IT HAS been an incredible two years for 30-year-old Kilkeel mother-of-four Laura Graham.
From only starting jogging two years ago, she was recently crowned Irish marathon champion adding to the half marathon crown she took in August. The Mourne Runners’ club woman was featured on the popular Marathon Talk podcast this week, talking to hosts Martin Yelling and Tom Williams.
Anyone taking up running could not fail to be inspired by her extraordinary story of taking up running to get fit after the birth of her fourth child. She had attempted this earlier after the arrival of her first child but had been thwarted by two successive pregnancies.
From running 3:19:16 in 2015 Belfast City Marathon, she improved to 2:56:21 at Dublin six months later. Further progress followed with 2:48:03 in London and 2:48:55 in Belfast within eight days of each other this Spring.
But the gymnastics teacher was speechless when she crossed the line in Dublin last month with the clock reading 2:41.54 and discovered that she was the new Irish champion.
Graham did not even know that she was minutes inside the 2:45 standard for the IAAF World Championships (Commonwealth Games standard 2:37:00). However, she is considering a marathon in the spring, either London or Rotterdam, but will not target a specific time. She will be happy just to improve her marathon best
Coached by Ryan Maxwell for the past 12 months, the perception is Graham is a low mileage athlete, but this could not be further from the truth. She was running 80-85 miles per week in preparation for Dublin and her longest effort was 24 miles one Sunday morning.
She fits this in when the other kids, aged 6. 5 and 4) are at school or after she has tucked them into bed at night. This means at times she has to go out in the dark or take to the treadmill.
Graham has scaled back her training since Dublin, just running for enjoyment. She turned out last Sunday winning a ten miler promoted by her club but ups the ante when she competes in Saturday’s Joe Seeley.
An NI title over 10K would be just another step along a remarkable journey that could include an appearance at next year’s World Championships marathon in London.