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Image / Self / Real-life Stories

Women in Sport: Irish distance runner Grace Lynch

By Sarah Gill
30th Oct 2023
Women in Sport: Irish distance runner Grace Lynch

Grace Lynch on her early sporting memories, pushing her own boundaries, and sport’s unique ability to bring communities together working towards a common cause.

Grace Lynch is an Irish distance runner specialising in distances ranging from 5k to marathons.

Having represented Ireland both nationally and internationally, Grace competed in her debut marathon at the BMW Berlin Marathon in 2021, running 2.40.06 and placing 20th female overall, and most recently competed in this year’s BMW Berlin Marathon, running 2:38:18.

Grace is a member of the ASICS Frontrunner UK and Ireland team. She is a qualified Sport and Exercise scientist, Neuromuscular physical therapist, AAI Level 1 endurance coach, and works as a regional development officer for Athletics Ireland.

Grace Lynch

Name: Grace Lynch

Profession: Regional development officer for the Athletics Association of Ireland.

Earliest sporting memory?

That would have to be running in the U 9 Kerry County cross country championships in my local town with my sister and family.

How did you become involved in your sport?

Growing up in south Kerry, I was surrounded by so many opportunities to become involved in Sport. I participated in a range of sports (gymnastics, Irish dancing, taekwondo, GAA) and found running at the age of 6/7. My older sister was a member of our local athletics club, and I began running with her on our farmland. The sport really suited me and my personality and my love for running has continued to grow throughout my life.

What message would you like to share with young women and girls interested in pursuing a career as an athlete?

Sport, specifically athletics, has provided me with so much more than winning races or establishing personal best times. It has had a huge influence on my growth as a person, helping me to find my feet and grow my self-confidence which has had a positive impact on both my running career, professional and personal life. I have made some of my best friends and memories through athletics, and it has provided me the opportunity to travel while doing something I love. Sport has also provided me with a platform to help inspire others and voice my own opinions, something which I am so grateful for. For any young woman wishing to pursue a career as an athlete, I would say to just focus on your own path and don’t worry about times or wins. Focus on enjoying the process and you will be amazed by the journey it can take you on.

Proudest moment so far?

It would have to be competing in my debut marathon at the BMW Berlin marathon 2021. There were so many learning curves including navigating a new training program, learning how to fuel for a marathon, adapting my lifestyle and competing over a new discipline. Even though I was excited there were so many unknowns, even on race day, so it was a pretty daunting task. To come away with a positive experience on the day after months and years of hard work was very special.

The female athlete I admire most is…

That’s actually a really hard question as there are so many female athletes, I take inspiration from! I find I can relate to females who express their love of their sport, as that is what has helped me to achieve what I have to date. I like to take inspiration from some of the top marathon runners in Ireland and across the world. Their work ethic and drive to succeed is a quality I really admire.

Do you think there is still a stigma around women in sport?

I think if anyone is to look at sport in social media or sport in general, the topic of women in sport is one which is continually highlighted as something which requires more focus and visibility. As positive as this is, I would love to see a day where this is not a requirement, that female and male sport exist as equal partners. However, I do think there is a need to continually support women in sport as there is still a lot to be done in this area but there is definitely a very positive change happening right now.

What is the biggest barrier to driving visibility in women’s sports?

I feel fortunate to compete in a sport where females and males are equal (in terms of visibility, support, funding, prize money). The athletics community is extremely supportive in nature, as I think we can relate to each other as it is such an individual sport. There is still a lot to be done in terms of visibility across all media. I think the ultimate aim is to help inspire the next generation, so our young females need to see more of our current sports women across all sports. Ensuring that companies and NGB’s recognise this is something which can help going forwards.

Grace Lynch

If I wasn’t an athlete, I would be…

I would definitely still be involved in sport and incorporate travel and content creation into a role where I could highlight females in sport and people pushing their boundaries.

My favourite pre-competition/fight/game meal is…

I always keep things really simple pre-race, so usually it’s oats, banana and honey, and maybe some toast with jam. I’ll ensure my hydration is topped up and have a coffee an hour beforehand.

My pre-competition/fight/game playlist includes…

I used to be big into music pre-race, but now I prefer to stay relaxed and either take in my surroundings during my warmup or just focus on staying relaxed and present. I usually go over my race plan beforehand.

My daily routine is…

As I work full time, organisation is key for me to ensure I get my training in while keeping on top of recovery. Of course, downtime and social life is really important too. Typically, I would run early before work to complete my first session of the day. After refuelling, I would work between home and travelling out to clubs or competitions. My evenings can include either another run (during marathon training) or s and C / rehab to ensure I stay on top of injury prevention. I like to finish up my training for the day before 6pm so I can use the evening to relax, cook dinner and spend time with friends. It is important for me to have this downtime during my day as it means I can recharge my social batteries and feel good at the end of each day.

My biggest sporting goal is…

For me, I want to keep pushing my own boundaries and progressing over the longer race distances. If I looked back 5 years ago, I never would have thought I would be a 2.38 marathon athlete. My main goal is to progress my marathon times with the aim of making international teams.

Sports brands I love (Irish or otherwise) …

I am currently part of the ASICS Frontrunner team so love to train in their apparel and footwear. They also have a great range of lifestyle apparel and footwear which I incorporate into my everyday style. I love to support Irish based brands, so try to support these as much as possible (Irish based sports nutrition, sports recovery companies etc)

Biggest splurge to celebrate a win…

I love to celebrate with my family and closest friends. Something like a great meal in a unique location. Alternately, a holiday anywhere above 25 degrees on the coastline and I am a happy camper!

How do you mind your mental health?

Mental well-being and mindset is something I have huge interest in as a runner, and I like to incorporate it into my daily life. I work with a sports psychologist around big races but ensure that I also incorporate elements into my life which help my mental wellbeing. For me, this could be getting to the coast, relaxing in the sunshine or getting brunch with close friends and having meaningful conversations.

My three desert island beauty products are:

Of course, a good SPF to protect my skin (image skincare is my go-to), a good waterproof mascara and a hydrating lip balm!

I need 8 hours of sleep a night….

Especially when I am in a marathon block as I could typically be training twice a day with a 20 mile long run at the weekend so I need all the recovery I can get! And sleep is the best recovery tool we can access!

Confidence, to me, is…

Being happy and content in my own skin! As someone who used to be less confident in the past, I value how important it is to be confident in yourself and value your qualities as a person. Knowing your self-worth can not be underestimated as it can relate to so many aspects of life (work/ relationships etc).

How do you get over a bad performance?

Running can be a difficult sport as there are many more lows than highs. Some days are tougher than others, especially when you dedicate so much time to training and the performance doesn’t go the way you want. It’s so important having key people who support you as a human being not just as an athlete. So not matter what the outcome, I know I always have someone to support me through the tougher moments.

Lastly, why is sport such an integral part of community, on a club, local, national and personal level?

I think sport is unique in its ability to accept everyone. In athletics, there are so many different disciplines and something to suit everyone. Sport has the capability to bring communities together working towards a common cause. This creates a very special bond among the community and enables people to become more unified. These connections can make a huge difference to our lives – athletes feel supported, supporters feel involved, communities become stronger- everyone has a sense of belonging to something bigger than themselves. It is one of the reasons I love sport- it can bring us all together, no matter who we are or what path in life we have come from.

This article was originally published in November 2022.