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Atheists. We get a bad rap. People assume we’re angry all the time. That we’re immoral. That we…um…worship Satan*. And we crash kids birthday parties and burst all the balloons. Just because we can.

The reality is, atheists are regular people. We go to work. We raise families. We listen to music. We participate in society. We just don’t believe in gods.

Why I became an atheist

I don’t remember the exact day that God stopped existing for me.

What I do know is that I was raised as Catholic in the height of Northern Ireland’s ‘troubles’. Growing up in the Glens Of Antrim, we didn’t just have religion. We had some world-class folklore and superstition too. Giants and leprechauns and banshees and Jesus. And I loved it all.

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Insanity 600If you’re one of those people who struggles to establish a fitness routine, joining a class might get you on the right track. Whether you’re just getting started on your fitness journey, or you’re a gym veteran, joining a fitness class can bring you some major benefits.

Over the past few months I’ve experimented with a variety of classes, from circuit sessions to Tabata right up to the plyometric craziness of Insanity. Here are some of the biggest reasons to join a class and watch your fitness levels go through the roof:Continue reading

Larne Half Marathon finisher's medal 2013

After damn near destroying my knee running in the Ealing Half Marathon last September, my fitness levels were gradually returning to form. I’ve been dabbling with Insanity recently, building up my running distances and then a sign appeared. Literally. As we were driving through Larne a few weeks back.

Lisa turned to me and said “The Larne half-marathon is on the 8th June. You should go in for it.”

“Huh? The Larne half was in March.” Apparently not. The unexpected cold snap and snow that had virtually cut off parts of the North Coast meant that the race had been postponed. Excellent! I’d wanted to do this run since last year and now here was a second chance!

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Snowy winter run

If you run all year round, you’ll know that a run on a wintery morning is a totally different kind of beast. The ideal conditions are cold and crisp, but dry. The obstacles are one thing – icy ground is a challenge, making the ground slightly slippery underfoot, meaning you have to take a little more care with your stride. The tends to be slightly worse if you run in rural areas like I do.

Other obstacles? Piles of decomposing leaves for one thing. If it’s been raining, these seem to coat footpaths in a slippery residue that makes can be dangerous if you land on it the wrong way. And in the countryside, there’s a lot more thick muck on the roads, falling from the wheels of tractors and making it more complicated to run on.

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Finisher's medal for Ealing Half 2012

Gerard and Gordon at Ealing Half Marathon 2012

Sunday morning, 30th September 2012, I found myself standing under the criss-crossed, vapour-trail etched skies of Ealing with my brother-in-law Gordon. Steam on our breaths and goosebumps on our arms, we were there for the first ever Ealing Half Marathon.

It wasn’t just Ealing’s first half-marathon, either. It was mine, too.

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This is my first ever “year in review” post. Not that other years haven’t had their notable moments, but 2011 has seen a number of incredible changes for me. After a couple of fraught years where things have been up in the air, I feel like I’ve got a renewed focus and energy. And despite 2011 being marked by massive changes, it feels like those changes are just the beginning.

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Gerard on the descent from Ben Nevis

It’s hard to believe that exactly one week ago I was preparing to climb Ben Nevis. In the spring, a friend approached me to see if I’d be interested in doing a charity hike up the mountain. And, since I was beginning to take my fitness more seriously, I agreed.

So, last Friday (16th September), we arrived at the ferry terminal in Belfast and took a busy morning ferry across to Stranraer. And then a five-hour drive through the most picturesque Scottish countryside. On reflection, I think those epic bus journeys in both directions were more of a test of endurance than climbing the damned mountain!

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Slieve Bearnagh in the Mourne Mountains

This past weekend, my hiking partner John and I went for our final practise walk in the Mournes. It’s all in preparation for a trek up Ben Nevis on Saturday 17th September to raise funds for the Ulster Cancer Foundation.

Walking in the Mournes has quickly become one of my absolute favourite passtimes. It’s not only the exhilaration of conquering summits and battling against the elements. It’s the incredible names that some of the landmarks have been given: The Bloody Bridge, The Castles (a breathtaking formation of rocks that crowns the back side of Slieve Commedagh), the Brandy Pad, the Hare’s Gap, the Trassey Track. Honestly, if you didn’t know better, you’d swear the place had been invented by J.R.R. Tolkien.

John and I revisited the “Three Peaks” route that we’d tried about a month earlier. That first time round, we’d taken the prescribed route, but ran out of time at the “saddle” between Commedagh and Slieve Donard. We were adamant that wasn’t going to happen again.Continue reading

This is going to be a strange post. But then it’s a strange time, and my head is full of conflicting ideas and emotions and memories. So expect a jumble of words that may not entirely make sense and may not be in exactly the right order….

Last Monday, I found myself in Elstree, the home of Big Brother. On assignment as our roving reporter to meet with 89 potential housemates for the new series. It was brilliantly twisted of the Endemol staff – giving interviews with the possible housemates, but throwing in 75 red herrings to make it almost impossible for the red tops to do any dirt digging.

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