Walk this Way - The Future is Bright for Carraig’s Young Race Walkers

January 05, 2024

St. Annes Park in Raheny was the venue on Sunday 17th December for the National Walk Championships and World Race Walking Tour. A warm and dry day that saw almost 250 athletes from 27 countries toeing the line.

Carraig na bhFear had 3 athletes competing in the Girls U18 5km race. Aoife Martin who just turned 15 yrs last month, Robyn Maher and Anna Mullins both still 14 years old.

In a bid to find top class racing two of Europe’s top U18 walkers made the trip to Dublin. The athletes from Romania and Slovakia, both with top 8 finishes at the European Youth Olympics to their name were keen to test themselves against the best of the Irish.

There were 19 walkers competing and as it was a high class field it started at a very fast pace with the favourites hitting the front early. Our 3 girls with little or no experience at this level followed their plan. Aoife went through the first km in 5:05, faster than what she wanted but she was keen to stay in contention for a top 5 finish. She was in the chasing pack and looked comfortable. The second and third km saw some tactical racing. Aoife pushed on in these 2 kilometers and was in fourth position with the Romanian and Slovakian walkers one and two and Savanagh O’Callaghan in third. Going into the fourth km Aoife was on her own in 4th place about 15m to 20m clear of the chasing fifth and sixth placed walkers. On the final km Aoife was still in 4th and still looking comfortable even with a late challenge from Lily Ryan. Aoife cruised home with a massive PB of 26:41, finishing 4th and the 2nd Irish girl home.

Meanwhile this was Anna’s and Robyn’s first ever 5K race, as both were so young they had a different agenda. Both wanted to try and finish in 30 minutes. They started very quickly and had the common sense not to go with the experienced and much older walkers. Instead they tried and achieved to have even splits, they were practically shoulder to shoulder for the first km then Robyn took a very slight lead, never more than 5m to 10m, this was not the day for heroics this was to gain experience and enjoy the race and not blow up at 3km. For the first 4km they were in and around the 6min/km, which was the plan, then they had 1km to go and the time was 24:10, this meant they had to do a very fast last km. On the last km Anna moved past Robyn and with 200m to go both could see the clock. The girls finished with perfect technique and looked comfortable. They completed their first 5k sub 30. Anna in 29:51 and Robyn in 29:57. For both of them to achieve a sub 30min 5K finishing 15th and 16th is staggering when they spent the last few months in Cross Country mode.

Congratulations to all three athletes, that was a huge step forward for you and will stand to you in 2024.

Report by Martin Hurley

Featured Image by Jo Martin

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