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12-year-old girl runs single-age 5K world record in 16:40

Northern Ireland's Emer McKee smashed the 12-year-old girls' record at a race near Belfast on Sunday

Photo by: Twitter/Willowfield_TH

A 12-year-old girl from Northern Ireland named Emer McKee ran a 5K in an amazing time of 16:40 on Sunday near Belfast, shattering the single-age record by more than 30 seconds. The race was the first to be held since COVID-19 restrictions in Northern Ireland were slackened, and McKee, a standout athlete in cross-country and track, was the fastest female runner of the day, finishing 21st overall. 

A new world record 

According to The Irish News, McKee only started running three years ago, participating in local parkrun events with her family. She eventually joined a Belfast run club, the Willowfield Harriers, and has grown into an incredible young athlete. Her 16:40 finish was well ahead of the previous 12-year-old girls’ 5K record of 17:16, which an American runner named Annabella Veltcheva set in 2017. McKee’s mother, Catherine, told The Irish News that her daughter had her eye on the world record going into the race. 

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“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,” the older McKee said. “She was determined that when she turned 12 she’d beat it.” McKee turned 12 in December, but at the time, there were no races being held nearby and she had to wait several months before an opportunity came along. Her mother noted that McKee ran a 5K time trial a few weeks before her record-breaking race, and she posted a time of 16:37. “She is so determined and worked really hard to do it. She is delighted.”

McKee crushed the previous record, but she could have gone even faster, as she fell mid-race, cutting up both knees. As her mother said, she was determined to break the record, and a slight hiccup wasn’t going to stop her from reaching that goal.

Hughes continues to shine

In Wales on Sunday, another age-group runner made headlines with an awe-inspiring run. Unlike the much younger McKee, 61-year-old Tommy Hughes caught the attention of many people due to his more advanced age. Hughes didn’t set a world record, but his 2:31:18 finish at the Cheshire Elite Marathon was still remarkable. He finished in 59th place and added to his already amazing running resume. 

Hughes represented Great Britain at the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona, where he finished 72nd in the marathon, and he owns a lifetime best of 2:13:15. These are great results, but they aren’t the reason for Hughes’s fame, and he has made a name for himself in more recent years on the race course. He owns several records, including the M60 half and full marathon world records, both of which he ran in 2020. He posted a time of 1:11:09 at a half-marathon in Northern Ireland in September, and a month later, he ran a 2:30:01 marathon on the same course where McKee set her 5K record on Sunday. 

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