With less than three weeks to go until the virtual 2021 West of Ireland Women’s Mini-Marathon, preparations are beginning to ramp up for runners, joggers and walkers around the four corners of the globe who are set to take part in this year’s event on the May Bank Holiday weekend.
Over 1,000 runners have already signed up for the 10k race, with hundreds more registered for the mini-mini and the It’s For Girls runs. Organisers have sought to take full advantage of this year’s event being run on a virtual basis by reaching out to members of the Mayo diaspora around the world to sign up and take part in the race.
Already participants from places such as Chicago, British Columbia in Canada, Stuttgart in Germany and Hertfordshire in the UK have signed up to take part and with registration remaining open right up until race day, the number of overseas runners is set to increase.
One such runner is Margaret King, a lady of deep Mayo roots who is set to run the West of Ireland Women’s Mini-Marathon in her home city of Philadelphia, USA.
Margaret’s mother, Carmel Farragher King, was born in Creevagh in The Neale. Her aunts and uncle and their families still live in the area.
Margaret was born in Philadelphia and has been involved with Irish dance and cultural events in the city all her life. For the last 12 years she has served as the Rosebud Co-ordinator for the Philadelphia Rose of Tralee committee, who were represented by Mayo native and Rose of Tralee winner Maria Walsh back in 2014.
“We have many families with Mayo roots in our organization and it is a pleasure to bring these girls together under our motto of ‘camaraderie, not competition’,” said Margaret through email this week.
The committee encourages the celebration of Irish culture among those people of Irish heritage and the empowerment of young Irish women through participation in GAA, Irish dance and community service activities. Margaret is also involved in the McDade-Cara School of Irish Dance, another important cultural institution for Philadelphia’s Irish-American community.
Margaret is an active runner and has taken part in a number of 5k and 10k charity races over the past 12 months, but when a relative altered her to the virtual West of Ireland Women’s Mini-Marathon this year, she said the Mayo-based event “truly hit me in the heart.” She signed up immediately to take part over the May Bank Holiday weekend.
Margaret is also embracing the ‘Your Hero’ element of the race, which encourages participants to dedicate their run in the Mini-Marathon to a special individual or group who has gone above and beyond the call of duty over the last year, be it a frontline worker, a family member or someone in their community. Runners can also choose to honour a loved one who has passed away over the last year.
Everyone who registered for the mini-marathon will be sent a special bib to print off and write the name of their hero on for race-day. For Margaret, that hero is her 83-year-old mother Carmel.
“She shows us all how to be strong and grateful throughout shutdowns and quarantines,” said Margaret.
She is also running in honour of the frontline healthcare workers in her family:
“Katie on the Covid Floor at Penn Presbyterian Hospital; Jamie, an Infectious Disease Specialist at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center; and Ali and Brian at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia – they have all sacrificed and continue to work hard to save lives under grueling circumstances.”
People of Mayo descent like Margaret around the world are embracing the opportunity to take part in the Mini-Marathon while celebrating the Mayo Day weekend, which also takes place over the May Bank Holiday.
The festival is an opportunity to celebrate everything that makes the county unique – its heritage, traditions and the bonds that bind Mayo people together no matter where in the world they are.
In this year of all years, with travel restrictions preventing members of the diaspora from traveling home as they normally would to visit friends and relatives, the Mayo Day celebration is arguably more important than ever, a reminder of the roots that will always connect Mayo people to home and an expression of hope that better days will soon be at hand.
To sign up for the West of Ireland Women’s Mini-Marathon, in association with Mayo.ie, the Mayo Sports Partnership and the Western People, visit http://www.westofirelandwomensminimarathon.com/