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There was joy for Sinead Diver in Beijing this morning, as the Irish woman representing Australia finished in a strong 21st place in the marathon at the World Championships in Beijing. The Melbourne based athlete recording a clocking of 2:36:38 in humid conditions, to finish as the first Australian home, in her debut major championship.

“I was ranked 31st going in, so I wanted to beat my ranking,” remarked Diver in the aftermath. “If I had got top 20 I would have been ecstatic, but I’m still really happy with 21st. It was really exciting to be on the start line with all the best runners in the world. It was daunting, but I was so ready to get out there and race today.”

The 38 year old, who has a PB of 2:34.15, from her debut marathon in Melbourne last year, admitted to having to adjust her pace in order to get the best out of herself in the Beijing humidity. “I knew I was in good form, and that I’m fit. I knew I had to race smart. I was never aiming for a PB, because if I did, I could have completely blown up half way through. So for me it was about feeling controlled for most of the race. I’m so glad I did that because it was so tough at the end.”

Sinead Diver

The South Melbourne AC runner was lying in 39th position after 10km, and 29th at the half way mark, but her race plan enabled her to pick off athletes ahead of her in the closing stages, to fall just short of a top 20 placing, despite suffering badly herself. “A lot of runners went out hard so I was constantly passing people, which always gives you a little boost. At half way I was very comfortable and then I actually started cramping in my hamstrings at 29km, which hasn’t happened to me before. So I was a bit worried then, but that kind of settled a bit. I was good again until about 35km, and then it really started to hurt and my calves started cramping. Everything hurt at that point.”

From Belmullet in County Mayo, Diver moved to Australia aged 25, and has lived there for the last 13 years, residing in Melbourne. The mother of two was a late comer to the sport of athletics, only taking up running five years ago at the age of 33, discovering her talent by accident at a corporate fun run event. The scale of her progression is something which remains not lost on the Irish woman, and the enormity of her achievement of qualifying to run in Beijing was something which enabled her to enjoy the championship race experience, despite the gruelling nature of the distance. “I had to remind myself of where I have come from while I was running. You’re at the world championships. Enjoy this. Soak it in. I did for the most part. I did surprisingly enjoy a lot of that race.”

Despite making the difficult decision to represent Australia, rather than her homeland, Diver spoke fondly about the support she has received from Ireland ahead of these championships. “It’s been unbelievable, so I’m really grateful for that. I think in the local in Belmullet they were all up late watching it. They’ve all been brilliant. Everyone from college, those I worked with, those in Belmullet, everyone has been supporting me. It’s been unbelievable.”

Her attention will now turn to next year’s Olympic Games, with the hope of securing a place on the Australian team. “I definitely want to do a marathon in better conditions and get a better time. When it comes around to selection they’ll forget the conditions here, so I’m going to have to do another one before Rio and run faster, probably somewhere in Europe around March/April next year.”

But before then, she has more immediate concerns. “I’m going to go watch Mayo playing in the football tonight. I think they’ll win.”

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