40 women, 40 years, 40 great memories of The Echo Women's Mini Marathon

Elaine Duggan chatted to Cork women, dipped into our archives, and also quoted some of our ambassadors from over the years, to collect 40 memories, from 40 women to mark 40 years of the mini marathon
40 women, 40 years, 40 great memories of The Echo Women's Mini Marathon

ALL ABOARD: Fiona Middleton and Lorna O'Callaghan, and a bus load of friends and family, who have taken part in The Echo Women's Mini Marathon regularly over the years.

1) Fiona Midleton, from Crosshaven, has taken part in The Echo Women’s Mini Marathon for a number of years, fundraising for Marymount and Cork ARC Cancer Support House.  She said “The Women’s Mini Marathon to us means a lot because when it hits home, it’s nice to give back, and it’s a date in the diary every year. We also meet with other friends on the day whom we might see only on this day every year, a great way to catch up.”

2) Emma Connolly, of Timoleague: “I’d describe myself as a bit of a hardened cynic (a nice one!), but even thinking about The Echo Mini Marathon reduces me to a weepy mess! I haven’t had the pleasure of taking part for a few years, but I only have to pause for a second and I’m right back there on race day with my Echo pals, in front of the stage warming up with the thousands of others, before heading off and being carried along by a hard-to-describe feelgood factor. 

"I was never a great sports woman, or part of a team, but for those few hours on that day only you feel part of the best team in the world - sisterhood! It’s really something special.”

WOW Mini Marathon Supplement 40 Women 40 Memories 40 years
WOW Mini Marathon Supplement 40 Women 40 Memories 40 years

3) Lorna O’Callaghan, Carrigaline: “The reason I take part in The Echo Women’s Mini Marathon every year is because of obvious reasons, to raise money for cancer charities, but also because it is the only day of the year I get to see some of the great girls I do it with. We always have a fab day out to celebrate and remember loved ones we have lost.”

Carol Hurley with Anna O'Donoghue.
Carol Hurley with Anna O'Donoghue.

4) Anna O’Donoghue: “The minute my best friend got engaged we signed to complete the mini-marathon. We called it ‘steps to the dress’ and loved every minute of it. 

"Most of her big day was planned along the route of the course.”

Eileen Hynes has this front page in her scrap book, it's Eileen and others taking part in the mini marathon on September 27, 1987.
Eileen Hynes has this front page in her scrap book, it's Eileen and others taking part in the mini marathon on September 27, 1987.

5) Eileen Prunty Hynes recalled the year she took part: “Patrick Street was packed with people cheering us on, I remember finishing at the Examiner office, the atmosphere was electric. I ran for St Patrick’s Hospital, Wellington Road, some of the nuns from there were at the finishing line congratulating us.”

WoW! columnist Eimear Hutchinson was our ambassador for our first virtual mini marathon last year. Picture: Dan Linehan
WoW! columnist Eimear Hutchinson was our ambassador for our first virtual mini marathon last year. Picture: Dan Linehan

6) Eimear Hutchinson, mini marathon ambassador, 2021: “I absolutely loved taking part in it (and being the ambassador for it!) last year, it gave me a focal point during the summer to remind myself to take some time out for me in the evenings. This year is the 40th year of the Mini Marathon so an even better excuse to get involved.”

7) Julie and Jean from Carrigaline: “We set up Team ‘Our Nell’ in memory of our sister. We do the mini marathon to raise funds for different cancer charities that helped my sister who passed away from cancer and to also raise funds for departments that helped some of our ladies who have gone through cancer treatment. 

"We can have a team of between 30 to 40 women who take part all, with their own personal reasons or to support us. We make a day of it and celebrate life.”

 Josephine Finn who took part in the first marathon with her mother Pamala Buckley who ran in the second and on the left, Marion Lyons who also ran in the first marathon. Picture Dan Linehan
 Josephine Finn who took part in the first marathon with her mother Pamala Buckley who ran in the second and on the left, Marion Lyons who also ran in the first marathon. Picture Dan Linehan

8) Marion Lyons is another mini marathon stalwart. Marion, of Fairhill, who has lived in Blarney for 53 years, says she has probably only missed one mini marathon - that’s some going. What she loves about the mini marathon is the great camaraderie: “The atmosphere is great, the buzz, the music. We all love it.”

9) Katherine Dooley, Crosshaven: “My favourite memory of The Echo’s Mini Marathon was the year that myself along with my two best friends eventually crossed the finish line! We had planned to do it to mark our 40th birthdays the previous year, but the arrival of two children just before it put a stop to our plans! It was such a great feeling to support and encourage each other along with the thousands of other women. Since that year we have had to do it remotely but I look forward to next year when hopefully we will all be lining up along the marina! 

"There is something about that atmosphere that just gives you all the feels!”

Mary Lee taking part in The Echo Women's Mini Marathon in previous years.
Mary Lee taking part in The Echo Women's Mini Marathon in previous years.

10) Mary Lee, Bishopstown: “I ran three Mini-Marathons in 1985, 86 and 87. I came 11th in 1987, I was 37 years old then. The first one started from Academy Street and was a 10k and the only time I ever hit the wall was in that race, crossing Clarke’s Bridge. I did 42.14 and was very pleased.

“These runs became more significant to me when my daughter Lizzie Lee came second one year and first subsequently. My daughter Rosaleen Mackeown is usually in the top 12.”

11) Karen Hickey, from Ballyvolane, is part of the Wibbly Wobbly Wonders running group, who took part in the mini marathon from 2014 to 2019 and raised €50,000 in the process for different causes.

She said the mini marathon is an “incredible event. It has been a great success.”

The group are only getting back to their meetings this month and won’t be involved this year - but promised to be back next year.

The first year they took part, 300 women from the group got involved.

12) Christine Middleton, Crosshaven: “We love doing the mini marathon every year. It’s a great way to raise funds for charities close to our hearts like Marymount, Pieta House and South Infirmary Cancer Department.

“Many of the women that do it in our group have needed these places and for me personally I’ve seen how much Marymount do for their patients.

“We are a group who started with one or two and now there are about 20/30 of us.”

Second of the right, is Rosaleen McKeown, with coach Donie Walsh and Leevale team-mates Ann Moore, Rosaleen's sister Lizzie Lee who won the race that year, Rosaleen and Sinead O'Connor.
Second of the right, is Rosaleen McKeown, with coach Donie Walsh and Leevale team-mates Ann Moore, Rosaleen's sister Lizzie Lee who won the race that year, Rosaleen and Sinead O'Connor.

13) Rosaleen McKeown, Run with Roz: “I did my first mini-marathon in 2012. After a gap of twp years, I did five consecutive races, coming 5th in 2018 aged 43, which I was thrilled about!

“I always love the mini-marathon as it seems like every woman in Cork takes part and there’s always an amazing buzz around Kennedy Park and the whole of the city, the day it’s on.”

Emma Slattery (centre) pictured in Cork with family members and friends (from left) Paula Barry, Emma Richmond, Sonya Dunne, Donna Linehan, Karen O'Shea and Patricia Dunne, who are all doing the virtual race this year. Picture: Denis Minihane.
Emma Slattery (centre) pictured in Cork with family members and friends (from left) Paula Barry, Emma Richmond, Sonya Dunne, Donna Linehan, Karen O'Shea and Patricia Dunne, who are all doing the virtual race this year. Picture: Denis Minihane.

14) Emma Slattery, from Ballyphehane, who has taken part for Cork ARC Cancer Support House and Marymount over the years, said: “When I was diagnosed with breast cancer eight years ago, the wonderful support and kindness I experienced at ARC House prompted me to do The Echo Women’s Mini-Marathon to help raise funds for them. As the years went on, our circle got bigger and bigger. Now, my sister Donna and I are joined by family and our relations every year for the mini-marathon in aid of ARC.

15) Hilary Sullivan, Head of Fundraising at Cork ARC Cancer Support House, says: “Cork ARC relies on the generosity and goodwill of the public to keep offering vital cancer support services free of charge to anyone who needs them. We could not do this without the incredible support we receive from people like Emma in our community.

“The Echo Women’s Mini Marathon has historically been one of our biggest community events and we hope that the people of Cork will come out again in force again this year to support Cork ARC in these challenging times for fundraising.”

2019 mini marathon winner, Sinead O'Connor (centre), 2nd, Lisa Hegarty (left) and 3rd Claire O'Brien (right). Picture: Jim Coughlan.
2019 mini marathon winner, Sinead O'Connor (centre), 2nd, Lisa Hegarty (left) and 3rd Claire O'Brien (right). Picture: Jim Coughlan.

16) Sinead O’Connor was the winner of the 2019 mini marathon. Winning The Echo Women’s Mini Marathon was always on her wish list, she told us previously: “I had a bucket list of road races that I wanted to win: the first was the John Buckley 5k and I was so thrilled to win that a few years ago, and the second was The Echo Mini Marathon.

“I was the bridesmaid a few years in a row, coming 2nd and 3rd and even 4th. I thought I would never win it! Amusingly, the year I got married I finally won it.” 

Breaking the tape, she said, will be a memory she’ll cherish for life.

“The mini-marathon is a huge event on the running calendar every year. It balances the mass participation and the more competitive element very well. 

"I love that you can have people with different goals completing the same event, whether it means going out and winning or simply completing the distance.

“The top 10 women in the mini-marathon are always great runners, it’s one of the rare events that gets all the top athletes in Cork toeing the line together.

“There are some pretty impressive names on the winner’s trophy, so I was delighted last year to add my name to the list. It has such a brilliant atmosphere too, nothing compares to it.”

17) Meanwhile, second in the last live race, back in 2019, was Lisa Hegarty. Taking part in The Echo Women’s Mini Marathon had been on her ‘to do’ list for a while too: “Apart from soaking up the unreal atmosphere along the route, the icing on the cake was to finish second behind Sinead.

“I think it’s a really important local fixture for athletes as it’s here in Cork in my hometown, and the amount of fund-raising that gets done every year as a result of the race is phenomenal and a great thing to be a part of.”

18) In third place in 2019 was Claire O’Brien, from Gilabbey Street. Claire took up running to help her overcome the tragic loss of her twin brother Pat in a car accident 14 years ago.

“I run all my important races with a pinned locket holding his picture attached under my singlet. I also know he’s with me at every race, as I spent all my childhood growing up racing and trying to beat him!” she said.

Finishing third in The Echo mini marathon back in 2019 was extra special for two reasons.

“My sister Caroline ran it too and I loved sharing this day with her, and seeing her daughters wait for us at the finish line. We got a photo of us at the finish line and it’s one of my most favourite pictures. I just know in years to come my nieces will be running this race too and hopefully I’ll be right beside them!”

19) Clonakilty woman, Fiona O’Donnell took part in The Echo Virtual Women’s Mini-Marathon last year with her three children, on September 20 - to mark the organ donation she received from her best friend, Grainne O’Keefe, from Skibbereen.

“Doing the ‘6k Your Way’ Echo mini-marathon with Robert, Alahna and Ryan, in support of the Kidney Association, is a fitting way to mark the third anniversary of my kidney transplant and to raise awareness for organ donation,” she said, speaking in 2020.

20) Mum of four, Joan O’Brien, from Cloyne, and daughter of Katie, also took part in the mini marathon virtually last year, in aid of Cope. Katie is supported by the Cope Hub Midleton.

Joan said: “During Covid-19 we have been walking 5km together most evenings… walking is a great way to get out and about. 

"We’ve always loved the day out and the fantastic buzz of The Echo Women’s Mini-Marathon. Finishing it is always a great feeling.”

 Brand ambassador back in 2019 was Trisha Lewis, here she is pictured crossing the finish line. Picture: David Keane.
Brand ambassador back in 2019 was Trisha Lewis, here she is pictured crossing the finish line. Picture: David Keane.

21) Trisha Lewis was our Echo mini marathon ambassador back in 2019 - the last live race before Covid hit. Speaking back then she said: “Crossing a marathon line, when I could hardly reach down to tie my shoe laces because my stomach was in the way, was the stuff my wildest dreams were made of — and now it’s happening.”

22) Derval O’Rourke was the mini marathon ambassador back in 2017. The former olympian had never done a marathon or mini marathon herself and only took up recreational running that year.

“The marathon gives people a goal to train. It also does so much for charity too, it is a positive experience.”

23) Olympian Sonia O’Sullivan has taken part in the mini marathon over the years too, Speaking previously, she said: “Set small goals and targets. It’s stepping stones. I will walk when I can’t run and walking is so slow. Try and walk 500m and jog 500m. It’s amazing the ground you cover when walking and running. It’s important to set targets whether it’s time or distance. You don’t always have to compare yourself to other people. Time is important because of the sense of satisfaction when you do improve.”

24) Marian Heffernan, also a former professional runner, has been a huge advocate of the mini marathon over the years too. She said: “I’ve taken part with a group of friends, starting when Regan was around nine months when I ran with her in her buggy. I didn’t finish in any major time, but I still did it!”

Kathleen Kelleher from Aghabullogue aged 86, doing the mini marathon virtually last year.
Kathleen Kelleher from Aghabullogue aged 86, doing the mini marathon virtually last year.

25) Kathleen Kelleher, who started walking the mini marathon in her 80s, has featured in WoW! in the past two years, ahead of taking part. She was among the 7,000 strong crowd on Centre Park Rd back in 2019 and did the virtual race last year too.

Speaking then, she said: “There is great fun at it. Young people are so nice. One year two young teenagers passed me and turned around and gave me a bar of chocolate. It brings out the best in people.

“I am always very impressed by all the people taking part, nearly everyone has a bib on, raising money for charity. People are very good to come out.

“Anyone can do it if they just put their mind to it”

26) GP and mum of three Sarah Fitzgibbon has metastatic cancer and has taken part in the mini marathon for the Mercy Foundation.

Speaking in the past, Sarah said: “The fun atmosphere and the camaraderie was really special… We had a great time.”

27) Frances Drummond is another person who has taken part in the mini marathon in recent years, in memory of her mum Philippin. She fund-raises for Breakthrough Cancer Research.

Speaking previously, she said: “It is important to support these wonderful charities. Seeing all the women line up every year in previous years supporting so many charities is a wonderful thing. 

"I used to cry with emotion at the starting line. The power of women and what they can do together really hits you. It really stands out. I really get that from the day. Women can be strong and emotional together. They really believe in what they are doing.”

28) Celine Dineen, from Glanmire who is taking part in the virtual race this year for the Down Syndrome Centre Cork said: “I normally do it with my mum and two sisters, and a group of women from the Down Syndrome Centre, Cork. It is a great day out, a great day to spend time with others, but also to support your chosen charity. It’s every emotional to see everyone out, taking part for their own cause.”

29) Josephine Finn took part in the first Women’s Mini Marathon in Cork back in 1982 — aged just 13. She took part in the inaugural mini marathon as a young teen — and in most subsequent years too as a “wiry young one”. She’s walked the race in recent years after getting two new hips — and says that is the beauty of the marathon, you can walk or run it, whatever your health and fitness levels. Josephine said the fundraising element of it is great too — she herself has fundraised for many worthy causes, including cancer research and Pieta House.

Asked if the next generation is following in her footsteps, like other family members, she said she hopes her two daughters, who are living in Brisbane and New Zealand, will take part in the virtual marathon with her this year.

30) Pamela Buckley, now aged 83, started running when she was 40 years old and has won Munster medals, county medals and National medals.

She only started running when she was 40 but kept at it until she was 70 — now aged 83, she puts her good health down to her involvement in athletics.

“Everyone should do running, it is good for your health,” she says.

“People thought I was mad when I started running — but it is absolutely brilliant.”

31) Enable Ireland Regional Fundraising Manager, Maria Desmond said: “We’re calling on people to contact us to sign up for the marathon and Team Enable. We’re calling on people to get together virtually with colleagues, family, or friends, knowing you can do it abroad as well.

“It’s to support the children of Cork, many of whom have significant challenges in their lives.”

Mother and son Adam and Therese Clarke. Picture: Darragh Kane
Mother and son Adam and Therese Clarke. Picture: Darragh Kane

32) Therese Clark, whose son Adam is doing the 6km Your Way for Enable Ireland, said: “He has taken every challenge and smashed it. So we have no doubt he will clock up his own 6km for the mini-marathon. All funds raised will go directly to this great cause, Enable Ireland.

“Adam’s 6km on his walker is what he wants to do to help other children like him,” says Therese.

33) Senior cycle students at Scoil Mhuire typically take part in The Echo Women’s Mini-Marathon each year. Last year they did the virtual race, from the school gates to Fitzgerald Park - where they did two laps. To adhere to Covid-19 restrictions, students sported blue and pink ribbons to maintain the two metre social-distancing rule while completing the walk.

Transition year pupils from Scoil Mhuire, Wellington Road, Cork took part in The Echo Women’s Mini Marathon Virtual race last year. Picture: Larry Cummins
Transition year pupils from Scoil Mhuire, Wellington Road, Cork took part in The Echo Women’s Mini Marathon Virtual race last year. Picture: Larry Cummins

Bernice O’Brien said: “It was gas to see them out with their ribbons and running around in Fitzgerald Park like they were four. They thought it was hilarious. They felt like primary school kids.”

34) Cork Sporting icon Rena Buckley has spoke about the benefits of the mini marathon: “Exercise is important for everyone.

“Exercise is hugely enjoyable, can be sociable, and it’s great for body and mind.”

35) Athlete Anna Reddin, taking part back in 2018, said: “It’s a fantastic event with so many people and it’s so well organised.”

In recent weeks we have been pushing out old photos of the mini marathon from our archives, across our social media. Here are some of those comments...

36) On our Instagram account, commenting on an old photo was Shirl: “Ah great memories I also did a few Cork mini marathons in the ’80s, happy days, never give up, love it!”

Deirdre Gould, Boyne Crescent, and Dearbhla Murphy, Old Youghal Road, (both 11 yrs old) proudly showing their medallions after the 1983 Echo Ladies Mini Marathon. They only decided to enter that morning. 
Deirdre Gould, Boyne Crescent, and Dearbhla Murphy, Old Youghal Road, (both 11 yrs old) proudly showing their medallions after the 1983 Echo Ladies Mini Marathon. They only decided to enter that morning. 

37) Also commenting on one of our archive photos of the mini marathon on Instagram was Deirdre Owerstrom (nee Gould), from Boyne Crescent, who was pictured taking part in the race, aged 11, with friend Dearbhla Murphy, from Old Youghal Road, see above. 

She said: “Wow, lovely to see this memory of me. I am now all grown up and living in Sweden since ’94 but I remember that day so well. We had so much fun.”

38) Sinead Sheehan, also commenting on another photo from the 1985 race, said: “I can see my mom in this photo. Brilliant. She loved running.”

39) Nurse Ali Rose Sisk, from Rostellan, also took part in the virtual 6km Your Way last year in aid of Mayrmount.

“As well as caring for cancer patients and their families, Marymount University Hospital and Hospice provides specialist palliative care services to care for dependent older people.” Like everyone everywhere, Ali Rose knows the care at Marymount is second to none.

“The palliative care provided there is amazing,” she says.

40) Karen Darrer, Baltimore said: “I’ll never forget the great atmosphere around Centre Park Road and also along the route as people shouted words of encouragement to us to keep on going. 

"We miss the live event - but will be sure to take part virtually again this year... and hope its back fully in 2022.”

How you can get involved this year...

The Echo Women’s Mini Marathon virtual race day goes ahead this year on September 19. But don’t worry, if you can’t do your virtual 6k on that date, you can do it between Friday, September 16 and 26.

Registration this year is as follows;

a) Early Bird, 10 euro = includes a race number and medal 

b) After Early Bird Closes = 15 euro There will be the option for people to set up an iDonate fundraising page for registered charities.

You can register for the event at the new site: www.echolive.ie/minimarathon 

Also keep an eye on social media @theechominimarathon

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