25 September 2013
On 16-23 October thousands of children from schools around the world will come together to take part in the World Marathon Challenge, an annual event hosted by London 2017 charity partner, Save The Children. Over 20,000 people from 40 countries participate in a relay race with their schools, in which classmates run a relay the distance of a marathon to raise money and awareness of children in the world’s poorest countries.
British junior shot put record holder Sophie McKinna (coach: Geoff Capes) is an ambassador for the initiative and she believes that the challenge will play an important part in helping an extremely important cause as well as getting more young people into athletics.
“The World Marathon Challenge is to try and get kids into athletics by getting them running a marathon distance with their school friends,” McKinna said. “It’s also to promote awareness of child hunger around the world, basically getting as many people as possible from around the world involved in the challenge at the same time.
“I think it’s fantastic to get kids into athletics too and give them a little taster. Then hopefully they can go and join clubs and continue to train. It’s all about being healthy and fit as well which is a good thing to promote in general.”
While many children don’t have the chance to be involved in athletics, in the UK children generally have the advantage of being involved in sport from a young age and McKinna outlines her involvement in athletics at school.
She said: “In my school days we did the normal things; we would do athletics in the summer season and we would try all the different events and do sports day. My school was pretty hot on athletics and we did a massive regional competition against a lot of other schools at our local track. I always had really good fun doing athletics at school.
“I used to be a sprinter, I ran the 100m for my school and I did usually win but at a higher level I don’t think I would have gone much further. I didn’t pick up throwing until later on when I was about 13 or 14.”
The 19 year old made her first ever senior GB & NI appearance at the European Athletics Team Championships in Gateshead before coming home from the European Junior Championships in Rieti with a shot put silver medal. She now uses her profile in the sport to encourage other children to follow in her footsteps.
“I live in Lincolnshire now but I still try to get back to Norfolk and visit as many different primary and secondary schools as possible. I’ve got a talk lined up next month in my old high school, I really enjoy going back and speaking to the kids.”
McKinna believes that 2013 was the most successful year of her short career but is already looking ahead to the possibility of competing in two senior international championships next summer.
She continued: “My highlight of 2013 has to be breaking the British indoor junior record and then a few months later breaking the outdoor junior record. I had my British senior debut this year and the Sainsbury’s Anniversary Games as well so this season has had a lot of highlights and has probably been my best season yet.
“In 2014 I’m hoping to get to the Commonwealth Games. I’ve thrown the qualifying distance so hopefully I’ll be selected for that and possibly the European Championships. We’re still working on the plan of whether we go for both or not.”
It is easy to get involved in the World Marathon Challenge and McKinna has a simple message for schools that have not yet signed up: “Go to the website, sign up your school and click on the link. When it’s taking place I’ll hopefully get into a school in Lincolnshire, Norfolk or somewhere else.”
For more information and to register your school go to www.savethechildren.org.uk/wmc