CIARA MAGEEAN

Com­mon­wealth 1500m hope re­calls Mini Lon­don Marathon mem­o­ries

Athletics Weekly - - News - WORDS: RYAN GOAD

THE Vir­gin Money Giv­ing Mini Lon­don Marathon is one of the most pres­ti­gious youth events in the coun­try and has seen some of the cream of Bri­tish ath­letes come through the sys­tem and then go on to make their mark on the world stage.

This year is the 10th year the

Mini Marathon has been the Bri­tish Cham­pi­onships for un­der-13, un­der-15 and un­der-17 ath­letes and held over the three mile dis­tance.

In the run-up to this year’s Vir­gin

Money Lon­don Marathon on April 22, we will be look­ing at some of the ath­letes from across the United King­dom & North­ern Ire­land who have come through the ranks of the Mini Marathon to make it on the global stage.

CIARA MAGEEAN, NORTH­ERN IRE­LAND

CIARA MAGEEAN knew she was a tal­ented ath­lete but un­til the year 2009 she didn’t know quite how good she could be.

Mageean, from County Down, North­ern Ire­land, be­gan that year jug­gling her run­ning with play­ing the pop­u­lar Gaelic sport camo­gie, the fe­male equiv­a­lent of hurl­ing.

But by the time the Noughties ended 12 months later, Mageean was in no doubt that run­ning was her fu­ture fol­low­ing a phe­nom­e­nal 12 months which was kick­started by win­ning the 2009 un­der-17 women’s Vir­gin Money Giv­ing Mini Lon­don Marathon.

From that vic­tory in April, Mageean – then aged 16 – went on to win a sil­ver medal in the 800m at the World Youth Cham­pi­onships in Italy, a gold medal at the Euro­pean Youth Olympics and nu­mer­ous Ir­ish ti­tles on the track.

“I think af­ter that I thought I should stop play­ing camo­gie three times a week and start tak­ing my run­ning se­ri­ously,” Mageean said. “Be­fore that I was some­times play­ing a camo­gie match and then go­ing to a race af­ter­wards!”

Mageean had run the Mini Marathon twice be­fore her vic­tory in 2009. She fin­ished 25th in 2006 and 20th in 2007 in races won by Char­lotte Pur­due and Steph Twell re­spec­tively. Both those races were over the shorter 2.6-mile dis­tance be­fore the event was made into the three mile Bri­tish Cham­pi­onships.

“I re­mem­ber not re­ally know­ing what to ex­pect in my first year,” Mageean said. “Head­ing over to Lon­don was a big deal though. I can re­mem­ber my mum pack­ing my bag and putting so many ce­real bars in it there was enough for the whole team!

“It was prob­a­bly my first ex­pe­ri­ence of run­ning in front of that many peo­ple. I’ve still got all the sou­venirs from the three years I took part but it was that first year that I re­mem­ber be­ing par­tic­u­larly awe-struck.

“There was just so much to take in. I can re­mem­ber just re­ceiv­ing my first North­ern Ire­land Mini Marathon T-shirt was in­spir­ing in it­self – I’ve still got that some­where. I can re­mem­ber the huge start line, the stam­pede once the race got un­der­way and just be­ing swept along by the thrill and ex­cite­ment of it all.”

Tak­ing part in the Vir­gin Money Giv­ing Mini Lon­don Marathon also gave Mageean and her Ir­ish team-mates a rare chance to take on the best of the ath­letes from the rest of the UK.

She said: “In my first year I didn’t know any­one apart from the other Ir­ish girls but as I came back for a sec­ond and third time I started to know the names of the other girls and who to look out for.

“Steph Twell was my big in­spi­ra­tion and she won my race in 2007. The next year she won the 1500m at the World Ju­nior Cham­pi­onships in By­d­goszcz and I was 10th and I re­ally looked up to her.

“It’s funny, we are both part of Team New Bal­ance now and when we meet at ath­lete weeks, I tell her she was my in­spi­ra­tion

“I CAN RE­MEM­BER MY MUM PACK­ING MY BAG AND PUTTING SO MANY CE­REAL BARS IN IT THERE WAS ENOUGH FOR THE WHOLE TEAM”

CIARA MAGEEAN

– even though she was just a year older than me. And it was the Mini Marathon that en­abled me to get to know Steph and the other girls bet­ter and ap­pre­ci­ate the sharp­ness of com­pe­ti­tion. Be­fore that my tac­tic was just to run as hard as I could un­til I fell over!”

By the time 2009 came around, Mageean had well and truly lost the feel­ing of be­ing awe of her ri­vals.

“I didn’t ex­pect to win that year be­cause I knew there were some very good Bri­tish girls in the field,” said Mageean. “But I had a plan to go out as hard as I could and see what hap­pened.”

Mageean’s tac­tic worked as she ended up fin­ish­ing four sec­onds ahead of Louise Small and 13 sec­onds ahead of Emelia Gorecka.

An­other ele­ment that made the Mini Marathon ex­pe­ri­ence so spe­cial to

Mageean was the op­por­tu­nity to rep­re­sent North­ern Ire­land.

“You don’t get that chance very of­ten,” said Mageean who will be rep­re­sent­ing North­ern Ire­land over 1500m at the Com­mon­wealth Games, with the heats tak­ing place on next Mon­day (April 9).

“I’m nor­mally run­ning for Ire­land which I love and I’m very proud to do but I’m also very proud to rep­re­sent North­ern Ire­land and it was al­ways great run­ning with the girls from Ul­ster at the Mini Marathon.

“I have stayed in touch with a lot of them and you re­ally do make friends for life. A lot of them are still run­ning. Maybe they haven’t been as lucky as me in hav­ing a ca­reer in the sport but they are still run­ning and still en­joy­ing the sport which is great.”

Mageean was still a teenager when she rep­re­sented North­ern Ire­land in the Com­mon­wealth Games in Delhi in 2010 when she made the fi­nal and fin­ished 10th.

She has since won a bronze medal in the 1500m at the Euro­pean Cham­pi­onships in 2016 and made her Olympics de­but in Rio the same year.

“Win­ning a medal at the Euro­pean Cham­pi­onships gave me ex­tra con­fi­dence,” she said. “I had won medals as a ju­nior ath­lete but be­fore that medal I’d strug­gled with in­juries mak­ing the tran­si­tion to se­niors.

“The Com­mon­wealth Games is a big ob­jec­tive of mine this year. Again I get to rep­re­sent North­ern Ire­land and the peo­ple in my small coun­try.

“I’m def­i­nitely con­fi­dent that if I can get in the right shape, pre­pare well and have that bit of luck on the day, I could win a medal. I wouldn’t put my­self out there if I didn’t think I was ca­pa­ble of it.”

Run­ning for North­ern Ire­land, Ciara Mageean won the Mini Lon­don Marathon as an un­der-17 in 2009

Ciara Mageean: went on to win Euro­pean 1500m bronze in 2016 and goes into the Com­mon­wealth Games as a medal con­tender

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