The first time I heard about Relay for Life was on a soup run around Dublin city centre. Our soup run Rep was organising a team, and asked if I wanted to join. I had no idea what it was or what being on a team entailed, but everyone else was doing it, so I decided to go with the flow!

Relay for Life is an event held in a number of locations around the country each year. This is UCD’s 4th year hosting the event, though it’s been around way longer in other areas. The event is basically a giant fundraiser for the Irish Cancer Society, with funds going towards research, patient support services and all other activities offered by the Irish Cancer Society. This year it will be taking place in UCD during April.


People form teams of 10-15, who can register before the event. Teams do a bit of fundraising before the event, and then a bit more on the night. At the event, each team has a gazebo or tent as their base point, where team members and friends gather and hang out, and usually where some sort of fundraiser is going on. Team members take it in turns to walk laps of the pitch, with the aim that there will always be people lapping the pitch for the full 24 hours as a symbol of the ongoing fight against cancer. Each team member gets a cool t-shirt for participating too!


The event lasts 24 hours, usually from midday to midday, or early afternoon to early afternoon. Team members and non-team members alike congregate on the Astroturf where there are a multitude of fun and festive things planned throughout the night. Sometimes these are performances, such as by UCD Choral Scholars or local bands, other times there may be mini-events happening like egg-and-spoon or three-legged races, or various sports matches. Juggling Soc usually have demos or workshops thoughout the night, which is pretty cool to watch or join in. To keep the people doing laps of the pitch entertained, there’s also themed laps very hour, such as wheelbarrow laps, cartwheel laps, onsie laps, and so many more!

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As dusk falls, everyone gathers at the head of the pitch for the Candle of Hope ceremony. Hundreds of bags, decorated in memory of loved ones who are fighting or have passed form cancer, are arranged around the pitch, with a small candle lit inside each bag. There are poetry readings, songs, speeches and a moment of silence. Relay for Life is about all those whose lives are affected by cancer in one way or another, and their slogan is: Celebrate. Remember. Fight Back.

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Throughout the night, the activities keep on going. Some people keep the energy level high all night long, and can be seen lapping into the early hours of the morning, or dragging others up to do the same. Others understandably are wrecked, and might nap for a few hours, or settle down to watch one of the film screenings for a bit of chill out time. By the morning, those that have stayed the night are usually quite exhausted, but those that went home for the night return fresh and take over laps for a bit!

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The events start to wind down towards the end of the Relay. Teams start packing up their stuff, wondering where to store their tents until next years event. There are a few final speeches made by the organising committee and the Irish Cancer Society representatives, and prizes are given out for the numerous challenges that have gone on throughout the night. Everyone goes home wrecked, but with so many memories of a good night, and you can be sure they’ll all come back next year to do it all again!