LORRAINE NAMED CHARITY'S GI JANE

DROMORE and Dromara were neck and neck as two friends led the race to become this year's Meningitis Research Foundation GI Jane, but Dromara won the day, and the title, by 'an arrow' margin.

The village's Lorraine Smyth (38) was crowned GI Jane 2010 ahead of teammate Catherine Pepper from Dromore.

"Catherine and I were vey close the whole time," said Lorraine. "It was the archery that separated us."

Lorraine and Catherine competed both individually and, victoriously, as the two-woman Team Smyth/Pepper in the second annual MRF 'GI Jane' ladies' challenge event at The Scout Centre in Crawfordsburn Country Park.

All told, 53 participants underwent a series of physical and mental challenges to raise vital funds for the Foundation.

For Lorraine, whose own son was treated for meningitis at the age of just eight months, it was the first outing in the event, though Catherine had taken part in last year's inaugural challenge.

The newcomer prepared with a month's training ahead of the event.

"I have kept my fitness up over the years," said Lorraine, "though I hadn't done anything on this level for a while.

"I started training bout four weeks beforehand; I was running and pumping a bit of iron and I think that helped me."

Participants started at 11am and finished the challenge at about 3.30pm, taking in orienteering and a wide range of physical challenges that included an asault course, climbing-walls and playing basketball on sky-walkers.

"There were various different zones," said Lorraine. "If you wanted to do all the the particular zones you really had to go for it, and we did.

"Honestly, we ate on the run; we had no time to stop; it was full on."

MRF's Ireland manager Diane McConnell said the charity was delighted so many women supported the event.

"It was a fantastic fundraiser," she said, "raising 7,669.64, with more sponsorship still to come.

"This money will go a long way in helping us achieve our aim of a world free from meningitis and septicaemia. We are delighted to have found our 2010 'GI Jane' and hope Lorraine comes back to defend her title in 2011."

"I think that could be very possible," responded Lorraine, who said she had "an absolute ball" taking on the challenge and, despite pipping her to the post, had forged an even stronger bond with Catherine.

"I think every girl should get out there and do it," she said. "It was an amazing day out; I cant believe how pumped up I was.

"Catherine and I were sore afterwards, and covered in mud, but we were giggling like two little kids; it was fantastic and I'll be telling all my friends to come along."

For more information on how you can get involved in GI Jane 2011 contact Emma Collins on 028 9032 1283 or email emma@meningitis-ni.org.