Towns in Galway sought to build new Sanctuary Runners groups

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Former Irish international athlete and 100m record holder, Ailís McSweeney, Ignatia Ndlovu from South Africa, Annemarie Sheehan, Santuary Runners, Graham Clifford, CEO and founder of the Sanctuary Runners, Andrii Starovoitenko from Ukraine, Oksana Khvostikova from Ukraine and 11-year-old Viktor Khvostikov from Ukraine. Photo: Julien Behal.

The Sanctuary Runners are calling on people in towns across Galway to come together to form new running, jogging and walking groups.

Launching the new Side-By-Side programme this week, the initiative hopes to build groups in 50 new towns across the country.

Focusing on community integration and bringing people together to the benefit of all, the initiative will focus on areas to which Ukrainian and other people have moved in recent months and years.

The new ‘Side by Side Programme’ will build on the work of the Sanctuary Runners which has attracted the support of almost 10,000 runners, joggers and walkers over the years – with almost a quarter of those being people who either are, or were, living in Direct Provision.

Ailís McSweeney, Ireland Lead Manager with Sanctuary Runners said they have already received great support from the people of Galway for our work.

“This new programme will seek to build groups in towns to which people have moved in more recent times – people from Ukraine and also those from other countries,” said Ailís.

“We’ve seen over the years how running or walking shoulder-to-shoulder on one team can be such a vital tool for community integration, for welcoming people who might be afraid, isolated and worried – and also for building stronger communities. Also, it’s lots of fun and good for everyone’s health.”

Focusing on solidarity over charity, the initiative already has groups in 30 locations across Ireland and three in the UK, with plans to expand to Germany and Belgium in the coming months.

Sanctuary Runners’ founder and CEO Graham Clifford said that he is ‘so proud that this is an Irish initiative’.

“It’s about being the change we want to see as individuals, doing our bit one step-at-a-time to build stronger communities for all. It’s about being sound and decent.”

The programme is supported by the Ireland for Ukraine Fund, and the Sunflower Foundation Fund, both managed by the Community Foundation for Ireland (CFI), and the One Foundation.

If interested in starting a Sanctuary Runner group in your town, please contact Annemarie Sheehan, Community Development Lead, at

All new groups will be given Sanctuary Runner tops, a toolkit and guidance on how to start and structure your group.