Friends and rivals

In preparing for my interview with Ciara Mageean, I noticed how often she was in tough races with certain other athletes. In this piece, Ciara reflects on her friendly rivalry with three opponents.

Laura Muir

“Certainly, like I’ve raced Laura Muir for a lot of years now, and I feel very fortunate because I always watched Laura, and I feel like she was racing phenomenally on the world stage, and I could look at Laura and think there’s not that much difference between me and her. She’s a Scot. I’m an Irish woman. And she’s up there challenging the best. So, as much as Laura is my competitor, she’s also part of that inspiration to get out there and race. And I think that’s a beautiful thing. And so to be able to get out there and compete against her and to finally, on a couple of occasions, do better than she has been phenomenal, but equally, I sat at the 2021 Olympic Games I was watching and screaming Laura on – despite her being one of my fiercest competitors.

Laura Muir Ciara Mageean battle over 1,500m, photo by Dan Vernon Photography

“I was just so happy to see Laura’s medal, and I think that comes with that mutual respect. That’s how tough this journey is. And I’d seen her up there competing and missing out on those global medals that I felt she deserved. So yeah, seeing that, I feel very fortunate to be in that position because I think this journey I’m on would be much less enjoyable if I hated the people I raced against. That’s not to say that I don’t want to beat Laura every time I toe the line against her; I certainly do, and I would have no doubt she would feel the same. But seeing her perform well has been beautiful, and I enjoy that”.

Laura Weightman

“At the European champs in Berlin 2018, I finished behind two Lauras. Laura Muir won, Sofia Ennaoui came second, Laura Weightman came third, and I came fourth. I was so disappointed. We were joking and laughing when I raced Laura Weightman again the following year in Monaco. I was so raging. And I was like, but honestly if anybody was going to medal ahead of me, I’m glad it was you.

Laura Weightman, photo by Getty Images for British Athletics

“Because we’ve raced each other since we were juniors, to see Laura W up there and performing well was great. And now to see her in the place where she’s had to hang up her spikes and not through her own choice… It’s heartbreaking. But knowing that she’s had those fantastic days is beautiful. And I think whenever I step back, I look at other athletes, and at the end of the day, whenever I’m old and retired, I’m hopefully going to watch some athletics meets. I’ll be able to sit next to these girls, and we can reminisce about those glory days, and you’ve made friends through this journey, which is really what it’s all about”.


Faith Kipyegon is another. She’s such a genuine person, so I feel fortunate to be racing against her. I think it says a lot that in all of our fields.

Faith Kipyegon, Budapest 2023, photo by World Athletics

I think it says a lot that all of our field, all the women’s 1500 girls, I can guarantee you that we’re all watching her race in the 5Ks. And we’re screaming at her every step of the way. And she’s our competitor. And so I think it says a lot.”