Google+ Running in Cork, Ireland: Guest Post: DEATH OF FORMER BALLYCOTTON WINNER John Walshe

Monday, June 14, 2021



Karen MacLeod, a Scottish international runner who won both the Ballycotton ‘10’ and Ballycotton ‘5’ races back in the 1990s, died suddenly last week at the age of 63.

Karen MacLeod in the 1996 Olympic marathon in Atlanta

Although born in Tanzania, Karen grew up on the picturesque Isle of Skye off the north coast of Scotland. She didn’t start competitive running until the age of 24, having moved to Bath in England. Most of her best performances came when in the F35 age category, including her Ballycotton ‘10’ victory in 1996 when she set a course record of 55:34. The time would remain as the fourth fastest on the all-time list in the 40-year history of the race.

That same year of 1996 she qualified for the British Olympic team in the marathon where in the heat and humidity of Atlanta she finished 45th in 2:42:08. With a PB of 2:33:16 - which was set when finishing fourth at the Commonwealth Games in Canada in 1994 - Karen won international marathons in Bordeaux, Majorca and Seville. She also recorded personal bests of 33:17.88 (10,000m), 53:42 (10 miles) and 73:07 (half-marathon).

However her career was brought to an end in 1998 when she fell ill at the Boston Marathon. She was diagnosed as having Berger’s disease – a rare kidney problem – and she later had a kidney transplant from her sister Deborah. Just last November, as a act of gratitude to her sister, Karen teamed up with a number of top Scottish folk acts to raise funds for Highlands and Islands renal services through a charity album.

Many tributes have been paid to Karen on social media, including one from fellow international athlete Amanda Wright who wrote: “Devastated to read of the death of my great running friend and travelling partner. Beautiful person inside and out, you will be greatly missed, forever in my memories.”

Her kindness and concern was shown the year after her Ballycotton ‘10’ win and Olympic marathon when she was looking forward to returning to defend her title. When injury ruled her out she sent a two-page hand-written letter describing her disappointment, along with a card of good wishes from the Isle of Skye. 

She also mentioned the possibility of taking in one of the summer races and, true to her word, on an August evening in 1997 she turned up at Ballycotton where she again established another course record of 28:27 for the five miles.

Sadly, Karen MacLeod is the third Ballycotton ‘10’ winner to have died in the past 12 months following the passing of Pat Hooper (1979 winner) last October and Jerry Kiernan (1983 and 1987 winner) in January. Also deceased are Jim Dingwall (1985 winner) who passed away in 2005 and Ursula Noctor who died at the young age of 28 in 1993, just five years after winning the race.

May they all rest in peace.

No comments: