Empathic Step #2: Running in Northern Ireland is a second step towards Empathy (first one is described here) – an atempt to foster the notion of empathy and running to encourage participants (and not only) to include in their everyday lives. It was not another regular Erasmus Plus project. It involved one challenge, that made everyone at awe – Belfast Marathon!

From the beginning it was clear, this is not for everyone. As a result, only 1/4th of applications was received comparing to regular overflow for our programmes. We intentionally wanted to find the most motivated persons, who would like to challenge themselves to the maximum. Thirty five persons from Spain, UK, Lithuania, Turkey, Greece and Italy dared to take the challenge to arrive to Whitebay Park and later move to Belfast in Northern Ireland. Here our journey began.

Or perhaps a bit earlier with the first empathic step in Isle of Wight.

To introduce the story, we have to come back much earlier before the project. One of the inspirational factors for this Erasmus+ youth exchange was reading a book “Born To Run” by Christopher McDougall. This has changed our understanding of what the human is and how it survived among other stronger and faster species.

Apparently, humans are the only ones to outrun any animal. We are designed to run – says Christopher McDougall. That is so surprising and true. Our organisms are very well suited for running long distances and long time ago we were running and hunting with all our communities, including families and mothers with babies. By being able to sustain a long run, we could capture even faster animals, such as one of the fastest animals, like gazelle or gepard, who can reach speeds of 112 km/h (70 mph) in short bursts and average speed, while hunting is about 64 km/h.

Interestingly, our muscular and body structure is very well suited to run and run barefooted. Our sweating system suits to evaporate the sweat, so that again to maintain the run. Consequently, it is surprising to hear, but perhaps it should not be, that Wingo from Texas in 1931 run 16 miles every day for 517 days to make 8000 mileage. In modern days people take new records and show that running is so natural.

Coming with such an inspiration, we just had to spread the message of running benefits. By designing the programme Empathic Step, which consists of three phases: Swimming In Isle of Wight, Running in Northern Ireland and Hiking in Iceland, we hopefully attracted people’s interest to running, going back to our ancestors.

We also wanted to invite to empatise of many people who need to fleet their countries (at this moment Ukrainians, especially) and become forced war or economical or any other refugees.

This project was designed to understand the empathy. We wanted to state that it is possible to develop the empathy, to understand better people around or further away from you.

Lets make an empathic step.

Second step towards Empathy: 6 Days of preparation before a BIG BANG

Thirty five motivated souls arrived to Dublin or Belfast Airports and from there were immediately taken to Whitebay park bay youth hostel, where we stayed for 6 days. We need a space near the see, that would inspire us to prepare for the big challenge – marathon running in Belfast, capital of Northern Ireland.

We also need to bond, get to know each other, because we did not know each other. What a thrilling and magical experience combined. First day was spent traveling, eating, unpacking, and resting.

A morning started with sports. A bit energised we had breakfast.

And here you go a proper intro of the day! Good morning everyone, the programme has started!

Empathic step running in Northern Ireland marathon - Erasmus plus - Abroadship.org - youth exchange

Empathic step running in Northern Ireland marathon – Erasmus plus – Abroadship.org – youth exchange. Photo by Kiril Sarsakov

Heading to the Giant’s Causeway (Unesco herritage), 23 km to get to know each other, empathize, exchange opinions and challenge ourselves.

What a place to learn

Energizers from today’s beautiful sessions: we reflected on the last day’s hike, we trained our acting skills in an improvisation session and finally we dug inside our souls to discover who we are. We’re ready for the next step towards empathy!

White Park Bay last days before going to Belfast to run a marathon or a section of it. Sentiments, moments, silence.

Unesco steps. Empathic steps. Nature steps. Running steps. How they are different? Join our adventure

Facing the wind. Black and White. Steps into ->

Take a Breath

Belfast Marathon Day

Marathon day arrived! We moved from the green landscapes of Whitebay and we gathered in Belfast for the 40th Belfast City Marathon, where we challenged ourselves to run 8 or 42 kilometers in team relays or full marathon!

Emotions were so heavy, seeing all the city cheer for us while we ran our empathic steps towards a better understanding of ourselves!

The day started very early, because we had to reach Belfast. We had to leave our things at another hostel in Belfast, get ready mentally and physically for the most challenging event over few years probably – to run in the Belfast Marathon.

What an excitement! What a thrill! For most of us this was a biggest achievement of the year.

The joy of running is above the air.

Post Marathon Life

After the long 40th Belfast city marathon day, we spent some time in the city getting to know local history, traditions, music and folklore. The path to empathy start by getting to know the people around you!

We needed a proper rest. And some of us needed an extreme recovery.

We had a light start of the day with brunch.

We talked about Achieving your goals, Follow ups.


We discussed Youthpass competences, made last evaluation and Goodbye evening.


This was the day of return to the realities.

Packing and leaving, coming back healthy and safely to our beloved homes.

What is next?

Soon there will be also a #3: Hiking in Iceland. Are you ready?

Interested for more?

About what Erasmus plus youth exchange is find here.

What is the difference in formal (School) and non-formal (Erasmus plus) way of learning, read here.

Other Erasmus+ youth exchanges here.

Other Erasmus+ training courses here.

Online courses here.

Other Opportunities in India, Mexico, Sao Vincente, Panama.

All articles here.

Subscribe to Abroadship opportunities here.