Dromore Athletics Club is fast becoming a hotbed of international running.
Following hot on the heels of Rebekah Nixon just a week before, Rebecca Henderson (née Murtagh) made her international debut on Saturday, racing for Northern Ireland.
The 24 year-old long-distance runner took to the IAAF Antrim Inernational Cross Country race at Greenmount, having received her first call-up to the Northern Ireland team last week.
“I got the email through on Thursday to say I had made the team,” a delighted Rebecca told the ‘LEADER.’
“I was surprised but so pleased to be selected because there are so many great female runners in NI at the minute. I was absolutely over the moon.”
Rebecca came in 21st in a field of 92 with a time of 21 minutes 55 seconds. That was over two minutes behind winner Alice Aprot Nawowuna (Kenya) but, racing alongside Northern Ireland team-mates Catherine Whorskey and Shalene McMurray, it marked a dream come true for the Moira girl.
“It was great to get my vest,” she reflected. “It’s something that I have always wanted to do. I’m so passionate about running and I’ve been working hard for so long so I was totally delighted to get my call-up and to race for Northern Ireland.”
Not one to rest on her laurels, Rebecca took just one day to celebrate and then it was back to her six-day-a-week training schedule on Monday.
“Just because I’ve raced for Northern Ireland once, that doesn’t mean I will do it again,” she said, “so I have to make sure I keep working hard to progress and make sure I get the selection again.”
All the necessary graft will be a familiar companion for Rebecca, who has running in her blood.
“It runs in my family,” she said (pardon the pun), “My dad was a runner and I have always done it too.
“I wasn’t good at anything else in school. I tried other sports but I wasn’t any good and then I won the cross-country in Primary Seven. I remember my mum being surprised because I hadn’t shown any promise in any other of the other races!
“I suppose I started to take it more seriously when I was around 16, when I joined Dromore.”
Rebecca now trains alongside her dad, Paul Blayney and Dromore coach Michael McGreevy while her husband Chris has also helped pave the way to her new levels of success.
“Since I met my husband, he has helped me to pay more attention to the strength and conditioning side of things,” said Rebecca. “Before that, I wouldn’t really have done very much of that. I would just have trained on the running side but it’s only when I started training that way, I realised how many things I could improve on if I took that side of things seriously.”
Rebecca also attributes her success to her opponents and was quick to praise the quality of the local circuit for propelling her development.
She said: “I’m fortunate to be racing against so many really great girls. You’re only as good as the people you’re competing against so it really helps to have such strong competition.”
After her first foray into international racing, it’s back to club action for Becca, who is now limbering up for the fast approaching road-racing season.