Setting the Pace: Towns across Ireland sought to build Sanctuary Runners groups in new programme

* Solidarity-through-sport initiative to build 50 groups in towns across Ireland

* Using running, jogging and walking to bring all in the community together in positivity and respect

* Focus on towns to which Ukrainian people and others have moved in recent times

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

Launching their new ‘Side-By-Side’ programme this week the solidarity-through-sport initiative, founded in Cork in 2018, hope 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 Sanctuary Runners launching their new Side-By-Side programme which will see them establish 50 new Sanctuary Runner groups across Ireland in communities to which Ukrainians and people from other countries have moved in recent times.  Picture shows: Ireland Lead Manager of the Sanctuary Runners, Ailís McSweeney, Ignatia Ndlovu from South Africa, Annemarie Sheehan, Sanctuary Runners, Graham Clifford, CEO and founder of the Sanctuary Runners, Andrii Starovoitenko, Oksana Khvostikova and 11 years old Viktor Khvostikov from Ukraine.

Supported by the ‘Ireland for Ukraine Fund’, and ‘the Sunflower Foundation Fund’, both managed by the the Community Foundation for Ireland (CFI), as well as support from the CFI itself and the One Foundation 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: “We’ve already received great support from the people of Ireland 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. 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, its lots of fun and good for everyone’s health.”

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




“I’m 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. Its about being sound and decent,” said Sanctuary Runners’ founder and CEO Graham Clifford.

While to date groups have been established in Ireland in communities where Direct Provision centres were located this new programme will see an enlargement of the not-for-profit’s footprint.

Earlier this year the Sanctuary Runner initiative was celebrated at the United Nations in New York for its unique model and it contributed to a special report produced by the UN on the importance of sport as a tool towards peaceful communities and social cohesion.

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.

The Sanctuary Runners also host the annual National Sanctuary Run at the Sport Ireland Campus each year – the run in 2023 to take place on June 18th.

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