Vhi Women’s Mini Marathon: How it became the biggest all-women event of its kind in the world
The Vhi Women’s Mini Marathon is celebrating its 35th year this year and it is very fitting that over 35,000 women are expecting to participate on the June Bank Holiday weekend.
The event has grown from humble beginnings in 1983 when almost 9,000 took part to the biggest participation event of its kind in the world.
It all began when a few visionaries noticed an increasing number of women entering the marathon. An idea was born and at a meeting in the Millhouse Pub, the details of an All Women's 10K were discussed. Brooks Shoes and the Evening Press were the first sponsors and Dundrum Athletic Club (now Dundrum South Dublin) were invited to get involved as organisers. When the idea was first discussed, it was thought that maybe 3,000 women would take part. Nobody could believe when entry for the first Evening Press Women's Mini Marathon was almost 9,000!
Since then nearly one million women have participated and there really is no event quite like it. If you are in Dublin on the June Bank Holiday weekend, you can expect to see Mná na hÉireann out in force walking, jogging or running the 10K route, raising money for worthwhile causes and most importantly, having fun!
The Vhi Women’s Mini Marathon is now a landmark event and everyone knows that the June Bank Holiday weekend is the time when women from all over the country congregate in the capital providing a welcome boost to local businesses and hoteliers.
"There is great camaraderie"
The event has mass appeal and according to Kathy Endersen, CEO of the Vhi Women’s Mini Marathon, its inclusive nature is one of the most important factors in its success:
“We have women of all ages representing every county and every walk of life taking part in this great Festival of Women. Every finisher is a winner, and receives a commemorative medal and ribbon to mark the achievement. For many it is an annual event. There is great camaraderie, support and good fun. I’ve yet to experience an atmosphere or buzz in the air like the one on Vhi Women’s Mini Marathon race day.”
This event has grown as women’s interest in their own health and vitality has developed over the last three decades.
While the Vhi Women’s Mini Marathon has had a positive impact on the lives of women who run the race each year, charities from all over Ireland have received thousands over the years in donations raised through the event.
It is the biggest one day charity fundraising event in Ireland. In 2016, it was estimated that €8m was raised by the participants bringing the total since the race started in 1983 close to over €200m. All charities benefit as it is the women themselves who decide who they will support and many local causes gain vital revenue from the event.
The Vhi Women’s Mini Marathon has had the support of some of Ireland’s best female athletes over the years. Sonia O’Sullivan currently holds the course record time of 31 minutes 28 seconds which she set in 2000. While distance runner Catherina McKiernan has won the race the most times, crossing the line first on four occasions.
From Olympic medals to Vhi Women’s Mini Marathon medals, this year the participants will be awarded medals which have been specially designed to commemorate the 35th year of the event. It will be heart-shaped with the 35 years etched on to the medal with a matching ribbon.
"Everyone is welcome"
Vhi Fitness Support, weather presenter and fitness fanatic, Louise Heraghty has ran every Vhi Women’s Mini Marathon since 2003.
She also puts the success of the event down to its inclusivity; “Everyone is welcome. The amount of people that do it with family and friends, it’s a kind of tradition. My mum has been doing it for years and I always meet her, it’s our tradition. The atmosphere is very good at the start line, Irish women just make it good fun, there is always good craic.”
Louise, a Sligo native, shared her own personal anecdote about how she noticed the growing success of the event; “The Sligo train always ran out of tea when the Mini Marathon was on because there were so many women coming up on the train!”
Running an event of this scale is not an easy job and Kathy Endersen is keen to thank her support team, the authorities, sponsors and everyone that makes the day possible;
“We have a very hardworking team and over 800 volunteers assist on race day along with the Gardaí, fire brigade, transport services and the Order of Malta to name but a few, to ensure the event runs smoothly for all. We also have a wonderful group of supports and sponsors including Vhi, everydayhero, Intersport Elvery's, Nissan, TodayFM, The Herald and the Irish Society of Chartered Physiotherapists who support us and help us deliver the best possible experience on race day.”
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