Mags’ volunteering journey:


Mags’ volunteering journey (by

When we started the NiRunning website and in particular our events, our team have had the absolute pleasure of working with, but more importantly, getting to know Mags Mathieson.

Mags is a regular volunteer/team member at our events – a genuine and friendly person who always smiles and is willing to give up her time to assist!

It is great to see Mags featured in this article by Join In UK; take some time to have a read about Mags and why she enjoys volunteering!

Mags’ volunteering journey…

Volunteering can take you to deepest, darkest Peru. It can inspire you to rejuvenate tired places. For Mags Mathieson, it has done all this and more. When Mags Mathieson’s mum was diagnosed with lung cancer, she revealed to her daughter that her dream was to visit Machu Picchu. But it was too late for her, so Mags promised she would travel to the Inca site and scatter her mum’s ashes there.

From then on she started an amazing fundraising journey full of adventures, including walking the Great Wall of China, climbing Mount Kilimanjaro and several marathons. In the process, she shed about 6 stone and raised more than £20,000 for charity.  Unfortunately, she couldn’t run any more due to an irreparable knee injury. “I was gutted at being told that I could no longer participate in my favourite pastime and burst into tears in the consultant’s office,” she said. “After unsuccessfully attempting to carry on running regardless, I realised that the only way I could stay involved was by helping out at events.  I put a notice out on the Northern Ireland thread of Runner’s World stating, ‘One willing volunteer available for marshalling duties’. I’ve been inundated with requests for help ever since and am involved with at least three events each week.”

Mags is the Event Director for the Waterworks parkrun, which enables people of all ages and abilities to run in a timed event on a weekly basis in a previously rundown area of North Belfast.

Indeed, the Waterworks on the Antrim Road was previously rife with violence and drug taking, and was seen as a no go area.  The area has now been reclaimed by the local community and parkrun has been instrumental in that. It is now a thriving open space with a beautiful lake used by local fishermen and wildlife, and by people who wish to enjoy this lovely open space.

Mags helps run the event and the various activities associated with it, though she will step down from her role as Event Director in the near future. To date, she has helped with training volunteers, briefing runners, welcoming newcomers, health and safety, processing results, writing the weekly run report and answering queries.

“As a runner, I wouldn’t have made any headlines, but as a volunteer I’m aware that my efforts are valued.  This helps bring people together in what has been described as a “family” of runners. People make friends and keep coming back because they feel included.  I’m now more involved in the running community than I was when I was actually running,” she said. “I have developed a huge network of friends and like-minded acquaintances who have really enriched my life.

Mags also spends time volunteering at other running events. She is a Join In Local Leader Coordinator and is helping to set up a Network of Join In volunteers in Northern Ireland.  “Volunteering gives me a huge sense of fulfilment and I enjoy every minute I spend helping out,’ she explained. ‘It’s replaced the terrible void I felt when I learned that I couldn’t participate any longer in running events.

I’m always so happy at races that I don’t think anyone realises how desperately sad I felt at not being able to run.

I see people out running early in the morning and wish so much that I could do that again and experience the wonderful feelings that running gave me.  Volunteering helps me still be a part of that, and knowing that I am helping others to have that experience makes it better.”

Mags on volunteering and…

Stress – “I find that volunteering provides me with a distraction from the day-to-day stress that I experience in my working life.”

Wellbeing – “Having the opportunity to share in a worthwhile activity with other like-minded people gives me a huge sense of community, and the knowledge that I am doing something useful gives me that ‘feel good’ factor that I don’t always experience

in work.”

Her day job – “Knowing that I am helping as a volunteer in the evening has often helped me get through a stressful day in work and I’ve never woken up any morning and thought, ‘I wish I didn’t have to volunteer today’.”