"Having the two friends I went to the running club with made it easier as I had people to talk to."


Name: Emma Mitchell

Age: 23

Hometown: Banbridge

Teams representing: Team Ireland (Athletics), Banbridge Athletics Club 


1. What first inspired you to take up sport?

I think sport just came naturally for myself growing up. I was always, and still am, known as ‘the runner’ locally! I have played a number of sports at club level including squash, hockey, football, and many more! However, it was my primary six teacher Mrs Mary Mark from Ballydown Primary School who really introduced me to running and encouraged me in the early years. It wasn’t until secondary school that I first got involved in a running club outside of school. 

2. Did friends, family, or school play a factor in taking up athletics?

My friends I lived near were going to the local running club and told me to come along. From then I never missed a week of training! My secondary school, Banbridge High School, was also supportive of my running and encouraged me to take part in all athletics competitions associated with schools. 

3. Were you nervous when you first started? If so, how did you overcome this?

Having the two friends I went to the running club with made it easier as I had people to talk to. Although when I got there I knew people from school too. The coach, Heather Ardis, was great and I got on well with her helped in calming my nerves. Heather definitely provided me with confidence in my athletic ability, which helped to keep the nerves away when it came to competitions.   

4. Was there a point at which your interest in running began to grow, in terms of pursing this as your main sport?

As mentioned, my first coach Heather was very supportive and gave my confidence in my athletic ability. When I started competing and performing well, Heather introduced me to my current coach, Eamonn Christie.  He told me I could achieve great things and be world class. That was the moment I knew I wanted to purse athletics as my sport. This was also the time I gave up all other sports and focused on my running, which paid off, as within two months I made my first European Cross Country Championships!


5. What are some of your main sporting achievements to date?

I won the Northern Ireland 10k Championships in November 2016, having ran the fastest time by a Northern Irish woman in over 10 years. Winning my first Senior Irish National bronze medal was a key highlight of 2015, as well as qualifying for my third European Cross Country Championships.

6. How did it feel to be crowned Junior and U23 1500m and 5000m Irish Champion?

It was fantastic! It’s always great to win Irish Championships but to win both the 1500m and 5000m on the same day was incredible.

7. How do you think you have managed to progress to the position you are in now as a successful athlete?

I’m a very determined person and I work incredibly hard in my training. I have a great coach, Eamonn Christie, who is very supportive and works just as hard as I do in planning my training schedules and race plans. To have the balance between being a student and an athlete is important and with the help of my coach I have managed to balance both. 

My family and friends are very supportive of my running, making sure I get to training sessions and races. They really have given me every opportunity to get to where I am today!

8. Where would you like to see yourself in five years time?

Currently I am studying at Stranmillis University College and will complete my degree in 2018, so hopefully I will have a teaching career by then! In terms of sport, I would love to have made major championship finals such as the World Championships and Olympic Games in 2020.   


9. What are the three best things about being a sportsperson?

1. Winning! Nothing beats the feeling of running fast and winning medals.

2. Being part of a team. 

3. Travelling to races around the world.


10. What advice would you provide to other women and girls considering taking up sport?

I would say go for it! Sport is great! The feeling of competing and winning is incredible. Not only does sport keep you fit and healthy, it also offers you wider opportunities such as travelling the world and meeting other athletes in sport. 

My sport has helped with my education as I have training at specific times during the day, as well as the requirement of travelling to competitions, so I know I need to be organised in order to get my university assignments and studying completed on time. During my GCSEs and A Levels I found training a great way to get away from the books, which actually helped me focus on my studies and be more organised. Having someone like a coach to help plan training and competition schedules is great, as it will help to find the balance between sport and education.