SEPTEMBER 1st is an exciting time for many children as they embark on the new school year. However, for the brother and sister team of Rónán and Aoife Grant, they had a new challenge to take on. The duo, who are both Newcastle AC Junior athletes and attend Bunscoil Bheanna Boirche, Castlewellan, decided that they wanted to raise money for the Southern Area Hospice after their great granny had spent time there and they’d learned about how the charity relies on people to raise much needed funds to keep the service delivering such vital care. The idea for the challenge came about at the end of the summer as they began totting up how many steps they had covered over the holidays. “Wow imagine if we could do 1 million steps” … and so the decision was made. One million steps before Christmas and to make it more interesting they had to log at least 10,000 steps a day. It became a battle of steps daily, who could cover more. Whether that was running around the yard at school or fighting over who took the bins up and down the lane, the step challenge was on. Every week they rocked up to Castlewellan Parkrun and are both stalwarts on a Saturday morning around the 5k course. Earning new PBs at Parkrun, the midweek treadmill miles paid off and they earned their places on their school’s Flavahan’s cross country squad. Getting everyone in on the act, steps were clocked up after school around Bunker’s Hill with granny, moving cattle with grandad and even with Covid putting a temporary stop to the step count, once feeling better they continued with laps of the lane during their isolation period. A valiant effort from Rónán and Aoife, completing the challenge three weeks before the estimated goal of 13 weeks. Mum Siobhan, a runner and Junior athletics coach herself, said: “Only 13 per cent of primary age children are getting one hour of physical activity a day. It is important that physical literacy is promoted and embraced by all children. “The resilience and determination displayed by the kids throughout the challenge set an impeccable example to their peers and not only has benefitted the Hospice but also their own health and wellbeing too.” Rónán and Aoife have raised over £500 for the Southern Area Hospice and have kept themselves active as the dark nights drew in. They have continued the good habits even though the challenge is complete, however, they are not walking up and down the hall at 9pm now trying to get from 9,990 steps to 10,000!