Ciara Mageean, from County Down, Northern Ireland, ran the Mini London Marathon three times and won the U17 women’s race in 2009. She has gone on to win silver and bronze medals in the 1500m at the 2016 and 2022 European Championships, plus a silver medal at the 2022 Commonwealth Games.
Ciara said: “It was actually winning the Mini London Marathon in 2009 that made me think I should start taking my running seriously.
“I remember coming over for my first Mini London Marathon and not really knowing what to expect. Heading over to London was a big deal though. I can remember my mum packing my bag and putting in so many cereal bars that there were enough for the whole team!
“It was probably my first experience of running in front of that many people. I’ve still got all the souvenirs from the three years I took part – but it was that first year that I remember being particularly awe-struck.
“There was just so much to take in. I can remember just receiving my first Northern Ireland Mini London Marathon T-shirt was inspiring in itself – I’ve still got that somewhere. I can remember the huge Start Line, the stampede once the race got underway and just being swept along by the thrill and excitement of it all.
“In my first year I didn’t know anyone apart from the other Irish girls, but as I came back for a second and third time I started to know the names of the other girls and who to look out for.
“Steph Twell was my bighest inspiration – she won my race in 2007. The following year she won the 1500m at the World Junior Championships in Bydgoszcz and I was 10th. I really looked up to her. It was the Mini London Marathon that enabled me to get to know Steph and the other girls better and appreciate the sharpness of competition. Before that, my tactic was just to run as hard as I could until I fell over!
“I really didn’t expect to win in 2009 because I knew there were some very good British girls in the field. But I had a plan to go out as hard as I could and see what happened.
“It is always special to represent Northern Ireland too. I’m normally running for Ireland – which I love and am very proud to do – but I'm also very proud to represent Northern Ireland and it was always great running with the girls from Ulster at the Mini London Marathon.
“I have stayed in touch with a lot of them and you really do make friends for life. A lot of them are still running. Maybe they haven't been as lucky as me in having a career in the sport, but they are still running and still enjoying the sport which is great.”