Sinead Diver breaks her latest world record in Japan

Irish-born runner clocks fastest ever halfmarathon for a woman over the age of the 40

There is simply no slowing or stopping the record-breaking times of Sinead Diver, the Irish-born runner clocking the fastest ever half-marathon for a woman over the age of the 40.

Running her fourth lifetime best in the space of five months, over a fourth different distance, Diver clocked 1:08:55 to break her own masters record and finish third in the Marugame International Half Marathon, one of the leading and longest running road races in Japan.

It would have also set a new Irish record over the distance, only Diver is now representing Australia, switching allegiance ahead of the 2015 World Championships in Beijing after Athletics Ireland had tightened up their marathon qualifying criteria, meaning Diver just missed out.

Diver turns 42 later his month, her 1:08:55 actually faster that the official Irish record over the half-marathon distance, the 1:09:00 that Catherina McKiernan clocked in Glasgow, back in 1997. McKiernan did clock 1:07:50 in Lisbon in 1998, but that course was ineligible for world record purposes until revised in 2008. Sonia O’Sullivan also ran 1:07:19 at the Great North Run in Newcastle in 2002, but that again that course doesn’t qualify for record purposes.


It represents the latest breakthrough for Diver, the mother of two who moved to Australia in 2002, and only began running competitively eight years ago. Last October, Diver won the Melbourne Marathon in a course record time of 2:25:19, making the second-fastest ever Irish-born woman over the distance, behind McKiernan’s national record of 2:22:23, set in Amsterdam back in 1998.

Then in December, Diver returned to the track to post lifetime bests over the 5,000m (15:23.65) and 10,000m (31:50.98) - both, by some distance, the fastest times for those distances clocked by an Irish-born woman in 2018. The fastest half-marathon run by an Irish woman in 2018 was the 73:19 clocked by Cork's Lizzie Lee, in Valencia, last March. Diver still considers herself representing Australia and Ireland, the Tricolour painted on her fingernails for every race.

Victory in Marugame went to Betsy Saina from Kenya, who took more than a minute off her best, ahead of Ayuko Suzuki from Japan, 1:07:49 to 1:07:55, with Diver then finishing fast to claim third, despite the uphill second half of the race.

Back at home, arguably the most impressive performance at the AAI Indoor Games at the National Indoor Arena on Saturday was Cian McPhillips setting a new Irish Youth 1,500m indoor record of 3:46.42, finishing fifth behind senior John Travers.

Still only 16, McPhillips, from Longford AC, improved by some distance Ciarán Ó Lionaird 14-year-old National Youth (under-18) record of 3:50.86, and was just a split second off the Irish Junior indoor record (under-20) of 3:46.17, set by Colin Costello.

Lauren Roy and Sophie Becker both clocked European Indoor championship qualifying times, Roy winning the 60m in 7.39 seconds to book her ticket to Glasgow next month, while Becker won the 400m in 53.66. Sarah Healy won the 1,500m from the front 4:17.78, while Thomas Barr won an exhibition 400m hurdles, not an indoor event, in 52.81, next week testing himself over the 400m flat with a view to qualifying for Glasgow.

Ian O'Riordan

Ian O'Riordan

Ian O'Riordan is an Irish Times sports journalist writing on athletics