Mini Marathon: For one day only, the mná na hÉireann shut down Dublin city

In the Cooney household, the June Bank holiday weekend means only one thing – the Women’s Mini Marathon. It has been a constant throughout my life – not down to a love of running, and definitely not from a burning desire to beat a personal best. Instead, my love for the Mini Marathon comes from my amazing Mum, Geraldine who has run it every year since I was 4.

I remember her first year, training in the cold winter evenings with my brother cycling alongside her (in some questionable running gear – there was no Lulu Lemon in 1998). Although she hadn’t exercised since leaving school, she quickly fell in love with the clear headspace and empowerment that running offered her. Perhaps it was the need for escapism, or the thought of taking on a new physical challenge that drew her to taking up running, but it’s a fire that hasn’t stopped burning since.

Throughout the years, she has overcome knee surgeries, job stresses, and back problems and always kept running. No matter how difficult, short or slow the runs were, her persistence never wavered and it taught my sisters that exercise should be about how it makes you feel, not just how it makes you look. Whilst I was never tempted by the running side of things (and still am not 364 days of the year), I was always intrigued, cheering her on from the sidelines with my Dad on those sunny afternoons in town. The adventure, camaraderie, and specialness of the day was obvious from the get-go.

For one day only, the mna na hEireann shut down Dublin city. No matter if they were running, walking, or dancing across that finish line – there is an undeniable sense of pride and accomplishment across each of their faces. Whatever this buzz was, I wanted a piece of it.

I had watched my two sisters take on the challenge with my Mum, and almost as a right of passage, I joined in on the fun in 2011 with my Mum and super-fit friend Jade, who kept me motivated the whole way through. Each year has had a different focus, we have run for Breast Cancer Ireland, Aware, and the DSPCA – three incredible organisations, very close to my family’s heart. Our running crew has varied every year with each of the daughters having lived away at different points. The only person who has made it to the finish line year in, year out is my Mum in her Asics and gradually improving gym gear.

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One of the highlights was in 2013, the year of The Gathering, when my Mum decided to have a gathering of our own. The call went out to all the ladies in my extended family, who travelled from across the country and from the States. It was a day our family won’t forget. This year there is great excitement as the four Cooney ladies will be reunited again with my sister Eileen coming home from New York especially for the big day.

There is no feeling like running down the N11, with ladies of all shapes, sizes, backgrounds with one thing in common – the get up and go to get out there and take part. If I’m ever feeling down, or not quite good enough, I just think back to one of my most euphoric ever moments – running across the finish line last year alongside my sister Frances, with ‘Who Run the World’ by Beyonce blaring in my ears.

So if you’re on the fence about taking part next year, DO IT. No matter if you run, walk or crawl over the finish line. It is an amazing day, one that will make you smile, and proud to be a woman in Ireland.

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