Mary is racing towards her 200th marathon!

Mary Murphy, from Glasheen, talks to Deborah Hickey about starting to run in her 30s, the countries she’s raced in, and why Cork City Marathon is extra special
Mary is racing towards her 200th marathon!
Mary Murphy taking part in Cork City Marathon

“THERE’S nothing like the feeling of crossing the finish line. Over the years, I have learned that instead of focusing on the reasons for not doing things, it is also good to look at the reasons for doing something, and try to have an honest conversation with yourself.”

This philosophy has served Mary Murphy, from Cork, in good stead.

Mary, an employee of the Central Statistics Office, has accumulated some impressive statistics of her own. On June 2 this year, the 60- year-old from Glasheen is planning to complete her 200th marathon by crossing the finish line of the Irish Examiner Cork City Marathon.

The long distance runner has completed marathons the world over and has crossed the finish lines of the world’s most prestigious runs; London, New York, Boston, Moscow, Tokyo and Berlin to mention just some of her impressive international running catalogue. She has run back to back marathons and has completed numerous ultra marathons, at home and abroad, including the 68km Two Oceans Marathon in Cape Town, South Africa.

It may be encouraging for many of us to learn that Mary only took up running in her late 30s having attended a ‘Cork O’ orienteering event with some friends.

“One of the lads started running to the next control, I tried to follow but found it really hard,” she recalls.

Knowing the only way to improve was to begin training, she chose the old railway line by the Marina as her starting point. Mary couldn’t have known that this path would lead to her eventually becoming an international marathoner.

“The path is about a mile long. The first day I think I had to stop about five times,” she admits.

“But after a few weeks, I was able to run the mile non-stop.”

Mary Murphy taking part in the Dublin City Marathon.
Mary Murphy taking part in the Dublin City Marathon.

Steadily increasing her ability, she progressed to completing some Cork BHAA races before running the Cork Mini Marathon. From there she signed up for a half-marathon and completed her first full marathon, in Dublin, in 2002.

Inspired by reading running magazines such as AIMS Distance Running, and from speaking with other runners, the idea of international marathoning grew and the following year Mary ran the London and Moscow races.

So, how does a marathon in Clonakilty or Connemara differ from one in Palestine or Nairobi? Mary notes that there are common denominators in all marathons such as registration, collection of numbers, starting lines and finishing lines, but each is also very different in terms of course, atmosphere and climate.

Extra care must be taken in hotter climates. Whilst there is not a huge amount that can be done in terms of preparing for higher temperatures, Mary is mindful of running safely on the day. She ensures adequate salt is taken before such a run, and is careful to strike the right balance between water and energy drinks throughout the course.

“Travelling for marathons is a really nice way to see different countries and cultures,” she adds.

There is no place like home, however, and Mary has been averaging 15 marathons annually for the last three years in order to cross her 200th finish line, in her home town this June. With marathon number 199 completed on May 5 in Limerick, her focus turns to the Cork City Marathon. This will be a very special day for the Cork native, who is taking the opportunity to raise funds for the Cork branch of Enable Ireland through the momentous event.

Mary Murphy taking part in the Yorkshire Marathon.
Mary Murphy taking part in the Yorkshire Marathon.

Listing the elements that make the Cork run a favourite of hers, Mary mentions the course itself, which contains a lot of variety, taking in northside, southside, eastside, and westside and even leads participants through the Jack Lynch tunnel. She praises the organisation of the event and says that the streets being closed off to traffic and the ability for participants to change in the City Hall after the run is great. It is the people, however, that make this run so special for Mary.

“The support on the course is great, especially when you come into Patrick Street,” she says.

“It’s also great meeting up with a lot of other runners I know and being cheered on by friends. And, of course, the family out in Tramore Road who provide everyone with oranges every year — even in the awful weather of 2015.”

Mary is fortunate in that she has a good recovery time and says she has always enjoyed a reasonably healthy diet. She avoids injury by listening to her body.

“I am not afraid to walk parts of the marathons if I have to. I try to stretch most days and I have gotten great advice from staff at the Mardyke Arena.”

Mary also follows advice once given to to her by a physio after an injury, which was to only resume running when she could walk briskly for 30 minutes. She would offer the same advice to anyone considering taking up running.

“If you can walk comfortably for 30 minutes, then you can try running. Start slow and steady and find somewhere safe to run.”

The Cork City Marathon carries the tag-line, ‘The Marathon for Everyone’. Mary would agree with this.

“If you come out to see the marathon, you will see that runners come in all shapes and sizes.”

When asked to describe the feeling of crossing a finish line, Mary insists that even after almost 200 marathons, the feeling has never become routine.

“There are always challenges out there. There’s been a few times when I was not sure that I would finish. When I have struggled on the course the feeling is one of relief. When things have gone well it is a feeling of pure joy.”

For her, marathon running is hugely positive.

“‘The feeling of setting goals and achieving them is so rewarding and I get to meet so many wonderful people. Everyday life, of course, still happens around the marathons but through life’s ups and downs the feeling of crossing that finish line is always an amazing boost.”



Race organisers are encouraging individuals of all fitness levels and running ability to step up to take part in the Full, Half, Relay or Youth Challenge on Sunday, June 2.

This year’s entry figures are expected to reach new heights and sights are set on beating the target of 10,000 registrations. While the change in day has played a significant role, such substantial interest is also undoubtedly due to the variety of options available to the novice and experienced marathon participant.

Those daunted by the prospect of stepping up to the challenge of the Full Marathon can choose the Half Marathon or share the journey with a group of family, friends or colleagues by registering for the Team Relay.

Young adults across Cork and beyond will also be invited to take part in the event through the Youth Challenge. This initiative, which is aimed at youths over the age of 16 and supported by Cork City Council, the Cork Education and Training Board (CETB), Cork Sports Partnership and the HSE, is not a race or competition, but rather an opportunity for the youngsters involved to embrace health and fitness in a fun, engaging way.

Although Race Day is a huge draw for participants from all over Cork, it also encourages interest from across the globe, with more than 320 international athletes from countries such as the USA, Spain, France and the UK represented in the Marathon in 2018.

See or follow corkcitymarathon or Facebook and Instagram or Twitter @TheCorkMarathon #MoreThanAMarathon


With a growing number of participants, the Cork Marathon organisers need more help than ever. A plea is being made for volunteers who are willing to help out, particularly on race day itself, June 2.

The marathon, which started in 2007, has a superb team of loyal volunteers who return each year to look after race participants. Every year, however, new volunteers are needed and become a vital part of the event. The organisers would be delighted with extra help for stewarding on the course, being part of a water-station team, entertaining the athletes, or assisting at City Hall on race day.

The areas in particular need of volunteers this year are at water stations on the Old Blackrock-Passage Railway Line, Inchigaggin Lane, the Kingsley Hotel and on the Mardyke, but assistance in the changing rooms at City Hall and at Registration (on Saturday, June 1) is also welcomed.

If you have experience stewarding road events, the organisers would be very grateful of your help out on the course to guide and encourage more than 8,000 participants on their heroic journey around the city.

Musicians who would be willing to entertain the runners and supporters around the course are also very welcome!

While volunteers need to be over 18, younger helpers are welcome at water stations so long as they’re supervised.

For further information visit

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