The parkrun ‘world record’ that cost Ciara Mageean the indoor season

Irish athlete tweaked her hamstring during the Christmas run, sidelining her from training for several weeks

The plan was for a quick pre-Christmas blowout, Ciara Mageean taking on the 5km parkrun at Victoria Park in Belfast last December 23rd before moving into the more serious business of Olympic year.

Her time was suitably satisfying – her 15 minutes and 13 seconds the then fastest parkrun by a woman anywhere in the world – only it likely cost her the indoor season, Mageean’s tweaking a hamstring in the process, sidelining her from training for several weeks.

Last month the Parkrun organisers made the decision to remove course and age-category records from its website, along with parkrun “world records” and statistics for most wins, as they sought to make its data less performance-oriented.

Not that Mageean was chasing a time or the win, and despite the injury setback it has whetted her appetite to take on another 5km in more competitive circumstances.


“It was a random Christmas fleet to parkruns, because most of us, if we travel home for Christmas, we want a bit of a blowout,” she says. “My boyfriend Thomas [Moran] said there’s a nice one up in Belfast, I’d flown in, and was like I’ll give it a lash.

“I just did a stride, and I’ve been getting a neural pain for a number of years, a little shooting neural pain. And I thought ‘ah, that feels like that’, just a little tweak, it didn’t impact my running. So I’d just run it off. Then later that evening, my glute-hamstring got a little tight.

“So I took it easy the next few days, ran a bit slower, a few less miles, and then we were on camp in Flagstaff [in January], I tried my first session, and I was like ‘no, it’s not good’.

“So I got an MRI out there, thankfully it was nothing crazy bad, but thankfully I work with a great sports doc in Manchester, sent the scans, and he was like ‘the year that’s in it, I would advise you to take a bit of downtime time, and we’ll be conservative in our approach back’.

“Because there’s too much at stake in the summer. Ultimately that made my decision to put a halt on the indoor season, which was disappointing, because I was in really good shape. There won’t be another parkrun, but I wouldn’t mind given a last to a good ol’ 5k though, somewhere in the future.”

For Mageean, who turns 32 next week and last summer twice improved her own Irish 1,500m record and added marks too in the 800m and mile, it represents a minor setback to her Paris preparations.

This time last year, after tearing the peroneal tendon in her foot last December, she also missed the indoor season: “Yeah, so it’s not bad, is it? I had a good summer last year, so maybe if I just follow the exact same trend. I’m back training now, the only thing I’m feeling is that I’m not as fit as I’d like to be, that’s a good place. But the hamstring is feeling great, touch wood.”

Speaking in Dublin at the announcement of Flogas as the energy partner of Team Ireland for the Paris Games, Mageean had original plans to race last weekend’s World Indoor Championships in Glasgow, given the proximity to her training base in Manchester.

“Sometimes the World Indoors is such a cauldron, melting pot, and if it was faraway, I probably wouldn’t have travelled. But because it was Glasgow and so close, I was probably going to focus on the 3k, that’s what I like to do over the indoor season.”

Now all thoughts turn to the summer, Mageean confirming she will also race the European Championships in Rome in June, before the Paris Olympics at the end of July, the natural ambition being to improve on her fourth-place finish at last year’s World Championships in Budapest.

Ian O'Riordan

Ian O'Riordan

Ian O'Riordan is an Irish Times sports journalist writing on athletics