Aoife Cooke flies high to qualify for the Olympic Marathon

Cork runner overtook Sonia O'Sullivan to move fourth on the all-time Irish marathon list
Aoife Cooke flies high to qualify for the Olympic Marathon

Aoife Cooke was the first Irish female winner of the women's category in the 2019 KBC Dublin Marathon. Picture: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

CORK runner Aoife Cooke ran an Olympic marathon qualifying time on Sunday. 

The Cork woman won the Cheshire Elite Marathon in 2:28.30, a minute inside the Olympic standard.

In 2019, Aoife was crowned National Marathon Champion in Dublin, clocking an amazing time of 2h 32m 34s.

Nothing but hard work since, it all worked out on Sunday morning, with Cooke delivering the performance of her life.

The run improved on her own personal best by just over four minutes, and it makes the 34-year-old the second Irish woman to meet the marathon standard for Tokyo. Fionnuala McCormack ran 2:26.47 in the 2019 Chicago Marathon to qualify.

Cooke has also moved from fifth to fourth on the all-time Irish marathon list, leaping over Sonia O'Sullivan's 2005 run of 2:29.01.

Aoife Cooke. Picture: David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile
Aoife Cooke. Picture: David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile

After passing halfway in around 1:13:30 she did slow slightly in the closing miles, but never once fell off the qualifying time.

Representing the Eagle Athletic Club in Cork, all the talk in recent days was that Cooke was on course to reach the Olympic standard time. 

The marathon was streamed on Facebook, and it attracted a huge following. To produce a career-best performance when the pressure was on was magnificent for a determined and classy Aoife Cooke.

She will join the already-qualified Fionnuala McCormack as Ireland's representatives in the women's marathon this summer. Stephen Scullion, Kevin Seaward and Paul Pollock are the three Irish athletes who have already achieved the standard for the men's marathon.

Letterkenny AC's Ann-Maria McGlynn, who finished third in the Cheshire race, also set a personal best of 2:29:34 but it was ultimately just four seconds short of the qualifying standard.

Aoife has been involved in athletics since the age of 11 and she also spent a few years in America on scholarship. Well known for winning races on the Cork and Munster circuit, Aoife has been winning races for several years now. Back in 2016, Aoife won the famous Ballycotton '10'. Since then, numerous big-race wins have followed.

In the lead-up to that National Marathon success, it was very evident that Aoife was on for something special. Although many athletic journalists described it as a shock win, it certainly wasn't a shock to the people of Cork and Munster who have been watching Aoife winning races for several years.

Sunday's performance has brought her form to another level and one thing's for sure, there is much more to come. Cooke's next overseas trip is likely to be to the Olympics.

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