Belfast 12-year-old sets new 5km world record for athlete of her age

Emer McKee – remember the name.

Willowfield Harriers star Emer McKee.
Willowfield Harriers star Emer McKee.
Image: Willowfield Harriers/KeepFit Ireland.

BELFAST SCHOOLGIRL EMER McKee has set a new world record for an athlete of her age, running a sensational 16:40 5km over the weekend.

The 12-year-old produced a simply astonishing run — even battling through a fall in which she suffered cuts to both knees, The Irish News reported — to win the women’s 5km at the Down Royal on Sunday, as road racing returned in Northern Ireland.  

McKee, a member of the Willowfield Harriers club and a pupil at Our Lady and St Patrick’s College in Belfast, had already impressed on roads, cross-country, track and at parkruns, but this weekend, she certainly announced herself on the biggest stage and ensured her name is one to keep an eye out for.

“Normally I’m just running as fast as I can and just waiting for it to be over,” she told BBC Radio Ulster today.

“I started doing parkruns and I then joined the running club when I was nine and everybody there was really nice and supportive and friendly.

“All my coaches have helped me to just keep at it.”

Her mother, Catherine, added that her daughter’s world-best time for a 12-year-old — records appear to indicate that the previous mark was 17:16, recorded by Annabella Veltcheva in Florida in March 2017 — has left her “bursting with pride”.

Speaking to The Irish News, the proud mother said:

“Training has only started again. She had been going out on her own during lockdown and training by herself the last few months.

“She ran 17:47 in October at Down Royal and was told she was six seconds off a world record for an 11-year-old. She was determined that when she turned 12 she’d beat it. That was in December but there were no races.

“She ran 16:37 on her own around Victoria Park a few weeks ago. She is so determined and worked really hard to do it. She is delighted.”

Praise has since been pouring in for McKee, who also plays Gaelic football for Bredagh, with her club and school leading the tributes:

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Emma Duffy

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