Monday 24 October 2016

Athletics: Maria McCambridge is in for the long haul

Maria McCambridge
Maria McCambridge

A mere 16 years after she first ran the race, Maria McCambridge finally won the VHI Women's Mini Marathon last Monday on a truly awful day for running.

Last year she finished second; she also finished second in 2010 and third in 2013.

Despite the vicious headwind in the first half of the race, she also clocked a very respectable time of 34 minutes 3 seconds leaving it to Anne Marie McGlynn and three-times previous winner Catherina McKiernan to battle it out for second place.

McGlynn just made it, with McKiernan, who is now 45, proving that age is no barrier to athletics success.

A hapless reporter asked McCambridge whether she was a "competitive" person at the end of Monday's race.

What a question! Although she turns 40 next month, McCambridge is aiming squarely to make the Irish team for next year's Rio Olympics, and has shown impressive form in recent months.

Most recently, she ran a lifetime best of 33 mins 12.28 secs for 10,000m at the Night of 10,000m meet in Highgate London, which means she tops the Irish rankings.

Her big aim this year is an autumn marathon with a fast time the target. Although the qualifying standard for women is a very soft 2 hours 42 minutes, only three women - at most - will travel.

Three years ago, four women qualified for London 2012 and McCambridge was the one who stayed at home, with her age certainly a factor. Her response was to win the Dublin Marathon a few months later in a personal best time.

A big inspiration to McCambridge is English athlete Jo Pavey, who a month before her 41st birthday last year, won the 10,000m at the European Championships. Go back to 2004 and the Athens Olympics and you will find Pavey lining up in the 5000m with McCambridge. These women have longevity.

Another poster girl for the more mature athlete is Pauline Curley, a previous winner of the women's mini marathon.

Now 45, Curley concentrates on the marathon, running at least two a year and still under the 2 hours 50 minutes barrier.


She was in Derry last Saturday where she not only finished first woman but was seventh overall with a time of 2:47.29 in the Walled City Marathon.

News also came through last week of 38-year-old Mayo woman Sinead Diver. The Belmullet woman emigrated to Australia 12 years ago and after starting to run, she made big progress.

After her a time of 2:34.15 at the Melbourne Marathon last October, she has been selected to represent Australia at the World Championships later this year and, like McCambridge, has her sights set on Rio next year. Long may they all flourish!

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