Home   Folkestone   Sport   Article

History-making South Kent Harriers runner Margaret Connolly to represent England in three different races in 2024

History is thought to have been made by evergreen runner Margaret Connolly.

Connolly, who represents South Kent Harriers from Folkestone and lives in Blean, near Canterbury, has again qualified to be part of the England Athletics age-group team - except, this time, in three different races!

South Kent Harriers’ Margaret Connolly won team silver at the European Masters 10k Championships in 2023
South Kent Harriers’ Margaret Connolly won team silver at the European Masters 10k Championships in 2023

Having represented England’s marathon team at the 2023 MBNA Chester Marathon, she will do so again this year while she will be involved across the half-marathon and 10k distances, representing her England Athletics age-group squad, as well.

Connolly, who also hopes to compete at April’s London Marathon, said: “It’s mental!

“I still cannot believe it. I set it as a challenge because I was overjoyed just to run in the marathon last year.

“I ran the Chester Marathon for England - it was England versus Wales - and England were the victors.

“When I was running for England then, I ran 4hr10min47sec, so I was asked to run for England again at the same event this October.

Margaret Connolly at the 2023 Manchester Marathon
Margaret Connolly at the 2023 Manchester Marathon

“There are five qualifying events for every race and you have got to record a certain time and be in the top three in your race category.

“A friend mentioned to me that the second-to-last qualifying race to run for England in the 10k was in Brighton around the end of November.

“So, I thought to myself ‘I wonder if I can qualify for the 10k as well?’. It was a tougher task because there were a lot of good runners in my age-group.

“It was horrendous weather - but I managed to do it in 50.49. I had to really dig deep.

“I was over the moon that I had qualified for the 10k, as well, and then I was speaking to someone at England Athletics Masters and they happened to say to me that the other distance was the half-marathon.

“The last attempt to qualify for the half-marathon was called the Essar Four Villages.

“That was in January and was 10 miles outside Chester.

“I decided to go for it because someone said that they didn’t think anyone had managed to represent England in all three distances - and in the same year.

“I knew that I had to get under 2:10.00. I don’t tend to run over 2:00.00 for a half-marathon, but I hadn’t done a half-marathon for a while.

“The weather was terrible at that half-marathon. But I went there with a purpose. I knew what I wanted to do and I did it.

“I won the V65 female category overall in 1:56.22, so I’ll have my England kit on three times this year.”

Connolly’s marathon race will again be in Chester on Sunday, October 6.

Before then, the 10k event will merge with the Great Birmingham Run on Sunday, May 5, while the half-marathon race is part of the AJ Bell Great Manchester Run three weeks after that.

Connolly revealed: “I said to my husband earlier that I’m glad I’m not going away to race again for three months.

“I went to Cheshire in January - and the journey home was terrible. We ran in really strong winds and then there were lots of train cancellations.

“From home, it took me maybe four-and-a-half hours to get there the night before. But it took me about nine hours to get home!”

Wet and windy conditions were far from ideal as Connolly qualified across the 10k and half-marathon categories.

But she said: “The weather I hate competing in the most is the real heat of the summer.

“I’d sooner run in the wind and rain. Give me cold weather - I love it - and I run better times.”

While she will turn 66 towards the end of March, Connolly - who enjoys working with club-mates Amy Seager and Darren Scrivens at running events - seems as fit as ever.

She explained: “People in my age group that were maybe faster than me 10, eight or six years ago, they’re not anymore. I’m faster than them.

“They say that you slow down with age - but I’m not slowing down because I just don’t believe that I have to!

“I run between four and five days a week, although there’s a limit to what I’ll run in and I’ll never risk running in snow.

“And I don’t do high mileage. I don’t do the same sort of mileage as I would have done maybe five or six years ago.

“I did my first marathon around nine years ago and probably, in 2017, I was doing my highest mileages when I had marathons. I did three that year.

“So, I don’t do as much mileage now - but I just love running. I very rarely get injured. I’m just lucky.

“England Athletics’ Masters, the people who are running that are putting in a lot of time and effort.

“You have got a lot of categories - people up to maybe their 80s - but once you get over the 75-mark, there’s fewer people.

“But there’s still a lot of older people really into serious competition.”

Connolly cannot pick one England event she’s looking forward to more than another - with the chance to right some wrongs from her 2023 Chester run also in mind.

She said: “It’s so difficult to choose.

“I made a bit of a mistake last year at Chester. I bowed to pressure and I ran in a brand-new pair of running shoes.

“After 20 miles, I thought I could get under the four-hour mark. But my calves were going into spasms in the last 10k because of the shoes.

“So, I had to walk some bits.

“I was disappointed in a way then to end up with 4:10.47 because I was looking like I would go under the four-hour mark after 20 miles.

“But 4:10.47 was good enough for me to get picked to compete for England again this year, so that cheered me up.”

Close This site uses cookies. By continuing to browse the site you are agreeing to our use of cookies.Learn More