Catherine McKiernan: “Women’s Mini-Marathon is part of my success story”

When I think back to my prime as a competitive athlete, I think of great cross-country victories, Olympics, and various road races and marathons I’ve run and won around the world. But among those happy memories is the women’s mini-marathon I ran many times in the 1990s.

As I competed in international races and championships, my coach Joe Doonan and I carefully planned out the years and chose races that fit my schedule. We always included the women’s mini-marathon whenever we could. It was a 10k road race and an ideal event to slot in ahead of summer.

Participation is what counts for most women. So many women who have never run a race in their lives can now say that their very first race was the women’s mini-marathon. Since it was first run in 1983, it has had the unique appeal of motivating tens of thousands of women across the country to come together, train, raise funds for charity and enjoy the goal of competing in the 10K.

It would be fair to say that running was not common for women back then. I remember how people reacted to me when I was training on the streets near my home in my teens in the late 1980s and early 1990s. It was unusual to see anyone walking down the street, let alone a woman. Today it is commonplace to see women running and walking. So it was quite an achievement in the beginning to create this event, which became famous for being the first all-women’s race in the world.

The spirit of the event was to celebrate women and it acted as a perfect way to raise money for charity. But it also had the competitive element. Over the years, some of the world’s best distance runners have competed in this event. Many of my teammates and many other great Irish runners took part in the women’s mini-marathon along with guests from abroad, which made it quite competitive.

For me it was a great opportunity to skate in front of a big home crowd at the peak of my career. All of my running successes in cross country and marathons have been abroad. I was fortunate to have a large fan base who came in droves to cheer me on, but running the race in Dublin allowed more Irish people to see me racing in my heyday in the flesh. And despite the fact that I was quite shy at the time, keeping my head down and wanting to stay out of the limelight, I still enjoyed running in front of the partisan, cheering home crowd, especially crossing the finish line at St Stephen’s Green.

After I retired from running, I continued to compete for a few years. I still have a very competitive streak, so I would have treated the event as a race rather than a fun run. But I really enjoyed mingling at the start line with women of all ages and abilities embarking on the 10K adventure. My sisters also competed with me for a year, but I didn’t hang around for them. Even when we planned to run together, I could never hang around – I had to come forward.

I’ve been fortunate to have had many successes throughout my career, and I’m happy to say that the women’s mini-marathon is a big part of that success. I ran to win and it prepared me for the tough competitions on the road in the summers that followed. But now, more importantly, when I think of the women’s minimarathon, I think of how amazing it is to see so many women getting fit and running.

Long may it go on like this. Catherine McKiernan: “Women’s Mini-Marathon is part of my success story”

Fry Electronics Team

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