Young athlete with Shetland connections achieves ‘astonishing’ success in virtual run

A talented young runner with Shetland connections has defeated hundreds of athletes from across the globe in a charity event held virtually to overcome the Covid-19 lockdown.

Rhian Birnie, 11, finished second in the recent GEF Globe Run 5K, beaten only by current world champion, Kenyan athlete Hellen Obirie.

The charity challenge, organised by Aberdeen athlete Myles Edwards, featured a strong field of Scottish athletes, as well as competitors from 21 countries, across six continents. It raised more than £5,000 for the Gathimba Edwards Foundation, which aims to provide Kenyan children with a brighter future.

Due to lockdown restrictions and social distancing, entrants had to run the distance at a track close to their own home and submit evidence of their performance using running watch apps.

Rhian, who completed the 5k in 20mins 11secs, is from Aberdeenshire but has strong Shetland connections.

Rhian Birnie pictured at a race meet before the lockdown.restrictions

Her grandfather, William Leask, is from Bigton, and her coach at Young Meldrum Runners is Mark Wylie, who worked at Clickimin Leisure Complex for 30 years.

Mr Wylie said Rhian had since gone on to set a new 5k personal best of 19mins 6secs – smashing the 20 minute barrier for the first time.

“An astonishing time for an 11-year-old girl,” he added.

“Rhian continues to train hard several times a week in the hope she can soon race against the best in the north of Scotland again soon when restrictions are finally lifted.”


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