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Mini London Marathon memories

Success stories from the Mini London Marathon

First held in 1986, the Mini London Marathon is one of the most prestigious youth events in the country. It has seen some of the cream of British athletes come through the system and go on to make their mark on the world stage.

Notable past winners include Sir Mo Farah, David Weir, Charlotte Purdue, Ciara Mageean and Jess Judd, as well as victors who have gone on to achieve great things in other sports such as Non Stanford, a former world triathlon champion, and Jamal Lewis, a Premier League footballer and Northern Ireland international.

But not all future stars were among the leading finishers at the Mini London Marathon. Laura Muir was 26th in the U17 women’s category in 2010 and Keely Hodgkinson was 42nd in the 2017 U17 women’s race. Others who have raced the Mini London Marathon but not made the podium include recent medallists at major championships such as Jake Wightman, Eilish McColgan and Josh Kerr.
Below, three successful sportspeople talk about their Mini London Marathon experiences.

Ciara Mageean

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.”

Jake Wightman

Jake Wightman represented Scotland at the 2008 and 2009 Mini London Marathon, with a best-placed finish of 21st in the U15 boys race in 2009. Since then, he has progressed to become one of the world’s best middle distance runners. He has silver and bronze medals from European Championships for 800m (2022) and 1500m (2018) and two bronze medals in the 1500m from the 2018 and 2022 Commonwealth Games. But his biggest success to date is winning the 1500m title at the 2022 World Championships in Eugene, USA.

Jake said: “I did the Mini London Marathon twice in the middle age group (U15). At that age, I was not very grown up and I was just swallowed up. But that was as good as I could have run on each day and that’s what’s important – just being involved.

“My advice to anyone running the Mini London Marathon is to just enjoy it. You don’t get too many opportunities to run in events like the Mini London Marathon and it doesn’t matter where you finish. 

“For me, the Mini London Marathon was the highlight of my junior career because it is such a different event. I never used to do any track until I was 17 and it was mainly cross-country for me when I was younger – and this was much different to that!

“We used to go down to London for the Mini London Marathon and not have a clue who anyone was. We were a bit sheltered. For us to come as far south as London and be part of an event like that was awesome. It was a proper occasion and a great race.

“I can remember the races being typical races for that age. Everyone went off so hard and I would have been with the masses. I can remember the atmosphere being special, going past some of the drumming bands and then finishing in front of the crowds on The Mall. I was lucky because I could then stay on with my parents after my race and watch the London Marathon itself, as dad (Geoff Wightman) was announcing.”

Hannah Cockroft

Hannah Cockroft is one of Britain’s most famous and decorated Paralympians. She took part in two Mini London Marathons, in 2009 and 2010, and won on both occasions despite taking up wheelchair racing only months before her first victory in 2009. She has gone on to become a British Paralympic great, winning seven medals in distances between 100m and 800m across three Paralympics (London 2012, Rio 2016 and Tokyo 2020). She is also the world record holder for the 100m, 200m, 400m, 800m and 1500m in the T34 classification.

Hannah said: “I actually started in athletics with the discus and was competing at the UK School Games when Ian Thompson, husband of Tanni Grey-Thompson, asked if I had ever thought about wheelchair racing. My dad was with me and, being a typical Yorkshireman, said: ‘Well, we’re down here now, you might as well have a go’. So I did – and I loved it so much that I quit throwing on the spot.

“I was 15 when I did my first Mini London Marathon. It was only a few months after a talent ID day at Loughborough and it was the first event I had ever competed in that was televised, so it was massive for me. It was very exciting.

“I particularly remember the second year because the competition was really on. Jade Jones (another athlete who has progressed from the Mini London Marathon to the Paralympics) had come up into my age group and we both just got our heads down and raced.

“I think we were quite close, and I just got past her in the final mile. But my lasting memory of that year’s race was thinking: ‘Cool, I’m going to be on the telly when I get home’ – only for me to then get home and see that I was named winner of the boy’s race and Jade the winner of the girl’s race!

“It was just an incredible experience. The amount of support we got out there on the roads was amazing. We were used to just competing on a track in front of every dad and a dog. Now we were racing in front of thousands of people, with everyone willing us on.”