Olympic runner Ciara Mageean pining for Portaferry more than ever in midst of pandemic

Ciara Mageean was due to represent Ireland at the Tokyo Olympics, but will have to wait until next summer to compete at her second Games. Picture by PA
Neil Loughran

OLYMPIC athlete Ciara Mageean admits there are “days I don’t even want to go out and run” as she comes to terms with lockdown life in Manchester, far from friends and family back in Portaferry.

The 28-year-old should be in the middle of training for the Tokyo Olympics but, following their postponement until next summer, now finds herself pining for home and trying to find ways to cope with the new normal.

Middle-distance runner Mageean was speaking at launch of Sport NI’s Wellbeing Hub, which provides a range of innovative tools and resources, including guided self-assessment via ‘Chatbot’, self-help programmes and digital intervention tools, a searchable ‘five ways to wellbeing’ map and a wellbeing information library.

Alongside the likes of former Armagh and Crossmaglen forward Oisin McConville and Ballymena United manager David Jeffrey, Mageean has opened up about the challenges she faced in the wake of the Covid-19 crisis.

“We’re all struggling - there’s days I don’t even want to go out and run now, and that’s the thing I have to do and the thing I always look forward to.

“There’s days I’ve cried and been like ‘what the hell is this?’ I’ve chatted to my team-mates about that, and you just have to find little methods and mechanisms to try and help yourself.

“I live in Manchester with fellow athletes Jip Vastenburg and Adam Craig - thankfully my training hasn’t changed hugely but we’re in the house an awful lot more. The whole season has disappeared, which is very strange because we’re training without any real focus.

“Training’s still hard, I’m still tired at the end of the week, but you do wonder if you’re doing all this for nothing. I’m in the best shape I’ve ever been in for this time of the year and I might not necessarily be able to show it.

“It’s the type of thing we chat to each other about.”

And her own family, several of whom are involved in involved in front line services, are seldom far from Mageean’s mind in the midst of the pandemic.

She said: “We’re all watching the news and seeing what’s happening the world over, and we’re all far away from our families.

“Last week Jip lost her grandmother last week and couldn’t get home for the funeral – she had to watch it over Skype.

“I wish I could be in Portaferry, my big sister Myra is a registrar in a hospital in Belfast and she wasn’t feeling well, so I’m getting worried about her.

“I’m worried about my mummy who works in the NHS, my little sister Nuala is a nursing student, my little brother Brendan has volunteered to work in the Nightingale hospital in London, and I’ve an auntie who’s a pharmacist.

“So I have all of these worries for all of them and I wish I could wrap them all in cotton wool and protect them, but you can’t. I feel like we’re in a wee bubble in the house in Manchester, we’re quite lucky in a sense, but I spend my time worrying about my family.

“It’s tough.”

The Wellbeing Hub, however, does offer a resource for those who are struggling with their mental health – and Mageean feels the key is to try and find new ways to deal with the ongoing situation.

“Unfortunately none of us know when this will come to an end. It’s daunting, it’s stressful, and we’re all so far away from our usual support networks.

“I haven’t seen my boyfriend in a month, I might not see him for another month, and he’s somebody I count down the days until I get to see him next. But we still have support networks there, and we just have to figure out a way of staying in contact.

“We’re so lucky to live in the modern age where there are so many ways of communicating, and nobody should be worried about just picking up the phone while this is going on.

“That’s why I think the Hub comes in so handy. None of us have all the answers - we just have to try a few different ways to find out how to cope.”

Visit the Sports Wellbeing Hub at

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