Carrick couple are in it for the long run

Gillian and Gary at the Jungfrau Marathon in Switzerland.  INCT 44-750-CON
Gillian and Gary at the Jungfrau Marathon in Switzerland. INCT 44-750-CON

A Carrickfergus couple who have completed over 300 marathons together are to hit the ground running after their nuptials next week.

Gillian Cordner and Gary Connolly will celebrate their big day with a difference on November 10 by going straight from their wedding service in Carrick Castle to a 26-mile foot race.

Running on Achill Island.  INCT 44-751-CON

Running on Achill Island. INCT 44-751-CON

The route will take them and 80 other runners from the East Antrim Marathon Series (EAMS) along the coast road to Loughshore and back three times.

Gillian (42), who works for the Belfast health trust, and sales manager Gary (52), have been together since 2012.

“When we met I had ran two marathons and Gary about 10; we decided to start training together to run more marathons and the rest, as they say, is history,” said Gillian.

“We have run over 300 marathons together and hopefully will do a few more.”

Marathon Des Sables.  INCT 44-752-CON

Marathon Des Sables. INCT 44-752-CON

And when Gary proposed on Christmas Day 2016, the athletic couple knew that the running theme would play a part in their special day.

“We met through running and it is what we do in our spare time; almost everything revolves around running so it had to be incorporated, and what better way to celebrate that than to do what we love most,” Gillian added.

Their shared interest has taken them to some spectacular locations around the world, including the Jungfrau marathon, Switzerland; Košice marathon, Slovakia, and the Berlin 100-mile Wall Race.

In April 2015 they took on the Marathon Des Sables, a five-day 250km race across the Sahara Desert often referred to as the “toughest footrace in the world.”

“[It] was just amazing; 50 degrees heat, surrounded by sand dunes and all you could see in front was a line of runners zig-zagging through the dunes,” the bride-to-be recalled.

With matching marathon personal bests of three hours and 18 minutes, Gillian was also the first female runner to finish the Mourne Way marathon and Ultra events in 2015 and 2016 respectively.

A registrar will perform the marriage ceremony at the castle next Friday morning, followed by a wedding blessing from Gillian’s father, who is a retired minister.

The service will be followed by champagne and cupcakes, after which the super-fit newlyweds will change into running appropriate wedding attire: a shorter wedding dress for Gillian, with shorts and a tuxedo T-shirt for Gary.

Meanwhile, the theme ‘runs’ throughout the day’s celebrations, including the cake, invites, and guest book.

The couple even designed a medal based on the famous ‘Love is’ characters in a running pose.

“We are really excited about the wedding as we have planned a day which will see us getting married with family and close friends there. We have four children between us; I’ve two boys and Gary has a son and daughter,” Gillian said.

“It will be a very intimate and personal ceremony and then we get to do what we love - run, with our running family there to celebrate. After that we fly out to Tenerife on Saturday (November 12) to run the Tenerife Marathon on Sunday - then relax!

“We would just like to say a massive thank you to the organisers of EAMS, Pete and Craig, as they have really embraced this and been so good to stage this event for us.”