country Champion and he came very close to collecting a special additional 4 Lanterns sponsored prize of 700 euro on that Saturday for the first man to break 28 minutes 40 seconds for the race. Two Finn Valley A.C. members Charlie Gallagher and Pat Hegarty were second and third respectively while 57-year-old Danny McDaid posted a fantastic sub-35 minute time. The first woman across the finish line was Margaret Synott who clocked 38:19 for the 10k.
It was also agreed at an early stage to move the 10k from the traditional Saturday evening to Sunday afternoon in an effort to increase numbers taking part. Through time that has worked with entries now topping the 2,000 on a regular basis. Charlie Kelly, now Honorary President of the North West 10k Committee, says the original idea the 10k fundraiser initiated by the soldiers in Rockhill spawned one of the biggest community events of its kind in the country and when the baton was handed over the North West 10k committee has made it a hugely successful charity run and walk that seen 31 charities benefit to the tune of just over 700,000 euro since 1997.
THIS YEAR'S EVENT
The 20th North West 10k takes place on Sunday 1st of May in Letterkenny. You can now register on-line now at www.northwest10k.com to take part in the big anniversary charity run and walk. The two benefitting charities this year are the Irish Pilgrimage Trust (Donegal Branch) and Spina Bifida Hydrocephalus Ireland (Donegal Branch).