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Take up running for fun and fitness

Dun Laoghaire Lifeboat Crew Member Damien Payne (33) hasn't always been a gymgoer, but he ran last year's RNLI Reindeer Run in full crew kit. He shares his tips for taking up one of the purest (and least costly) forms of exercise.

Damien Payne wearing reindeer ears and nose and an RNLI jacket

Why did you decide to do the Reindeer Run?

I decided to do the Reindeer Run in my full all-weather lifeboat gear as a way to highlight to other participants where the fundraising money goes. Lifeboat crews all over Ireland and the UK rely on our equipment - from our search and rescue boats to our personal protective equipment - to keep us safe every time that we go out on a rescue. It is important that those who make the effort to participate in the run see where these vital funds go.

Did you enjoy it? What was the best thing about it? And the worst?

I really enjoyed the day. As a running event it is great fun, and there was a great buzz on the day as everyone gathered together dressed in bright red reindeer T-shirts and antlers, with some people even sporting red noses. There was such a jolly atmosphere as the spark of Christmas and a mischievous childhood atmosphere filled the air.

But I have to admit that running in the gear was very challenging. Our all weather lifeboat clothing is designed to keep us warm in the toughest conditions, and sometimes crews can be out for 12 hours or more in harsh weather conditions. The quality of the gear meant running 5K was very warm - and very tiring.

Have you always kept fit?

I have not always kept fit and I was considerably overweight 5 or 6 years ago with a poor diet and very little exercise. Running helped me to get fit and starting with smaller runs really helped me to build my fitness levels gradually. I started with 5K runs and worked my way up to training for and participating in a marathon. Everyone has to start somewhere, which is why the Reindeer Run, with its fun atmosphere and choice of runs for all levels, is an ideal target to aim for. Anyone can do it.

How did you keep motivated?

Set yourself small, achievable goals. When you reach these do not forget to congratulate yourself on these achievements. If you have to stop after running for 5 minutes for a break, but 2 weeks later you can build to 10 minutes, that is a significant achievement. You are only competing against yourself, and achieving your own goals is the best measure of success.

Any tips on training or gear?

When you begin running you may not feel confident in yourself as you see different people running effortlessly while you may struggle. Do not compare yourself to those people as they probably have been running for a long time. You should compare yourself to the you that has been left behind on the couch. You're now the person who made the effort to get up, get out and make a start. Soon you will be the one running effortlessly.

If you can, invest in a good pair of runners. Speak to a specialist in a proper running store so that you can find the right pair of runners for you.

Spend time learning how to stretch by researching online. Stretching is extremely important as it will help you to avoid injury and your muscles will not be as sore the following day.

What advice do you have for anyone who wants to take up running?

Get out there and do it. It is about mental attitude. Believe that you can do it, and take one step at a time. Set yourself a goal. I suggest targeting the Reindeer Run this Christmas and signing up today!

What's your next challenge?

I am considering signing up for an adventure race involving running, cycling and a mountain run. I am procrastinating about signing up ... Maybe I will take my own advice and sign up for the Reindeer Run instead.

The RNLI Reindeer Run 2014 takes place in beautiful locations in Cork, Dublin, Cambridgeshire, Dorset and West Yorkshire. You can take on a 5K or a 10K, and most events offer a children's 1.5K race too.

Volunteer crew members like Damien will be on call over Christmas. Taking part in the Reindeer Run means you're supporting them, while getting fit for the festive season.