Weekend Preview: Trail blazers set Born 2 Run and Sperrin Harriers events:
It seems like just days since the New Year began, but already the weekends are seamlessly running into each other – we’re nearly through January and another weekend is upon us.
It’s a weekend which will wet the appetite for Northern Ireland’s off-road enthusiasts, with a number of trail races taking centre stage. Born 2 Run will welcome hundreds of athletes to the latest instalment in their ‘Run Forest Run’ Series, while the Sperrin Harriers Winter League Trail Series will continue with the An Creagan 5 mile race.
The aforementioned events will form the basis of our weekend summary, but there are other events on offer, with the Northern Velocity Trail Race in Ballykelly and the St Patrick’s 10k road race taking place in Dungiven. East Coast AC will also host Race 2 of their increasingly popular Junior XC Series in Larne, while at least two local runners will line up for Ireland at the Celtic XC in Wales.
Born 2 Run ‘Run Forest Run’ Gosford 10k:
On Saturday 21st January 2017, local events management company, Born 2 Run, who have recently been nominated for an award at the national ‘Running Awards’, will welcome in excess of five hundred athletes to their annual Gosford 10k trail race. The event is the sixth race of the ongoing ‘Run Forest Run’ Series and will cover an undulating 6.2 mile course, taking competitors on a figure of eight loop of the scenic Gosford Forest Park.
Newry City Runners’ Don Travers should start and if he does, the Northern Ireland international will be hoping to take his recent Cycle-Cross form onto the trails. Don is an established and respected multi-discipline athlete and will prove hard to beat if he is in decent form. St Peters AC duo Gerard Heaney, winner of the recent Moira XC and his club mate Mark Cornett (St Peter’s AC), should both feature at the head of the pack based on recent performances. PACE Running Club men Aaron Woodman and Oliver Cook have impressed throughout the Series and will contest a podium place here, should both run. Local athletes Paul McAnespie (Armagh AC) and Danny Fegan (Armagh AC) will be there or there abouts, while Phil Duffield (Unattached) and Jonny Gregg (Unattached) should claim top ten places.
Reigning ladies Champion Laura Graham (Mourne Runners) will not return to defend her title, which will leave the always impressive Cathy McCourt (Unattached) to carry the ‘pre-race favourite’ tag – Cathy has been a podium regular in the Run Forest Run Series and it’s hard to look past her here, unless Judith Lonnen (City of Lisburn AC) and Esther Dickson (Newry AC) take to the start line, then things may become more interesting! Louise Smith (North Belfast Harriers) and Unattached athlete Amy Lavery could also produce an upset given their obvious talents. Meanwhile, City of Lisburn AC’s Caroline Wade, Mourne Runners’ Bethany Haugh and East Down AC’s Nianmh Kellet should all run well.
Although online entry for the event has now closed, on the day entries will be available on the day from 9am until 10:30am. Please click HERE for more information on Born 2 Run Events.
Sperrin Harriers’ Winter League Trail Series (Race 3 - An Creagan 5 mile Trail Race):
Also on Saturday 21st January 2017, County Tyrone based club Sperrin Harriers will welcome athletes from across the province to Race 3 of their ongoing Winter League Trail Series. On this occasion, competitors will have to negotiate a 5 mile route around An Creagan Forest, halfway between Omagh and Cookstown, in the foothills of the scenic Sperrin Mountains. The race kicks off at 12pm.
This event could bring Race 1 winner Jonny Steede (Glens Runners) and Race 2 winner Eoin Hughes (Acorns AC) to the start line. Should both men toe the line, it will be an excellent battle; Northern Ireland and Ireland international Jonny should edge it. Another man who could feature at the front is Michael Crawley (City of Derry AC), a consistent performer on both road and trail. The aforementioned trio will be chased by a plethora of talent, which should include East Coast AC’s Matthew Hewitt, Acorns AC’s Aaron Meharg, Foyle Valley AC’s Mark Long and Acorn AC athlete Martin McVey. Pierce McCullagh (Sperrin Harriers) will lead the way for the hosts, while Vincent McAllister (Unattached) should place well.
Karen Alexander (Acorns AC) will be the outstanding favourite in the ladies race should she return – the Northern Ireland international won Race 1 in emphatic fashion, placing well overall on top of her success in the ladies event. However, Race 2 winner Ciara Toner (Springwell Running Club) has hit good form, and should therefore not be ruled out. Ciara’s club mate, Karen McLaughlin (Springwell Running Club) should contest a prize – the same could be said for up and coming Mid Ulster AC star Grace Carson. Other ladies to look out for include Anne Paul (City of Derry AC), Paula McAllister (Ballymena Runners), Leanne Sands (Acorns AC) and Sperrin Harriers pair Tanya Quinn and Angela O’Neill.
Other events taking place in Northern Ireland over the weekend:
Other notable events outside Northern Ireland:
Celtic XC International (Wales):
On Saturday 22nd January 2017, Northern Ireland's Conor Duffy (Glaslough Harriers) and Zak Hanna (Newcastle AC) will represent Ireland at the Celtic Cross Country International in Cardiff, Wales. The event, hosted by Welsh Athletics will take place within the British Athletics Cardiff Cross Challenge, in Blackweir Fields Bute Park in the centre of Cardiff. The full Ireland team for the event, including the age group teams, are available HERE.
As always, Northern Ireland’s twenty four parkrun events will take place this weekend, for more information on these, or to locate your nearest event, please visit our dedicated ‘parkrun’ section within our fixtures page.
Local runners impress in Australia, Scotland and Ireland:
Whilst all of the attention was on this weekend's prestigious and well-organised IAAF Antrim International XC at Greenmount Campus just outside Antrim, some local runners produced excellent performances outside Northern Ireland, at events in Australia, Scotland and Ireland.
Amy Foster impresses in Australia...
In Australia on Saturday 14th January 2017, Northern Ireland 100m and 200m record holder Amy Foster (City of Lisburn AC) kicked off her year with an impressive outing over her favourite 100m. Amy recorded an excellent 11.49secs (+2 m/s) to secure 1st place.
Emma Mitchell secures personal best in Scotland...
Also on Saturday 14th January 2017, recently crowned Northern Ireland and Ulster 10k Champion Emma Mitchell (QUB AC) recorded a new 1500m personal best whilst competing at the Scottish Athletics National Open Indoor Championships at the Emirates Arena in Glasgow (Scotland). In the mixed race, Emma crossed the line in a notable 4:17.08 to finish as 1st place lady.
Northern Ireland based athletes dominate in County Doengal (Ireland)...
Closer to home on Sunday 15th January 2017, local athletes dominated the podium at the Carrigans 5k in County Donegal, Ireland. The event, hosted by cross-border club Lifford Strabane AC attracted nearly three hundred participants, with John Paul Williamson (City of Derry AC) leading the field home in 15:32 (1st place). Gary Slevin (City of Derry AC) followed in 15:55 (2nd place), while Foyle Valley AC's Conor McDevitt completed the top three in 17:25 (3rd place).
In the closely contested ladies race, Omagh Harriers starlet Enya Haigney took top honours, breaking the tape in 19:28 (1st place). The host club's Leoni Mullen (Lifford Strabane AC) clocked 19:43 for 2nd place, a mere three seconds ahead of Derry Track Club's Amy McDaid, who ran 19:46 for 3rd place. Full results for the event can be found HERE.
IAAF Antrim International XC 2017:
On Saturday 14th January 2017, the eyes of the athletic world were on Northern Ireland, as the highly respected IAAF road show descended on CAFRE's Greenmount Campus in Antrim, for the annual IAAF Antrim International Cross Country. The well-organised, hosted by Athletics NI, also included the British Athletics XC Challenge and was part of the ongoing Athletics NI XC League.
Prior to the International events, the exciting programme of competitive age category races ensured that the atmosphere had built sufficiently for the 'main' events. There were wins for Timothy McCracken (Springwell Running Club), Lauren Madine (East Down AC), Dylan McBride (Willowfield Harriers), Anna Hedley (Fife AC), David Dow (Cambridge & Colebridge AC) and Lily Jane Evans-Haggerty (Victoria Park City of Glasgow AC).
The Under 17 and IAAF Under 20 races were combined, with Mathew Willis (Wrexham AAC) and Jodie McCann (DSD AC) take the Under 17 titles and Jonathan Shields (North England) and Ellie Wallace (Westbury Harriers) winning the Under 20 races.
The penultimate race of the day was the ladies 5.6k event, and it was pre-race favourite Fionnuala McCormack (Ireland) who led the way early on, with Caroline Kipkirui (Kenya), Gotytom Gebreslase (Ethiopia) and Birtukan Adamu (Ethiopia) on her shoulder. In the second lap of the three, European XC Champion Fionnuala lost a shoe, which allowed the other ladies to surge clear.
Caroline Kipirui made the most of the unfortunate incident and raced into the lead – the Kenyan quickly open a gap and by the time she had reached the final lap, there was a good fifty metres between her and Gotytom Gebreslase, who was just ahead of Fionnuala McCormack and Birtukan Adamu.
As the race progressed into the final lap, there was no stopping Caroline Kipkirui as she made short work of the remaining 1.8k before breaking the tape in 18:53 (1st place). Gotytom Gebreslase secured 2nd place in 19:35 before Birtukan Adamu out sprinted Fionnuala McCormack to claim 3rd place in 19:38.
Armagh AC’s Fionnuala Ross was the first of the Northern Ireland ladies team to cross the line, running 21:15 for a very credible 16th place. Jessica Craig (North Down AC) followed in 21:48 (20th place), with Gladys Ganiel-O’Neill (North Belfast Harriers) finishing less than ten seconds later in 21:57 (22nd place). Rachel Gibson completed the NI team in 23:11 (27th place).
The men were next to take to the start line for their 8.2k event, and they started fast! Scotland’s Lachlan Oates pushed the early pace, but as the men completed the first lap, it was Abraham Cheroben (Bahrain), Conseslus Kipruto (Kenya) and Andy Vernon (England) who occupied the top three place, with Abraham and Conseslus approximately ten metres ahead of Andy.
At the head of the pack, nothing changed as the race moved through half way and into the final stages. However, in the latter part of the final lap, Olympic Champion Conseslus Kipruto made a surge for victory.
Despite the best efforts of Abraham Cheroben, it was Conseslus who secured top honours in an epic sprint to the line. Conseslus recorded 24:36 for 1st place with Abraham taking 2nd place in 24:37 – Andy Vernon continued his good run of form at the Antrim International XC with another podium spot, taking 3rd place in 24:56.
Derry Track Club’s Adam Kirk-Smith led the Northern Ireland team home in 26:54, claiming an excellent 12th place. Seamus Lynch (Newcastle AC) worked his way through the field well to take 13th place in 27:00 – Conan McCaughey (Derry Track Club) followed seven seconds later in 27:07 (14th place), while Conor Duffy (Glaslough Harriers) and Neil Johnston (Springwell Running Club) completed the NI team in 27:37 (16th place) and 27:45 (20th place) respectively.
Top 3 Ladies (5.6k): 1st Caroline Kipkirui (Kenya) – 18:53, 2nd Gotytom Gebreslase (Ethiopia) – 19:35, 3rd Birtukan Adamu (Ethiopia) – 19:38
Top 3 Men (8.2k): 1st Conseslus Kipruto (Kenya) – 24:36, 2nd Abraham Cheroben, (Bahrain) – 24:37, 3rd Andy Vernon (England) – 24:56
Full Results: IAAF Antrim International XC 2017 Results. Photos from the IAAF Antrim International XC are now available on the NiRunning (Northern Ireland Running) facebook page.
Weekend Preview: Athletics NI host IAAF Antrim International XC 2017…
As we approach another weekend, the official Athletics NI calendar lists just one fixture! A quiet few days ahead then… absolutely not!
Don’t be fooled, that one fixture, the IAAF Antrim International XC, hosted by Athletics NI, will attract the attention of the world as a classy field take to the start line of the event, which has attracted the likes of Steve Ovett, Steve Cram, Brendan Foster, Paula Radcliffe, John Treacy and Paul Tergat in years gone by.
Since the first running of the event, forty years ago in 1977, when a young Brendan Foster featured, the standard has always been high. This year is no different, with a plethora of talent on the start list – lets take a look at who should play a part at the front!
IAAF Antrim International XC:
On Saturday 14th January 2017, our sport’s governing body, Athletics NI will host their annual IAAF Antrim International XC at the expansive CAFRE Greenmount Campus in Antrim.
Alongside the prestigious IAAF Junior (Under 20) and Senior races, there will be a number of age category events within a programme, which is sure to excite any athletics fan. The event will also incorporate the British Athletics XC Challenge and counts towards the ongoing Athletics NI XC League
Undoubtedly the star attraction of what should be an excellent day of competition will be two time European XC Champion and Irish international Fionnuala McCormack (Kilcoole AC). That said, the more clued in spectators will also be eager to see how Olympic champion Conseslus Kipruto fairs over what should be a relatively fast course.
The in-form Fionnuala McCormack, who claimed second place at last weekend’s Great Edinburgh XC will have serious aspirations towards achieving a hat trick of wins in the 5.6k ladies event following previous victories in 2012 and 2013. The Olympic marathon runner will not fear the predicted snowy weather conditions as she aims for victory to continue her impressive start to 2017; a year that will see her gear towards the marathon in London's World Championships. Fionnuala will certainly be to the fore from the gun with her main opposition possibly coming from Kenya's Caroline Kipkiru who is a former African champion and a World top twenty runner over 10,000 metres. Others in contention include Romania's Ancuta Bobocel, who Fionnuala defeated in Edinburgh, plus Ethiopia's Birtukan Adamu who was third in this race in 2015.
Team USA athlete Marielle Hall should not be ruled out – with a 10,000m best of 31:54 and a 5,000m personal best of 15:06, the Rio Olympian has the speed to contest top spot. If the course is in decent shape, Marielle may be an excellent ‘outside bet’ for victory. Claire Duck (Leeds AC) and Rachael Dunn (Edinburgh AC) have both placed well here before and should make the top ten.
Ireland's Shona Heaslip and Laura Shaughnessy, and England based duo Pippa Woolven and Louise Small should also play a part at the head of the pack, while Northern Ireland’s challenge will be headed by Commonwealth Games athlete Gladys Ganiel O’Neill, who will swap her North Belfast Harriers vest for the green and white of Northern Ireland. Gladys will be joined on the NI team by Armagh AC’s Fionnuala Ross and in-form North Down AC pair Jessica Craig and Rachel Gibson, who have both enjoyed some impressive outings on grass this Winter. Jessica had an outstanding run at the Scottish XC Championships last month (December 2016), when she claimed a top twenty place in what was a strong field.
Other local ladies to look out for include Strabane’s Ann-Marie McGlynn (Letterkenny AC), who will represent Ireland. The Euro XC team medallist will place well here following a strong XC campaign. Aside from the aforementioned Shona Heslip and Laura Shaughnessy, Ann-Marie will be joined on the Ireland team by Olympian Maria McCambridge. Willowfield Harriers’ cross country podium regular Amy Bulman (Willowfield Harriers), Springwell Running Club’s Aife McSheffrey and City of Lisburn AC’s Zoe Carruthers should all have good runs.
A winner in the Men's 8k event is hard to predict given that many of the big names are better known for their track success. The biggest of all is of course 22 year old Olympic Steeplechase champion Conseslus Kipruto who followed a series of World leading times last year with victory in Rio.
The flamboyant Kenyan rarely races over the country and may well rely on his sprint finish in order to secure victory. The African will want to start his year with a win on route to proving that 2017 will again confirm him as the World's top Steeplechaser.
However, he will face tough opposition. Fellow Rio Olympian and Steeplechase fourth placer Soufiane El Bakkali of Morroco, Olympic 10,000 metres finalist Abraham Cheroben of Barhain and France's Hassan Chahdi who was seventh in last year's European Half Marathon should also be vying for top placings.
Of the above, it’s difficult to see who will provide the best competition for Conseslus – fellow Steeplechaser Soufiane has clocked 13:47 over 5,000m flat, while Abraham has run 27:31 for 10,000m and 58:48 for 13.1 miles. Hassan has represented France on numerous occasions at IAAF XC events and has recorded 13:51 for 5,000m – at the above mentioned European Half Marathon, he crossed the line in 1:01:42. He has also completed 26.2 miles in 2:15:59 (Rotterdam 2016).
Andy Vernon will also be making a welcome return to the event. The 31 year old Team GB Olympian is one of the UK's most consistently successful runners in both track and cross country. A month ago, Andy was a member of the winning GB team at the European XC Championships in Italy. His solid fifth place behind team mates Callum Hawkins and Andrew Butchart ensured victory over Spain. Andy was also an individual bronze medallist at the Euro XC Championships in 2013.
His credentials are not confined to cross country. Andy competed in the Rio Olympics last summer over 10,000 metres, where he recorded 28:19. He is a former European silver medallist over this distance from 2014 (28:08). Racing over what is expected to be a fast course at Greenmount will be familiar territory for Andy - over the years he has competed on four occasions, with his most successful being in 2010 when he was runner up to Kenya's Mike Kegen.
Also competing will be fellow GB Olympian Derek Hawkins who is the older brother of the in-form Callum Hawkins. The 27 year old ran 2:12:57 in the London Marathon last April (2016) but then struggled with an injury problem which affected his performance in Rio; he ran 2:29:24 there. Versatile Scottish international Andrew Douglas, who narrowly missed a podium place at the European Mountain Running Championships last year (2016) is capable of 29:46 over 10k – his strength and speed could put him in a strong position here. Matt Bowser (England) and Owain Jones Wales have already celebrated success this year, with Matt winning the Lincolnshire County XC Championships and Owain the South West Inter County XC Championships this month, so both will be high in confidence going into this race.
Conor Duffy (Glaslough Harriers) will lead the Northern Ireland challenge before representing Ireland in Cardiff seven days later. The always impressive athlete will be joined on the NI team by Seamus Lynch (Newcastle AC), Neil Johnston (Springwell Running Club), Adam Kirk-Smith (Derry Track Club) and Conan McCaughey (Derry Track Club), who will replace the injured Scott Rankin (Foyle Valley AC). Mark McKinstry (North Belfast Harriers) and David O’Flaherty (Newcastle AC) should also go well, as should Chris McGuinness, who will feature as part of a strong Foyle Valley AC team.
The race programme starts at 11.30am with the Internationals from 2.25pm. More information available at www.athleticsni.org
As always, Northern Ireland’s twenty four parkrun events will take place this weekend, for more information on these, or to locate your nearest event, please visit our dedicated ‘parkrun’ section within our fixtures page.
Great Edinburgh XC (Scotland):
On Saturday 7th January 2017, local ladies Kerry O'Flaherty (Newcastle AC) and Ciara Mageean (UCD AC) were in action at the prestigious Edinburgh International XC in Scotland.
The ladies were part of Ireland's 4 x 1k mixed relay team, which also contained John Travers and Kieran Kelly. Up against top quality opposition, the team performed well, narrowly missing a podium place when taking 4th place - the race was won by Team GB (1st place).
British Milers Club (BMC) Sheffield Indoor Grand Prix (England):
Also this weekend, on Sunday 8th January 2017, three local runners were in action at the first British Milers Club (BMC) Grand Prix of 2017.
Andrew Wright (Willowfield Harriers) recorded an indoor personal best over 800m, after covering the distance 1:52.83 (3rd place) - in the same race (Men's 800m B), Annadale Striders' Callum Crawford–Walker also ran an indoor personal best of 1:54.29 (5th place). European Paralympic Championship competitor James Hamilton (Ballymena Runners) clocked 4:10.26 (5th place) in the 1500m 'C' race.
East Coast AC Junior XC Series (Race 1):
On Sunday 8th January 2017, Larne based club East Coast AC welcomed over eighty junior athletes, between the ages of 4 years old and 16 years old to the first race of their Junior XC Series in Larne, Country Antrim.
The distances for each race varied depending on the age group - the Mini's (Under 6) covered a 500m course, while the Minor Boys and Girls (Under 10) covered 1,000m. The Junior Boys and Girls (Under 13) and Senior Boys and Girls (Under 16) would took on a 1,500m route.
The Mini's kicked off proceedings with their one lap 500m race and it was the host club's Felix Clarke (East Coast AC) and Rachel Urwin (East Coast AC) who led their respective fields home in 2:34 (1st place) and 2:57 (1st place) respectively.
In the Minor Girls 1,000 race, Hannah O’Toole (East Coast AC) enjoyed a comfortable gun to tape victory, crossing the line in 4:19 (1st place). The Minor Boys event was played out in a similar manner, with North Belfast Harriers’ Max Reid leading out from the start and eventually sealing top spot in 3:49 (1st place).
In the Junior Girls 1,500m race, East Coast AC’s Bradie Hogg held off strong opposition from club mate Hannah Clements (East Coast AC) to win in 6:18. The Junior Boys 1,500m race was arguably the race of the day with East Coast AC duo Charlie Patterson and Rhys McManus battling it out until the end – Charlie just edged it in 5:50 (1st place).
The final race of an excellent day of competition was the Senior Boys and Girls 1,500m. Early on, Orangegrove AC duo Adam Sykes and Aaron McCord and City of Lisburn AC’s Hannah Cochrane led the way, but going into the final 200m, Hannah moved to the front and took the race on. This proved to me a race winning decision as the up and coming star broke the tape in 5:45 (1st place). A late sprint from Peter Reed (North Belfast Harriers) saw him catch and pass Adam and Aaron to win the Boys race in 5:46 (1st place).
The next race in the three race Series will take place on Saturday 21st January 2017 in the Curran Park, Larne (Registration opens 10am, Races commence 11am) – The Series is open to Junior athletes from any club, school or organisation (ie football team, hockey team etc). Full details are available HERE.
Full Results: East Coast AC Junior XC Series (Race 1) 2017 Results
Moira Cross Country 2017:
On Saturday 7th January 2017, City of Lisburn AC welcomed close to two hundred competitors to their annual Moira XC event, which took place within scenic grounds of Moira Demesne close to Hillsborough.
The event offered races for all ages, from junior athletes right through to Masters. The junior races kicked off proceedings and proved to be the perfect atmosphere builder, with wins for Harry Lightbody (City of Lisburn AC), Niamh Fenlon (North Down AC), Joe Chambers (Ballydrain Harriers), Jodie McMullen (Markethill HS), Kyle Ross (Ballydrain Harriers), Victoria Lightbody (City of Lisburn AC), Callum Morris (City of Lisburn AC) and Olivia Nelson (City of Lisburn AC).
It was then the turn of the senior and masters ladies to take to the start line for their 3 mile event. At the sharp end, the always impressive Judith Lonnen (City of Lisburn AC) was the stand out performer. Judith ran out clear winner, breaking the tape in a speedy 16:11 (1st place). In a close race for the runners up spot, Sarah Lindsay (North Down AC) edged out Esther Dickson (Newry AC) – Sarah recorded 16:36 for 2nd place, with Esther following in 16:40 (3rd place).
The senior and masters men were the final competitors to take to the start line in what was an excellent day of competition. At the head of the pack, pre-race favourite Gerard Heaney (St Peter’s AC) made his intentions clear from the start, setting off quickly. Despite the best efforts of Eamonn White (North Down AC), Stephen O’Gorman (Dromore AC), Neil Carty (North Belfast Harriers), Gareth Lyons (Ballydrain Harriers) and Nigel McKibbin (Dromore AC), all of whom played a part at the front, it was Gerard who ran out victorious.
The fast improving St Peter’s AC man clocked 19:33 for 1st place, which was eleven seconds quicker than Eamonn, who followed in 19:44 (2nd place). Stephen O’Gorman (19:47) saw off the fast finishing Neil Carty (4th place – 19:51) to claim 3rd place.
Top 3 Ladies (3 miles): 1st Judith Lonnen (City of Lisburn AC) – 16:11, 2nd Sarah Lindsay (North Down AC) – 16:36, 3rd Esther Dickson (Newry AC) – 16:40
Top 3 Men (4 miles): 1st Gerard Heaney (St Peter’s AC) – 19:33, 2nd Eamonn White (North Belfast Harriers) – 19:44, 3rd Stephen O’Gorman (Dromore AC) – 19:47
Provisional Results: Moira XC 2017 Results (Photo of men's race above by John T Glover)
Born 2 Run ‘Run Forest Run’ Tollymore 10k & 5k 2017:
On Saturday 7th January 2017, well over seven hundred athletes took to the stunning trails of Tollymore Forest, close to Newcastle (County Down), for the fifth race of local event management company Born 2 Run’s ‘Run Forest Run’ Series, the Tollymore 10k and associated 5k.
As expected, reigning Champions William McKee and Laura Graham, both of Mourne Runners, did not return to defend their titles – however, their club was well represented on the prize-list. At the head of the pack, there was a close race between Mourne Runners duo David McKee and Timothy Johnston. In the end, it was David who claimed top honours, crossing the line in 36:05 (1st place). Timothy followed six seconds later in 36:11 (2nd place), while PACE Running Club’s Aaron Woodman completed the top three in 36:36 (3rd place).
In the ladies event, Cathy McCourt (Unattached) impressed most. The consistent performer cruised to victory in 39:37 (1st place). Dromore AC’s Gilliam Burns ran well to secure 2nd place in 42:25, before the emerging Bethany Haugh sealed a podium place in 44:10 (3rd place).
In the associated 5k event, which attracted just over one hundred competitors, Sam Linton (Sperrin Harriers) and Karalee Porter (Mourne Runners) excelled. Sam recorded 19:06 for 1st place in the men’s race, while Karalee led the ladies home in 22:33 (1st place).
Top 3 Men: 1st David McKee (Mourne Runners) – 36:05, 2nd Timothy Johnston (Mourne Runners) – 36:11, 3rd Aaron Woodman (PACE Running Club) – 36:38
Top 3 Ladies: 1st Cathy McCourt (Unattached) – 39:37, 2nd Gillian Burns (Dromore AC) – 42:25, 3rd Karalee Porter (Mourne Runners) – 44:10
Weekend Preview: ‘Welcome to 2017…’
After the festive season packed with athletic action, it’s now time to settle into a new year and look ahead to the first real weekend of fixtures of 2017 – a year that we hope will bring the same level of performances and excitement from the local running scene!
The coming days will see the continuation of Born 2 Run’s Run Forest Run Series, Sperrin Harriers’ Winter League Trail Series as well as the always popular Moira Cross Country. Junior athletes can also look forward to the return of East Coast AC’s Junior XC Series in Larne. Aside from these local events, familiar faces from Northern Ireland will also be in action at the Great Edinburgh XC in Scotland and the British Milers Club Track & Field Meeting in Sheffield (England).
Born 2 Run ‘Run Forest Run’ Tollymore 10k:
On Saturday 7th January 2017, well over seven hundred athletes are expected to take to the epic trails of Tollymore Forest, close to Newcastle (County Down), for the fifth race of local event management company Born 2 Run’s ‘Run Forest Run’ Series, the Tollymore 10k and associated 5k. The popular Series has attracted thousands of runners to events in Minnowburn (Belfast), Drum Manor (Cookstown), Kilbroney (Rostrevor) and Loughgall (Armagh).
Mourne Runners duo William McKee and Laura Graham secured victory here in 2015, however, neither are likely to feature this time around. This opens the door for the likes of Newry City Runners star Don Travers, who cruised to victory at the Cullyhanna 10k over Christmas, to lead the way. Should the Northern Ireland trail runner take to the start line, he’ll be hard to beat – although there are some consistent performers due to start. Ballymena & Antrim AC’s Gavin McCaffrey has been in or around the podium places throughout the Run Forest Run Series and should play a part at the front again. Oliver Cook (PACE Running Club), Aaron Woodman (PACE Running Club), Dumhnall Murphy (Unattached), David Graham (Unattached) and Ian Keys (Unattached) should all challenge at the head of the pack.
In the ladies race, World Masters medallist Cathy McCourt (Unattached) may well make use of the on the day entry system. After performing well in previous races in the Series, Cathy will be keen to keep up here good run of form – she should top the podium if she starts. However, the respected athlete will have to fend off the likes of former team mate Louise Smith (North Belfast Harriers), Catherine Roberts (North Down AC), Bethany Haugh (Mourne Runners), Joanne Graham (Mourne Runners) and Amy Lavery (Unattached).
Sperrin Harriers’ Winter League Trail Series:
Also on Saturday 7th January 2017, County Tyrone based club Sperrin Harriers will welcome athletes from across the province to Race 2 of their ongoing Winter League Trail Series. On this occasion, competitors will have to negotiate a 5k route around Lough Fea, in the foothills of the scenic Sperrin Mountains. The race kicks off at 12pm and directions to the event are available HERE.
Glens Runners man Jonny Steede showed his class in Race 1, topping the podium after an excellent display of front running. The Northern Ireland and Ireland international runners should return as he continues to work his way back to full race fitness. Eoin Hughes (Acorns AC), who finished behind Jonny at the Davagh Forest opener, will be there or there about again and should be joined by Michael Crawley (City of Derry AC). Other athletes to look out for could include Ballymena Runners trio Alex Brennan, Connor Reid and Mark Alexander, as well as Thomas Leitch (Orangegrove AC), Martin McVey (Acorns AC), Aaron Meharg (Acorns AC), Pierce McCullagh (Sperrin Harriers), Andy Gregg (Larne AC) and Tommy Hughes (Termoneeny Running Club).
Karen Alexander (Acorns AC) should return to defend the title she won so impressively at the Davagh 10k opener in December 2016. That day Karen won by over four minutes, which makes her the outstanding favourite going into this one. In saying this, the lady Karen beat that day, Ciara Toner (Springwell Running Club), has continue her return to full fitness with a win at the Eglinton Trail Race over Christmas, so should provide good opposition for Karen. Anne Paul (City of Derry AC), Tara Malone (Enniskillen Running Club), Tanya Quinn (Sperrin Harriers), Helen Weir (North Belfast Harriers) and Irene Clements (Enniskillen Running Club) will all challenge for the remaining podium place.
Moira Cross Country:
On the same day, (Saturday 7th January 2017), City of Lisburn AC will host their annual Moira XC event in scenic grounds of Moira Demesne. The event offers races for all ages, from junior athletes right through to Masters. The Primary School race heads the timetable (starting at 11.45am), with races for Year 8, Year 9 and Year 10 athletes following before the Under 18 Boys (3 mile) and Girls (2 miles) events lead into the Senior/Masters Ladies 3 mile race (1pm) and the Senior/Masters Men’s 4 mile race (1.25pm). On the day entry is available.
In 2016, this event was cancelled because of flooding within the Moira Demesne grounds, so hopefully the current dry weather continues until the weekend. Although this event is not part of the Athletics NI Cross Country League 2016/17 it always attracts a fairly sizeable crowd.
Amongst those will be the fast improving Gerard Heaney (St Peter’s AC) and Willowfield Harriers’ Neill Weir, a podium regular. Mark McKinstry (North Belfast Harriers) could also compete and may well be joined on the start line club mate John Black and the young man who excelled her the last time this event took place, Beechmount Harriers’ multi-title winning junior star Christy Conlon. The host club’s Chris Madden and James Edgar will play a major part in proceedings if they race, while Stuart Kennedy (Beechmount Harriers) and Gary Morrow (Willowfield Harriers) will also run well.
Willowfield Harriers’ Amy Bulman has been in excellent form over the last six months and has really taken to cross country running, placing well in quality fields in the Athletics NI XC League 2016/17. The ever improving athlete will feature here should she make use of the on the day entry system, but will have to be at the top of her game if she wants to challenge the likes of Rachel Gibson (North Down AC) and Jessica Craig (North Down AC), both of whom may want a good run out ahead of next week’s Antrim International XC. Former winner Heather Foley (Unattached) and Lagan Valley AC’s Suzanne Higgins will also be worth watching. Beechmount Harriers pair Gerrie Short and Catherine Diver will also be there or there abouts.
Great Edinburgh Cross Country:
Further afield, on Saturday 7th January 2017, at least two runners from Northern Ireland will be in action at the Great Edinburgh Cross Country. The event, which attracts a plethora of talent from around the world takes places in the famous Holyrood Park in Edinburgh, Scotland.
Rio Olympians Kerry O’Flaherty (Newcastle AC) and Ciara Mageean (UCD AC) will line up in the International Relay event as part of the Ireland team which also includes John Travers and Kieran Kelly. The Irish team will take on impressive sides from the USA, Great Britain, England, Europe, Wales and Scotland.
Well-known Irish coach Teresa McDaid will coach the European Team which includes two-time European XC Champion Fionnuala McCormack (Kilcoole AC). The Great Edinburgh Cross Country will be LIVE on BBC1 from 1.15pm on Saturday 7th January 2017.
BMC Sheffield Indoor Track & Field Meeting (England):
In England on Saturday 7th January 2017, a number of local athletes will start their 2017 track campaign at the BMC Indoor Track & Field Meeting in Sheffield. Callum Crawford-Walker (Annadale Striders), James Hamilton (Ballymena Runners) and Andrew Wright (Willowfield Harriers) will all be hoping to impress. Start lists for the event are available HERE.
East Coast AC Junior Cross Country Series:
On Sunday 8th January 2017, and following on from an excellent programme of cross country races in Moira a day earlier (Saturday 7th January 2017), junior athletes will once again be in for a treat, when East Coast Athletic Club host the 3rd annual running of their Junior Cross Country Series in Larne.
The first event of the three race Series will take place at Sandy Bay Playing Fields in Larne, and with races for athletes in age categories ranging from Under 6 to Under 16, it is sure to prove popular with running enthusiasts both locally and in the wider County Antrim area. Full details of the event are available HERE.
As always, Northern Ireland’s twenty four parkrun events will take place this weekend, for more information on these, or to locate your nearest event, please visit our dedicated ‘parkrun’ section within our fixtures page.
Pure Running Half Marathon Series 2017 in association with ChampionChip Ireland and Athletics NI:
Northern Ireland's longest running race series, the Pure Running Half Marathon Series, enters its ninth year with Pure Running continuing as the main sponsor.
Last years increased prize structure has been retained and the number of races required to count in the categories is 6 races to be completed from the 10, with 3 from the first half and 3 from the second half. The Series has expanded to include the Belfast City Half Marathon in September (2017) as a wild card where the runners can use their time from it to replace their slowest time from the other 6 if applicable.
The Belfast Subway Half Marathon is the second new event, with a flat fast course at Holywood Exchange in East Belfast on 2nd April 2017. It replaces the Omagh Half Marathon, which has dropped out of the Series after 8 successful years. When the Series began in 2009 there were 6 races and they attracted just over 5,600 entrants, the following year had 7 races and just over 7,000 entrants. In 2011 there were 6 races again but the entrants continued to flock in and there were over 1,000 entrants on average for each race. Then in 2012 the Series expanded to 8 races and the 8,000 mark was exceeded comfortably. 2013 saw 10 races in the Series and just short of 9,000 took part with 18 runners completing all 10. 2014 also had 10 races covering more of the country with a new race called the Dambusters Half Marathon held round the Silent Valley area in the Mourne Mountains and organised by local events management company Born to Run. In 2015 and in 2016 the number of participants was just short of the 8,000 mark with the same 10 races since 2013 but up by over 600 from 2014.
The inclusion of the Belfast City Half Marathon, with its 3,500 entrants, will help the Series exceed the 10,000 mark for the first time. Michael Jenkins has been a supporter of the Half Marathon Series since its inception in 2009 and continues to do so with his Pure Running brand www.purerunning.co.uk. Pure Running are the chief sponsor along with ChampionChip Ireland and Athletics NI. Angus McCready from Antrim has completed all 67 races in the Series, which is even more remarkable considering he was working and living in England for a period. His dedication meant travelling home for the races, some of which are mid-week.
The Series has an early start again this year with the traditional DUNE Half Marathon from Newry to Dundalk in mid-February and with a slight route alteration.
The Pure Running Half Marathon Series will be comprised of the following races:
Sunday 12th February 2017 – DUNE Cross Border Half Marathon (from Newry to Dundalk)
Saturday 18th March 2017 – Larne Half Marathon
Sunday 2nd April 2017 – Belfast Subway Holywood Exchange Half Marathon
Sunday 28th May 2017 – Newry Half Marathon and Marathon
Wednesday 21st June 2017 – Lisburn Half Marathon (inc NI Half Marathon Championships 2017)
This completes the first set, runners must record a finishing time in at least 3 of these races.
Friday 30th June 2017 – Ards Half Marathon
Saturday 22nd July 2017 – Dervock Half Marathon
Sunday 30th July 2017 – Cookstown Half Marathon
Saturday 12th August 2017 – Groomsport Half Marathon
Saturday 19th August 2017 – Dambusters Half Marathon
This completes the second set, runners must record a finishing time in at least 3 of these races.
Wildcard Race: Belfast City Half Marathon on Sunday 17th September 2017
Runners must complete at least 6 races, with at least 3 from the first set and 3 from the second set. Their time from the Belfast City Half Marathon wild card race can replace their slowest time of the previous 6. It will not count as their sixth race if they have only completed 5 up to that point. The prize fund remains the same as 2016 but runners must complete 10 or 11 races in the Series to be awarded a special garment at the end. The cumulative times of each competitor will be taken to calculate the rank in each category. If a competitor finishes in more than 6 races then their best 6 times will be used provided they still have completed 3 races from the first set of races and 3 from the second set of races. A competitor will stay in the age group they ran in at their first race. Where two or more competitors have the same cumulative time at the end then their fastest time in any race will be used as a tie break.
Note: Half way times in the Newry Marathon will be admissible if so desired.
Athletics NI will provide a page on its web site with regular updates on the leaders in each category and news of the Series. Competitors are required to register their time through an online form on the Athletics NI site so that their progress can be logged and ranks accurately recorded. A runner who fails to register their times through the ANI site could be overlooked when the final prizes are awarded as it’s difficult to accurately log all the times from 10000 entrants across the Series.
The prize structure is shown below. Prizes will be in the form of vouchers from Pure Running. The prize fund and structure for the Pure Running HM Series 2017 is available HERE.
Local ladies kick off 2017 with impressive performances:
On Wednesday 4th January 2017, two local athletes impressed at the prestigious Emirates Indoor Arena in Glasgow, Scotland. Competing over 3,000m, Olympian NI Kerry O'Flaherty (Newcastle AC) and newly crowned NI & Ulster 10k (Road) Champion Emma Mitchell (QUB AC) kicked off the new year in perfect fashion.
In what was the indoor season opener for both ladies, Steeplechaser Kerry secured 3rd place in 9:12.86; this was her second fastest ever indoors (PB - 9:11.17). Emma followed in a personal best of 9:17.19 (4th place). The race was won by Scottish athlete Laura Muir, who recorded 8:59.39 for 3,000m before going on to clock a new British 5,000m indoor record of 14:49.12.
Race Over The Glens 2017:
On Monday 2nd January 2017, nearly four hundred athletes descended on a cold but bright Glenariff Forest Park just outside Waterfoot (County Antrim) for the 21st annual running of Ballymena Runners' traditional Race Over the Glens.
The course, which measured approximately 6.5 miles in distance, saw athletes start on a fast road section before ascending to the course's highest point where they were greeted by a lone piper; from here, the field negotiated a long descent, at the bottom of which, they would then face a gruelling climb back up towards the piper.
The final stretch saw competitors descend towards the finish which was located just off the entrance road into the Forest Park, close to the Exhibition Centre.
At the head of the pack, reigning Champion Mark McKinstry (North Belfast Harriers) featured as expected, leading early on with Newcastle AC’s Zak Hanna on his shoulder. Behind, Kent Swann (North Belfast Harriers), Neill Weir (Willowfield Harriers) and Matthew Hewitt (East Coast AC) were all looking strong. As the race progressed, mountain runner Zak edged clear and began to put some distance between himself and Mark – eventually, this gap widened to a uncatchable distance and Zak ran out victorious in what was his first outing at the event.
Zak crossed the line in 35:19 (1st place), just over thirty seconds ahead of Mark who recorded 35:50 for 2nd place. Kent Swann completed the top three in 38:15 (3rd place).
In the ladies race, it was a similar situation, with 2016 ‘Queen of the Glens’ Shileen O’Kane (Lagan Valley AC) surrendering her crown despite a valiant effort. Versatile North Belfast Harriers athlete Martsje Hell kicked off 2017 in style with an impressive performance, securing victory in 45:05 (1st place). Club mate Penny Lindsay (North Belfast Harriers) completed the route in 45:22 for 2nd place, before Shileen crossed the line in 46:38 for 3rd place.
Through ROTG, Ballymena Runners raised nearly £600 for their nominated charity NI Chest, Heart and Stroke. Also, as part of the event, a raffle was drawn with the top prize being donated by Garmin - Ballymena Runners' Jonny Graham won the Garmin Vivo Active HR GPS watch.
Top 3 Men: 1st Zak Hanna (Newcastle AC) – 35:19, 2nd Mark McKinstry (North Belfast Harriers) – 35:50, 3rd Kent Swann (North Belfast Harriers) – 38:15
Top 3 Ladies: 1st Martsje Hell (North Belfast Harriers) – 45:05, 2nd Penny Lindsay (North Belfast Harriers) – 45:22, 3rd Shileen O’Kane (Lagan Valley AC) – 46:38
Full Results: Race Over The Glens 2017 Results (Photos by Robert McGaughey)
Note: Remember - If you would like to catch up on the news from December 2016, just click HERE. This includes summaries and results of races over the Christmas period. You can also view the 'news' archive by using the navigation bar at the top of the page.