ATHLETICS: Paula Radcliffe makes surprise appearance at Larne parkrun

Mark McKinstry (left) broke the Larne parkrun course record over Christmas and when he crossed the finish line he took the opportunity to grab a photo with marathon star Paula Radcliffe who had stopped by at the Carnfunnock event. INLT 01-912-CON

Mark McKinstry (left) broke the Larne parkrun course record over Christmas and when he crossed the finish line he took the opportunity to grab a photo with marathon star Paula Radcliffe who had stopped by at the Carnfunnock event. INLT 01-912-CON

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The 42-year-old, who holds women’s world record in the marathon and is married to local man Gary Lough, was visiting the area and decided to stop by to meet runners competing in the Boxing Day 5k.

Hannah Clements met her sporting hero, Paula Radcliffe, at the Larne parkrun. INLT 01-911-CON

Hannah Clements met her sporting hero, Paula Radcliffe, at the Larne parkrun. INLT 01-911-CON

The decorated global star also made one girl’s dream come true. When she was told that young Hannah Clements had produced a school project on her, she and running companion Catherine Allen met her on the Carnfunnock course and ran with her to the finish line.

Nat Glenn, who in his role as Event Director helps organise Larne parkrun, told the Times: “We in Larne are part of the global parkrun phenomenon, but very few parkrunners can say they have ran with Paula Radcliffe, a sporting megastar and world record holder. But that’s exactly what happened at our Boxing Day parkrun.

“We were honoured to have Paula visit, run with the parkrunners and spend some time meeting and greeting at the Dixon Hall finish line. It was a Christmas treat for everyone who met her.”

He added: “Now, we can’t promise superstars every week but parkrun is a truly family event.

“Saturday (9:30am) is for the mums, dads and kids at Dixon Hall, and on Sunday (9:30am) it’s the kids who take centre stage at Larne’s Town Park for Junior parkrun.

“From all at parkrun we would like to thank Paula and Catherine for making us feel special.”

Radcliffe’s appearance must have inspired North Belfast Harriers runner Mark McKinstry as he set a new course record in a time of 16:29.