Family and friends of tragic Ashling take part in Cobh road race tribute

A 10-mile run in Cobh recently included a dedication to Ashling Murphy, and members of her family and friends attended, reveals AEDIN JOHNSTON
Family and friends of tragic Ashling take part in Cobh road race tribute

Sonia O’Sullivan with Ashling Murphy’s family and friends after the Cobh 10-mile road race named after the athlete, which featured a mile dedicated to Ashling

THE family of Ashling Murphy, who was fatally attacked while out on a run near her home in Tullamore earlier this year, have attended a road race in Cobh dedicated to her memory.

The organisers of The Sonia O’Sullivan ten-mile road race in Cobh earlier this month had decided to dedicate the fourth mile to Ashling, who died while out jogging along the Grand Canal just outside Tullamore, Co. Offaly, in January.

Her tragic death sparked a huge wave of emotion and a concern for the safety of women in the country.

When members of Ashling’s family heard about the gesture, they decided to travel from Tullamore to Cobh to compete in the run.

Heather Sillett, a member of the Cobh race organising committee, said: “Ashling was doing the simplest of things, going about an everyday routine of a jog by the canal.

“We didn’t know her but her death had a huge impact on us.

“As we were so deeply affected by it, we decided to dedicate the fourth mile to her, as she had gone out for a run at 4pm.

“Everyone was shocked by her death. But sometimes this fades with time. By dedicating the fourth mile to Ashling, she will not be forgotten and will be remembered every year at the race and in the running community.”

This part of the race was known as the Ashling Murphy Mile. Local businesses sponsor each mile but it was the only mile of the race named in honour of someone’s memory.

Ashling Murphy
Ashling Murphy

Ashling was a keen sportswoman and played camogie at senior level with the Kilcormac Killoughey Camogie team.

Members of her family are also members of the Killcormac Killoughey Athletics Club and when they heard on social media that the Cobh road race committee and Ballymore Athletic Club were going to honour Ashling, they were deeply moved. They contacted the organisers and advised them that they would like to participate in the race.

The race committee said: “We had never imagined that Ashling’s family members would travel to Cobh from Tullamore for the race, but we were deeply humbled when they did.”

As a result, 15 runners from the Kilcormac cub and many of her family members and friends ran in the race on the day, April 3.

They said the warm welcome and hospitality they received was overwhelming and heart-warming, said Heather, adding: “Ashling’s family and friends being there made the day so special.”

Heather said: “Many runners shed a tear as they passed the fourth mile stage of the race. This is a difficult part of the race and runs from Ballymore and ends near the top of Birds Hill.

“Many of the runners on the day admitted that having the Ashling Murphy mile gave them perspective and instead of dreading the hills of Cobh it made them count their blessings on being able to participate.”

Beautiful pictures of Ashling lined her part of the route, placed by Ballymore AC.

Ashling was also a talented musician and as a tribute, Comhaltas musicians played lively jigs and reels which lifted the runners’ spirits as well as their feet.

Also along the route were the Bunker Hill band at mile two and Telassa at mile nine. The musicians, many from the local Colaiste Muire secondary school, helped to create a fantastic atmosphere on what was a warm spring day.

This was the first race in Cobh since the beginning of Covid. There were 633 participants, some of whom included famous Cork runners such as Sonia O’ Sullivan and Rob Heffernan. Other famous runners such as Derval O’ Rourke also supported the race by attending as onlookers.

All funds collected as a result of the race went to Breakthrough Cancer research, a Cork-based charity which is committed to funding research to improve cancer care and outcomes.

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