The Western People West of Ireland Women’s Mini-Marathon, which celebrates its tenth anniversary this
year, is again putting out the call for secondary school students across Mayo to get involved in the ‘It’s
For Girls’ initiative, the programme which encourages schools to introduce collective training for their
students to participate in the mini-marathon.
The ‘It’s For Girls’ initiative has proven a resounding success since it was first introduced into the mini-
marathon programme in 2016, with the number of participating schools and students having risen year-
With the tenth-anniversary mini-marathon being held in Castlebar on Sunday, May 5, the Western
People, the Mayo Sports Partnership and Mayo County Council are again hoping for a good response
from schools around the county.
One school which has definitely taken the spirit of the ‘It’s For Girls’ initiative to heart is St Joseph’s of
Castlebar. St Joseph’s have collectively participated in the mini-marathon every year since 2016, and
have won the award on offer for the school which bring the highest number of runners to take part in
each of those years.
Caroline McGrath is a teacher in St Joseph’s and the driving force behind the school’s association with
the mini-marathon. A keen runner herself with Ballina AC, who had taken part in the mini-marathon for a
number of years prior to the ‘It’s For Girls’ initiative being launched, she immediately saw the potential for
her students to get involved.
“I’m a runner myself and I know the benefits of an active lifestyle for girls in their teenage years,” said
Caroline this week. “So I said to the girls in the school: ‘This is on your doorstep, why not take it up?’”
St Joseph’s had 70 students taking part in the mini-marathon in 2016. By 2018, that figure had risen to
120. Some of the girls run the 10k route, some jog and some walk, and Caroline explained that the
weekend of the mini-marathon is always a big one in the school.
“We call it the Pink Ribbon weekend. We have a pink non-uniform day, and all the students take part.
The whole school raises funds for Rock Rose House in Castlebar and breast cancer research,” she said.
“We have people from Rock Rose House come in to talk to the senior girls about breast care so it’s quite
a holistic approach.”
Several of the St Joseph’s students and teachers are involved in athletics away from the school, such as
promising triathlete Maeve Gallagher and teacher Lorraine Carey. Other students play GAA and soccer,
while Caroline herself is a runner and coach with Ballina AC.
“We try to particularly target the Transition Year girls, because they have that bit more time to train
without the pressure of exams,” said she. “But we have girls from first year through to sixth year taking
part, and last year we even had some past pupils running with us.
“I try to explain the physical and mental benefits of running to the girls. Running on your own can be
great for your headspace, and running as part of a group is great for the social aspect and the comradery
that comes with it.”
With this year’s mini-marathon less than two months away, Caroline said that the training plans are
already going up around the school. The programmes are designed to help students with little or no
previous experience of road running to prepare for the event, taking a step-by-step approach to training.
“There’s always a great buzz around the school ahead of the mini-marathon,” said Caroline. “We’ve won
the ‘It’s For Girls’ prize for each of the last three years and we’ll be hoping we can win it again this year!”
The secondary school that brings the most participants to the mini-marathon, on a percentage basis of
the school’s enrolment, will win the ‘It’s For Girls’ trophy. Entry under the initiative is just €10 per runner
for students, teachers, coaches and mentors.
All participants will also receive a special tenth anniversary mini-marathon technical tee-shirt, finishers’
medals and goodie bags. Schools wishing to sign up to the initiative should register their interest with the
Mayo Sports Partnership as soon as possible.
Registration for the tenth anniversary Western People West of Ireland Women’s Mini-Marathon is now
open. Participants can sign up by filling in the entry form printed below and sending it to the Mayo
County Council offices in Castlebar, by entering online at westofirelandwomensminimarathon.com or by
calling into the MSP offices in Moneen, Castlebar. Closing date for entries is Friday, April 26.