Olympian Rob Heffernan donates runners to residents in direct provision

Athlete urges Irish people to treat those in direct provision with the respect he has always been shown

Olympic medal winning walker Rob Heffernan has donated some of the running gear he has amassed over the years to people living in the direct provision system who are due to take part in the Cork city marathon in June.

Heffernan, who hails from Togher in the city, said throughout his professional career he has met people form across the globe and has always been treated with decency and respect by his fellow runners.

He and his wife Marian, who is also a former Olympian, urge Irish people to treat those in direct provision with the same respect by supporting the Sanctuary Runners project.

It enables Irish people to run alongside, and in solidarity with, those in direct provision thereby fostering friendship, positivity and respect while bringing greater awareness to the system in which asylum seekers live. It aims to use sport, and running in particular, to build bridges between communities.


“We, as Irish people, should always treat others with that same warmth. This is a great, healthy and positive initiative and Marian and I are delighted to be involved.”

The Cork Sanctuary Runners was established in February 2018 and plans to have a team of 300 people, including 75 from within the direct provision system, participating in this year’s Cork city marathon.

Heffernan took a training session with the runners as they prepared for the Cork Marathon last year.

“ I met wonderful people coming together in solidarity. Now I have given some of the running gear I’ve amassed over the years to the Sanctuary Runners and I know it will be of use to the runners in direct provision. ”

Graham Clifford, founder of the Sanctuary Runners, says they are now active in eight different locations across Ireland.

He said for many in direct provision hope, motivation and focus can disappear leading to isolation and depression. “The Sanctuary Runners aim to combat that, to put our arms around the shoulders of our friends in direct provision and show that we are all one, all equal.”

The Sanctuary Runners currently have 750 members across Ireland, 150 of those from within direct provision. They will also will also be taking part in this year's Regeneron Great Limerick Run, the Terenure 5-mile race in Dublin, the VHI Women's Mini-Marathon and the Viking Marathon in Waterford as well as other races.