Friday, March 03, 2023

Pictured in Ballina at the launch of the 2023 Western People Women’s Mini-Marathon were members of Mayo AC and the Mayo Sports Partnership. From left: Angela O’Connor, Sarah Syron, Paula Donnellan, Anne Egan, Norah Newcombe-Pieterse, Janette Slattery, Deirdre Clarke and Deirdre Donnelly. Picture: John O’Grady

The countdown to the 2023 Western People West of Ireland Women’s Mini-Marathon is continuing apace and with less than months to go until race day on April 30, preparations for the event are well underway.

This year’s Mini-Marathon will be the first to be held in Ballina, with the North Mayo capital chosen to host the race as part of the Ballina 300 celebrations, the year-long programme of events marking the 300th anniversary of the town.

Runners from around Mayo, around Ireland and overseas are already well into their training programmes for the Mini-Marathon but it is important to remember that you don’t need to be a runner to take part in the event. A core tenet of the Mini-Marathon since its inception back in 2010 has been inclusion, and organisers of this year’s event in Ballina are keen to ensure that the Mini-Marathon is open to participants of all athletic abilities, from those athletes seeking new personal best times over the 10km distance to joggers and walkers taking part for fun.

Sandra O’Neill from Ballina is set to take part in the Mini-Marathon for the first time this year. Sandra is a native of Ballina and with the Mini-Marathon coming to her hometown for the first time, she decided to give it a go.

“I have a friend of mine roped into it so she’s doing it with me,” said Sandra this week. “We’re getting there. Some people are under the impression that we’ll just go and do a 10k, that we don’t have to train for it. But they don’t realise how far a 10k is!”

Sandra works in Ballina, in Kilmoremoy Parish Development’s Community Employment Scheme, and she has also recruited several of her colleagues to take part in the Mini-Marathon.

“They all signed up for it yesterday and I told them they need to start their training now,” she said. “They go: ‘What do you mean, training?’

“So I have done up a training plan for them to get going. We’ll all walk together and nobody will leave anybody behind. We’ll go at the pace of the slowest person and it doesn’t matter about the time, so long as we finish.”

The training plan will have Sandra and her fellow participants out walking the roads around Ballina over the next couple of months in preparation for the big day on the May Bank Holiday Sunday.

“It’s every second day. We do three shorter walks during the week, and then one longer walk for maybe for 45 minutes, and then as we go on we might go up to 60 minutes or 70 minutes and so on. It’ll bring us up to about an hour and a half.

“I’m probably the most unfit person you’ll meet!” laughed Sandra. “Come January every year I do what they call the 31-Day Challenge. You walk for 31 days, no matter what the weather is like. You either go for half an hour or for 5km, whichever suits you best. There’s a group where you go in and you post that you’ve done it. Everyone pays €10 and that money goes to a charity.”

Registration for the 2023 West of Ireland Women’s Mini-Marathon is now open at An early-bird rate of €20 per entry can be availed of until March 17, after which entries will be €25 per person.

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