Leitrim’s proud athletics tradition was extended even further last Sunday when Kinlough’s Breege Connolly became the first Irish woman to achieve the Qualifying standard for next year’s Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.
The daughter of Sean and Maureen Connolly, Breege became the first Irish woman to achieve the Olympic Qualifying standard of 2 hours 42 minutes when she ran a stunning 2.37.29 in last Sunday’s Virgin London Marathon, finishing just over half a minute behind the legendary Paula Radcliffe.
Running with the massed start rather than the elite women, Breege was the second woman across the line from the massed start as she took over two minutes from her previous best in a breakthrough performance.
Speaking on Monday to the Observer, Breege’s initial reaction was one of tired happiness - “I think I’m tired now and I think everyone else is more excited now but it is lovely to have so many people getting in touch with congratulations.”
Leitrim’s fastest ever female marathoner with her time of 2.37.29, Breege hails from Moneen on the Manorhamilton road outside Kinlough but is based in Belfast where she works and runs with North Belfast Harriers.
The Qualifying period for the Marathon ends on July 11, 2016 with the Olympics being held in Rio de Janeiro from August 5, to 21, and although Breege is the first Irish runner with the qualifying time, there is expected to be stiff competition for the three places in Rio.
Double European Cross-country champion Fionnuala Britton who ran 2:31:46 last year and Irish champion Maria McCambridge, who ran 2:34:19 in finishing second in Dublin last October are among a host of athletes targetting the qualifying time.
• For more reaction from Breege, see page 80.