Northern Ireland Running

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Clive Bailey and Shileen O'Kane secure Spelga Skyline titles:

Spelga Skyline Mountain Race 2015:

On Saturday 4th July 2015, mountain runners from across the province descended on Spelga Dam for the sixth race of the ongoing Northern Ireland Mountain Running Association (NIMRA) Championship, the Spelga Skyline – for the first time, the race was run officially in memory of Denis Rankin with the winner being awarded a special trophy in memory of the late mountain running star.

The event, hosted by BARF saw competitors cover a tough 21k course, which incorporated 1,400m of ascent. 

In misty conditions, the athletes set off uphill from Spelga Dam and negotiated the summits of Butter Mountain, Slieve Meelbeg, Slieve Loughshannagh, Slieve Muck, before crossing Deers Meadow to Slieve Moughanmore and onwards to Pierces Castle, Rocky, Hen and finally Cock Mountain before the technical descent back to the Spelga Dam finish line. 

As the athletes came off Slieve Muck and made their way across Deers Meadow, it was Mourne Runners men Clive and Gary Bailey who led the way.  In the ladies race, Shileen O'Kane (Lagan Valley AC) was a dominant figure at the front, with Anne Sandford (Lagan Valley AC) and Paulette Thomson (Newcastle AC) contesting the runners up prize.

The weather improved as the race progressed and at the front, the always consistent Clive Bailey (Mourne Runners) edged clear of Gary Bailey.  He increased his lead in the final stages to secure victory by just over five minutes, recording an excellent 2:49:04 (1st place) in what were tough conditions.  Gary followed in 2:54:22 (2nd place), before Billy Reed (East Antrim Harriers) continued what has been an excellent year to cross the line in 2:59:43 (3rd place).

Ladies NIMRA Championship 'Champion' elect Shileen O'Kane was a worthy winner, as she showed the same kind of form that saw her win the EAH Forest Series recently, to claim top spot in 3:13:34 (1st place) – interestingly, the was also enough to see Shileen take 7th place overall.  Shileen's club and international team mate Anne Sandford clocked 3:56:25 for 2nd place, while Paulette Thomson complete the top thee in 3:56:31 (3rd place).

Top 3 Men:  1st Clive Bailey (Mourne Runners) – 2:49:04, 2nd Gary Bailey (Mourne Runners) – 2:54:22, 3rd Billy Reed (East Antrim Harriers) – 2:59:43

Top 3 Ladies:  1st Shileen O'Kane (Lagan Valley AC) – 3:13:34, 2nd Anne Sandford (Lagan Valley AC) – 3:56:25, 3rd Paulette Thomson (Newcastle AC) – 3:56:31

Full Results:  Spelga Skyline Mountain Race 2015 Results (Jpeg format).  Photos above by BARF.

Brendan Teer and Amanda Perry win inaugural Comber Potato 10k:

Comber Potato 10k 2015:

On Saturday 4th July 2015, well over two hundred athletes turned out for the inaugural Comber Potato 10k race in the County Down town of Comber.  The event was part of the Comber Potato Festival and interestingly is the first official 10k race in the town for over thirty years.

In windy conditions, the athletes negotiated a challenging undulating route.  At the head of the pack, it was East Down AC athlete Brendan Teer who impressed most.  The former NI & Ulster Junior XC Champion set his stall out from the off, moving to the front – behind, veteran athlete Paul Rowan (Willowfield Harriers), Ben Morrow (Ballymena Runners), Neil Weir (Willowfield Harriers) and Thomas Simmons (North Belfast Harriers) contested the remaining podium places. 

Meanwhile, in the ladies event, the host club's Amanda Perry looked strong from the outset; pre-race favourites Lyndsey Pronger (Orangegrove AC) and Ruth Perioli (Lagan Valley AC) battled it out for the runners up spot.

Despite the efforts of the front runners, there was no stopping Brendan Teer as he gradually increased his lead at the front before breaking the tape in 33:33 (1st place).  Paul Rowan saw off the challenge of Ballymena Runners man Ben Morrow to take 2nd place in 34:39, while Ben completed the top three in 34:55 (3rd place).

It was a similar story in the ladies race, with Amanda Perry leading the field home with approximately one minute to spare – Amanda was a popular winner in 41:45 (1st place) and was followed across the line by the ever improving Lyndsey Pronger and British Masters Champion Ruth Perioli in 42:35 (2nd place) and 42:57 (3rd place) respectively.

Top 3 Men:  1st Brendan Teer (East Down AC) – 33:33, 2nd Paul Rowan (Willowfield Harriers) – 34:39, 3rd Ben Morrow (Ballymena Runners) – 34:55

Top 3 Ladies:  1st Amanda Perry (Ballydrain Harriers) – 41:45, 2nd Lyndsey Pronger (Orangegrove AC) – 42:35, 3rd Ben Morrow (Ballymena Runners) – 34:55

Full Results:  Comber Potato 10k 2015 Results

Ballyhegan Park N'Stride 10k:

Less than 24 hours earlier, on Friday 3rd July 2015, there were impressive victories for up and coming St Peter's AC athlete Mark Cornett and Sperrin Harriers' Natalie Hall at the Ballyhegan 10k in County Armagh.  Mark led the men home in 38:40 (1st place), while Natalie took the ladies title in 43:01 (1st place).  Full results are available HERE.

Weekend Preview:  Road, mountain, track and mmm... Potatoes!

Weekend Preview:  Road, track, mountains and mmm... potatoes! 

After enjoying a week of pleasant weather, local running enthusiasts will go into the weekend hoping that their performances match the hot, hot, hot temperatures which we have enjoyed during all the training miles clocked over the last few days.  

Last night’s North Coast 10k seemed to go down well (although we're still waiting on results!) and has wetted the appetite for the weekend events, which include the Ballyhegan Park & Stride 10k, Lisbellaw 10k, Comber Potato 10k and the next round of the NIMRA Championships, the Spelga Skyline Mountain Race.  Local athletes will also travel to Tullamore (Ireland) for the GloHealth AAI National Juvenile and Under 23 Track & Field Championships.

Ballyhegan Park & Stride 10k road race:

The weekend action will kick off later tonight, Friday 3rd July 2015, when athletes and exercise enthusiasts alike will take on the second annual running of the Ballyhegan Park & Stride 10k road race, a community based event in County Armagh. 

At the front of the field, we expect St Peter’s AC men Gerard Heaney, Jamie Tomaselli and Barry Shanks to play a prominent part in proceedings. Gerard and Jamie enjoyed excellent outings at the Ards Half Marathon last week and should go into the event high in confidence.  Their club mate, Barry, is a consistent and always impressive performer, and although specialising at marathon distance, is more than capable of claiming a podium spot here.  Stuart Paulin (Unattached) will be another man to watch out for if he enters on the night, while it is likely that Sharon Williamson (Kernan Running Club) and Anne Killen (Unattached) will be amongst those who contest the ladies top prize.  Nuala Lemon (St Peter’s AC) and Joanne McCauley (St Peter’s AC) will also run well.

Comber Potato 10k road race:

On Saturday 4th July 2015, Ballydrain Harriers will welcome athletes from all over the province to one of the most anticipated events of the weekend, the inaugural Comber Potato 10k road race, which will be held in the County Down town of Comber as part of the ‘Comber Potato Festival’. Interestingly, this the first 10k event in the town for 30 years, when Ballydrain Harriers used to organise an event.  The course will cover a challenging but interesting route.

The host club, Ballydrain Harriers will field nearly one hundred athletes at the event, an incredible achievement given that the historic club’s membership had reduced to pretty much single figures a few years ago.  Endurance specialist Richard Coey is likely to lead the Ballydrain Harriers contingent and will be backed up well by the in-form trio of Gareth Lyons, Curtis McCaw and Scott McKeag.  Newcastle AC duo David O’Flaherty and David McNeilly could also play a part – David O’Flaherty is running well and looking back to his best after a couple of years of niggling injuries; the talented and versatile athlete went well under 16 minutes at a recent 5k in Ireland and has also claimed a podium place at the recent Les Jones 10k, after running 34:05 over a tough course.  His name-sake and club mate, David McNeilly ran 17:56 at the Comber parkrun two weeks ago.  

Veteran athlete Paul Rowan (Willowfield Harriers) will also be there or there abouts – the Willowfield Harriers man never fails to impress and if he gets anywhere near his 33:25 finish time at this year’s Titanic 10k, he’ll hard to push off top spot.  The in-form Neil Weir (Willowfield Harriers) and Ballymena Runners men Ben Morrow and Noel Connor will be hoping for top ten finishes, as Matt Wray (Unattached) and Kevin O’Boyle (Unattached).

In the ladies race, mountain running international Catherine O’Connor (East Down AC) will be considered as one of the pre-race favourites if she enters on the day.  Catherine returned to the roads last week with a 34:01 clocking to win the Loughinisland 5.05 mile road race and will be eager to put in a similar performance here.  Given her strength on the hills, this course could suit Catherine very well.  Another lady who likes the off-road, Helen Weir (North Belfast Harriers), will also be amongst the front runners.  The same could be said for the always impressive Lyndsey Pronger (Orangegrove AC), Ruth Perioli (Lagan Valley AC) and Gillian Logan (Larne AC).  Mary Mackin (Dromore AC), Fiona Prue (Ballydrain Harriers) and Athanasia Sevastaki (North Belfast Harriers) will also finish well up the field if they enter on the day.

Spelga Skyline Mountain Race:

On the same day, in the heart of the Mourne Mountains, popular Belfast club BARF (Belfast Association of Rock Climbers & Fell Runners) will host the sixth fixture of the Northern Ireland Mountain Running Association (NIMRA) Championship, the Spelga Skyline mountain race. 

Spelga Dam will be the setting as participants take on the tough Spelga Skyline course, with the winner taking the new 'Denis Rankin Memorial' trophy home (pictured right).

After starting uphill from Spelga Dam, the 20k route, which incorporates 1,400 metres of ascent will see participants travel to the summits of Butter Mountain, Slieve Meelbeg, Slieve Loughshannagh, Slieve Muck, across Deers Meadow to Slieve Moughanmore, onwards to Pierces Castle, Rocky, Hen and finally Cock Mountain before the technical descent back to the Spelga Dam finish line.

Given the expected absence of 2014 winner Jonny Steede (Unattached), initial expectations would be that the new, soon to be crowned 2015 NIMRA Champion Seamus Lynch (Newcastle AC) will take to the front of the field early and run on to be victorious, should he (Seamus) decide to race.  After winning the first five Championship events, at Glenariff, Donard-Commedagh, Annalong Horseshoe, Slieve Loughshannagh and Flagstaff to Carlingford, the Newcastle man would be forgiven for sitting this one out, having put himself in an un-catchable position.  However, the likelihood is, Seamus will race! Another possible absentee may be the in-form Sam Herron (Mourne Runners), having successfully completed the iconic Marathon Du Mont Blanc less than a week ago. 

Newcastle AC pair Deon McNeilly and David Steele, along with North Belfast Harriers' Neil Carty and Ballymena Runners' Alex Brennan will be amongst those chasing podium places.  David Steele hasn't featured much in the Championship since the Donard-Commedagh event back in April, but ran well here in 2014, taking third place behind current Champion Jonny Steede and the aforementioned Seamus Lynch.  Other men who excel in the longer events, such as Mourne Runners' Clive Bailey and Dale Mathers, as well as Phil Hodge (Newcastle AC), will be pushing for high placings.

In the ladies event, Shileen O'Kane (Lagan Valley AC) should race and will be considered as favourite; especially after winning four of the five previous Championship events and taking into consideration her performance of the longer distance at Flagstaff to Carlingford earlier this month. Diane Wilson (Dromore AC) is returning to form and has shown some of the class that secured the NIMRA Championship title in 2014 over the shorter events such as Loughshannagh, where she (Diane) took second place ahead of Shileen.  However, over the longer races at Annalong Horseshoe and Flagstaff to Carlingford, Shileen has got the edge over her friend and international team mate.  Hazel McLaughlin (Lagan Valley AC) and Jacque Toal, from the host club (BARF) are likely absentees after having competed in long distance events in France and Italy last weekend, which leaves last years winner Denise Mathers (Mourne Runners) and Paulette Thompson (Newcastle AC) as two athletes likely to make an impact over this tough and at times technical course.  Anne Sandford (Lagan Valley AC) and Taryn McCoy (BARF) are others who cannot be discounted.

Important Note:  Participants are reminded that this event starts at 11am and there are strict kit requirements in place. Everyone must carry the following items - Whistle, Compass, a Map covering the whole course, Full Waterproof body cover, Emergency food, Hat and Gloves.

Lisbellaw 10k road race (and associated 7.5k run):

In County Fermanagh, on Saturday 4th July 2015, a large number of athletes are expected to take part in the Lisbellaw 10k road race, an event which always seems to attract a good mixture of athletes, including some high profile names.

The chances are that the top two men from the Lisnaskea 10k two weeks ago will toe the line here; Stephen Cassidy (Enniskillen Running Club) and Shane Brady (Clones AC) will be the men to beat should they participate.  Fergus McGirr (Enniskillen Running Club) and Craig Phair (Unattached) may also be amongst the the top ten finishers, while in the ladies race, Tara Malone (Enniskillen Running Club) will take charge if she makes use of the on the day entry system.  Tara's club mate Karen Dolan (Enniskillen Running Club) and recent Omagh Youth Sport 10k winner Paula Donnelly (Unattached) will also play a major part at the head of the pack, as will the always impressive Donna Evans (Finn Valley AC).

GloHealth AAI National Juvenile and Under 23 Track & Field Championships:

On Saturday 4th July and Sunday 5th July 2015, a host of Northern Ireland's best up and coming talent will travel south to Tullamore (Ireland) for the GloHealth AAI National Juvenile and Under 23 Track & Field Championships.

Andrew Wright (Willowfield Harriers), Emma Mitchell (Banbridge AC), Jonathan Browning (Ballymena & Antrim AC), Roseanna McGuckian (City of Lisburn AC) and Oisin O'Callaghan (Newry AC) will lead the local medal charge.  However, there is a plethora of local talent just waiting to step up to the mark, including Adam Hill (City of Lisburn AC), Craig Newell (Ballymena & Antrim AC), Karl McClean (City of Lisburn AC), Gareth Thompson (City of Lisburn AC), Ciaran Burns (City of Lisburn AC), Connor McCann (St Malachy's AC) and Naomi Morgan (City of Derry AC).


Nineteen of Northern Ireland’s twenty parkrun events will take place this weekend as normal, however, the Comber parkrun has been cancelled for one week due to the Comber Potato 10k and the related parking issues.  For more information on these, or to locate your nearest event, please visit our dedicated ‘parkrun’ section within our fixtures page.

Remember - If you would like to catch up on our 'News' from June 2015, you can use the navigation banner at the top of the screen (and scroll to June 2015) or click HERE.