IT was a weekend to remember for Bangor athlete Mary Slocum, who stormed to her biggest victory yet when she won age category gold in the half marathon at the 2023 World Masters Athletics Championships in Poland on Saturday.
Mary’s time of 1:29:39 saw her cross the line as the first woman over 60 at the event in Toruń and came just 72 hours on from the silver medal she achieved in the 10k distance, capping off a formidable few days for the Ward Park Runners member.
Last week’s double podium finish in Europe follows a sterling 2022 for Mary, who became the Irish F60 half marathon record holder in August before going on to surpass her own time on a further two occasions. Now, she has her sights set on taking back the British crown.
“I never envisaged standing on a podium in a foreign country with the Irish national anthem playing.
“That was certainly beyond my expectations,” admitted Mary.
“It was a very exposed and windy route and there was another Irish girl running in my age category (Irene Clements), who is very close to me in ability,” she explained.
“In the 10k, there were only six seconds between us and in the half marathon, she almost caught me but I managed to push on and put about 35 seconds between us in the end. It was nice to share the podium with someone else who was Irish.
“The half marathon I felt had a stronger field and it’s an event that I am probably stronger at, given I have an Irish record for that distance,” added Mary. “I have a lot of stamina which I think stands to me and it’s a distance that just seems to suit me.
“The 10k was good preparation in the sense that I got to know where everything was and didn’t feel as nervous on the day of the half,” she continued.
“You feel as if it can be snatched away from you at any moment and the thought of being caught on the home straight was just too awful to contemplate.
“You’re never a hundred percent of where you are in the races because of all the different age categories running together, so it was a relief to hear when I crossed the line that I was the first F60 finisher.”
Originally hailing from Cork, Mary made Bangor her home in 1991, following a spell in Dublin where she spent time studying. It was at the age of 29 that she began running, but her most recent years have undoubtedly brought the greatest success.
“After my husband passed away in 2017, I decided to get involved in Ward Park Runners as he had always encouraged me to join a running club,” said Mary.
“I also go to strength and conditioning classes in Newtownards at Run Hub with Norman Mawhinney [Scrabo Striders] and he’s been a fantastic support to me and to many others.
“There is no way I could ever have even gone to Poland without his encouragement and he has been a major factor in the improvement of my times,” she added.
Despite her heroics on the continent, Mary has no time to put her feet up and is instead busy preparing for the London marathon in three weeks’ time, where she’s plotting another triumph.
“I beat the British record at London last year and then beat it again at Dublin, but somebody else has since stolen it from me in Seville, so my mission is to take it back again this month!”