Weekend Preview: NI & Ulster (Road) Relay Championships take centre stage!
A new month and another weekend is upon us, and both (the month and the weekend) bring excitement! We (NiRunning) have our Garmin Mourne Skyline Mountain-Trail Race later in the month!
However, this coming weekend brings one of our favourite annual events, the Northern Ireland & Ulster Road Relay Championships, which will once again be hosted by Orangegrove AC in the impressive Victoria Park, Belfast.
Given its stature, support and prominence within the local calendar, our preview will very much focus on the NI & Ulster Road Relay Championships.
Although, it’s not the only event taking place over the next few days, with the Slieve Gallion Mountain Race, Marty Gallagher Memorial 5k and the Runher Titanic 10k both providing excellent options. Local athletes will also be in action outside the province, with familiar faces set to toe the line at major events in Ireland and Scotland.
NI & Ulster (Road) Relay Championships 2015:
On Saturday 3rd October 2015, athletes from the length and breadth of the province will descend on Victoria Park in Belfast as they represent their clubs in one of Northern Ireland's premier running events, the NI & Ulster Road Relay Championships. The event, which is hosted by Orangegrove AC, will attract a plethora of talented with a total of 152 teams entered into the Senior and Masters competition.
The unique nature of the Relay Championships creates an excellent atmosphere; the event provides runners who would normally represent their club over various terrains (and distances) the opportunity to come together for one day, with all aiming to earn the bragging rights associated to being Northern Ireland’s ‘fastest club’.
The exciting day of racing will begin at 11.10am, with children’s races taking place before the adult Championship races kick off at 12.30pm. The first of these Championship races will see the Masters Ladies take to the start line; each team will consist of three runners (and two reserves), with each covering 3,380m.
Two years ago, Kelly Neely (City of Lisburn AC) produced a top class performance to steer City of Lisburn AC to victory at this event. The newly crowned World Masters 800m Champion missed out in 2014, but will return this year. Kelly will lead out a strong team, which contains Anne Terek and Diane Watson, but the talented trio will be hunted all the way by a strong Ballymena Runners contingent of Paula McAllister, Geraldine Quigley and Sharon Leetch.
Ballydrain Harriers will also be there or there abouts, with Denise Logue, Debbie Matchett and Amanda Perry all well capable of playing a major part in proceedings. North Belfast Harriers will look to Geraldine Branagh, Louise Smith and Roisin Hughes as they aim to continue their recent run of team wins, while recently crowned Ben Nevis Mountain Race Champion Diane Wilson join Dromore AC club mates Diane McKee and Wendy Fleming in the charge for honours. Lagan Valley AC will also field an impressive team in the form of Wendy Davis, Julie Murphy and Ruth Perioli.
After the ladies, it will be the turn of the Masters Men to take to the start line; the men’s teams will be made up of four athletes (and two reserves), with each covering 3,380m. This particular category is the most popular of the day, with nearly fifty teams set to participate.
North Belfast Harriers (Conor Curran, Alan O’Hara, Neil Carty and Tommy Simmons) and Willowfield Harriers (Brian Campbell, Neill Weir, Paul Rowan and Chris Moren) are likely to battle it out for top honours in what will be a close race. This leaves a number of teams to contest the final podium spot – Neil Douglas will return to action and compete alongside his Ballymena Runners team mates Ben Morrow, Michael Bennett and Richard Agnew, while experienced veteran athletes Adrian Boyle, Cathal McLaughlin, Tim Shiels and Gary McGee will represent the always impressive Derry City Track Club. Acorns AC (Darrell McKee, Aidan O’Hagan, Martin Loughran and Diarmuid O’Kane) and East Coast AC (Justin Maxwell, Mark McManus, Andy Guy and Murray Deller) will also be worth watching.
Like the Masters Ladies, the Senior Ladies race will consist of teams of three (and two reserves), with each athlete completing 3,380m. The Senior Ladies event could well be the most competitive of the day, with exceptionally strong Newcastle AC and North Belfast Harriers teams set to go head to head. Newcastle AC will be led by Commonwealth Games and IAAF World Championships star Kerry O’Flaherty, who will have the ever impressive duo of Joanne Mills and Mari Troeng for back-up, while NBH will look to Breege Connolly, Gladys Ganiel O’Neill and the in-form Martsje Hell to bring home the title.
Although it’s hard to look past the aforementioned teams for glory, there are other quality teams to look out for. City of Lisburn AC will field a team of up and coming stars, including Zoe Carruthers, Rebecca Harvey and Heather McLarnon, while the always strong North Down AC will rely on Jessica Craig, Rachel Gibson and Jodi Smith to claim a podium place. Lagan Valley AC (Emma Laverty, Emer Magee and Ursula Daly) cannot be ruled out when looking at podium contenders, and the same could also be said for Derry City Track Club (Helen Stockdale, Hannah McGowan and Amy McDaid), who boast a strong team.
The final race of what will be an epic day of action will be the Senior Men’s event. Following on from the previous races, the Senior Men's teams will consist of four athletes (and two reserves) and will complete 4 x 3,380m laps of the flat and fast course. North Down AC will field the speedy quartet of Michael Dyer, Craig McMeechan, Dennis Scott and James Budde, all of whom boast a strong backround of track and road running experience. The County Down men will face stiff opposition in the form of North Belfast Harriers men Adam Boyd, Mark McKinstry, Andrew Annett and Conal McCambridge.
Like the Senior Ladies event, this one could go right to the wire, with both teams capable of taking top spot. Young Springwell Running Club men Neil Johnston, Conor Christie, Luke Dinsmore and Johnny McKee will provide good value, as will the East Down AC (Brendan Teer, Neil McCartan, Ciaran Denvir and Andrew Telford) and Newcastle AC (Seamus Lynch, David O’Flaherty, Paul Carlin and Martin Melville) teams.
A full timetable for the NI & Ulster Road Relay Championships can be found HERE.
Slieve Gallion Mountain Race:
Also on Saturday 3rd October 2015, mountain running enthusiasts will take on the Slieve Gallion Mountain Race in the heart of the Sperrin Mountains. The event is organised by keen mountain runner and orienteer Jonny McCloy, along with his family and friends.
Slieve Gallion near Moneymore, is located on the eastern side of the Sperrin Mountain range (and shouldn’t be mixed up with Slieve Gullion, close to Newry). Slieve Gallion has two peaks - interestingly, the southwestern peak at Glenarudda (397th highest peak in Ireland) is in the Cookstown District, and the northeastern peak at Tintagh (496th highest peak) is in Magherafelt District. The race will kick off at 11am, with 2014 Champions Alex Brennan (Ballymena Runners) and Karen Alexander (Acorns AC) likely to return to defend their titles, on what will be a revised course. The 2015 route will cover 4.3 miles in distance and incorporate 350 metres of ascent and descent. Access onto the open mountain sections of Slieve Gallion has been restricted for this year’s event.
The aforementioned Alex Brennan has competed well in 2015, making the podium over various terrains, including road, trail and mountain, culminating in his selection for the Northern Ireland team that went to the Inter-Counties event in Wales at the end of the summer. Other men to look out for will be local athletes Shane Donnelly (Acorns AC) and Mark McGinn (Magherafelt Harriers).
Shane impressed in 2014 event and went on to establish himself in the local mountain running scene, as well as competitions in Norway and America. Meanwhile, Mark, known more so for his recent trail running exploits, has shown improvement over the mountains in recent months. Should Emmet McAlister (Unattached), Glenn Donnelly (Acorns AC), Andy Gregg (Larne AC) and Stephen Kennedy (East Coast AC) decide to compete, they will all be contenders.
In the ladies event, Karen Alexander will go into the race as clear favourite, following convincing victories at the recent Dublin Half Marathon and Wilderbeast events. Incoming NIMRA Champion Shileen O’Kane (Lagan Valley AC) and Ben Nevis Mountain Race winner Diane Wilson (Dromore AC) will both be notable absentees as they represent their clubs at the Northern Ireland & Ulster Road Relay Championships, which will undoubtedly have a significant effect on entries. However, should the likes of Paulette Thompson (Newcastle AC) and BARF pair Jacque Toal and Laura Smith enter on the day, they will all be capable of a podium place.
Run Galway Marathon (Ireland):
On Saturday 3rd October 2015, a number of athletes from Northern Ireland are expected to join approximately three thousand competitors at the Run Galway Bay Marathon (and associated Half Marathon and 10k) in Ireland.
The flat and fast course takes in several loops of the coastal area in and around Salthill, just outside Galway City – this will provide stunning scenery and good support, given that it’s within the hustle and bustle of the coastal hub. David Noble (Larne AC), Deirdre Bradley (Acorns AC), Colin Thom (Acorns AC), Gillian Logan (Larne AC) and Andrew Burrows (Dub Runners) are just five of a number of familiar faces we expect to perform well.
Runher Titanic 10k:
On Sunday 4th October 2015, thousands of athletes and spectators are expected to turn out for the annual Runher Titanic 10k and 5k road races in the ever growing Titanic Quarter of Northern Ireland's capital city, Belfast.
Both the 5k and 10k routes will be run over fast and flat courses, setting things up for those chasing personal bests. Although online entries are now closed, late entry is available from the Pure Running Shop today (Friday 2nd October 2015) or tomorrow (Saturday 3rd October 2015), and also on race day from the T13 Sports Academy until 1pm.
The action will kick off at 1.15pm with the Children’s Dash, while the 5k race will start at 2pm and the 10k at 2.05pm. North Down AC track star Jessica Craig will go into the 5k off the back of a leg at the NI & Ulster Road Relay Championships, but should still have enough to take the top prize – although former junior star Sarah-Jane Guiney (Albertville Harriers) will continue her impressive return to competition and will play a prominent part in proceedings. Other athletes who will perform well across the popular ladies only races will include Lyndsey Pronger (Orangegrove AC), Gillian Cordner (Seapark AC), Niamh Kellet (East Down AC), Cara Hamilton (North Down AC), Nuala Muldoon (Unattached) and Carla Prentice (Unattached) - all will finish well up the field.
Marty Gallagher Memorial 5k:
Also on Sunday 4th October, a large crowd is expected to turn out in support of the annual Marty Gallagher 5k road race in Derry/Londonderry, an event hosted by Foyle Valley AC in memory of their late club mate Marty Gallagher. The race will start at Glengalliagh Road at 11am and finish at the popular Templemore Sports Complex, where late registration will also be available up until 10.30am on race day.
In previous years, the race has attracted a good mixture of well-known athletes as well as those who may be venturing into ‘racing’ for the first time; either way, it’s set to be an excellent event. At the sharp end, we would expect the host club to be well represented, with the likes of Scott Rankin and Chris McGuinness likely to play a part. Gary Slevin (City of Derry AC) and Noel Logan (City of Derry AC) may also start, while 2014 ladies Champion Gemma Turley (Springwell Running Club) could be joined by recent Waterside Half Marathon Champion Catherine Whoriskey (City of Derry AC) in a race for top honours.
Glencoe Marathon (Scotland):
On Sunday 4th October 2015, Scottish Ultra trail running Champion and Irish International athlete Eoin Lennon (Carnethy HRC) will take on the challenging Glencoe Marathon. The route starts in the scenic loch-side village of Glencoe, taking athletes to the infamous climb known as the ‘Devils Staircase’, before descending into Kinlochleven.
Athletes will then depart the picturesque highland village and climb sharply onto the West Highland Way and onwards, on more gentle slopes to the Glen Nevis region of Fortwilliam, in the shadows of the UK’s highest peak, Ben Nevis. The off-road 26.2 mile route incorporates over 1,600 metres of ascent. The Northern Ireland man will go into the event high in confidence following an impressive 2015, with top class performances at the HOKA Highland Fling in March (4th place), where he took the competitive Scottish ultra-running title and more recently, a comprehensive victory at the Helensburgh Athletic Club supported ‘From Hel’n Back’ 12k Mountain-Trail Race.
As always, Northern Ireland’s twenty one 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 athletes impress outside Northern Ireland:
Over the course of the weekend (Saturday 26th and Sunday 27th September 2015), a number of local athletes were in action at events in Ireland, namely the Blackrock 4 mile road race and the Rathfarnham 5k road race, both just outside Dublin.
Blackrock 4 mile Road Race:
On Saturday 26th September 2015, the in-form Paddy Hamilton (Slieve Gullion Runners) once again showed his class as he followed on from his recent NI & Ulster silver medal over 10k with another podium finish at the Blackrock 4 mile road race.
Paddy covered the four mile route in 19:27 to secure 3rd place; the race won by Project Africa’s Dan Tanui (1st place – 18:36). In the ladies race, which was won by Mary Cullen (North Sligo AC) in 21:07 (1st place), County Tyrone based Rosina Kibionia (Project Africa) took 2nd place in a time of 22:26. East Down AC’s Catherine O’Connor also ran well to cross the line in 24:21 (5th place).
Rathfarnham 5k Road Race:
Just 24 hours later, on Sunday 27th September 2015, several familiar faces secured highly placed finishes at the prestigious Rathfarnham 5k road race, just south of Dublin. Letterkenny AC man Ciaran Doherty claimed a top ten place in 15:12 (10th place), while fellow Northern Ireland men Conor Curran (North Belfast Harriers), Gerard Gallagher (Finn Valley AC) and Matt Doherty (Derry City Track Club) finished within the top twenty of what was a competitive field. Conor clocked a new personal best of 15:33 (15th place), with Gerard following in 15:39 (17th place) – Matt Doherty crossed the line just eight seconds later in 15:47 (19th place). NI & Ulster XC Champion Teresa Doherty (Finn Valley AC) won the ladies race in 16:27 (1st place). The men’s race was won by John Travers (Donore Harriers) in 14:21 (1st place).
Berlin Marathon 2015:
On Sunday 27th September 2015, a large number of athletes from Northern Ireland took on the prestigious Berlin Marathon in Germany.
Although the performances by local athletes impressed throughout the field, it was the Olympic qualifying standards by Kevin Seaward (St Malachy's AC) and Paul Pollock (Annadale Striders) that will justifiably catch the headlines.
The pressure was on the talented duo as they set off on the flat and fast route and they duly delivered. After NI & Ulster 10k Champion Gary Murray (Clonliffe Harriers) had led the local contingent through 10k in 31:57, it was Kevin who came to the fore and covered 13.1 miles in 1:07:38. Gary followed in 1:07:39 and Paul in 1:08:01.
In the latter stages, Gary began to tire, but Kevin and Paul powered on. In the end, both Kevin and Paul recorded new personal bests, with Kevin running 2:14:52 and Paul 2:15:38; these times were well within the Olympic marathon qualifying standard of 2:17:00. Gary Murray completed the route in 2:21:09, an impressive marathon debut. City of Derry AC's Declan Reed also dipped under the sub 2:30:00 mark with an excellent 2:27:08 finish.
Interestingly, Greg McClure (North Belfast Harriers) completed his 10th Berlin Marathon, which means that he becomes a member of the race's 'Jubilee Club' and receives his own race number for the event - Greg completed the 26.2 miles in 3:17:34. Kenya celebrated a double victory at the event, with Eluid Kipchoge taking the men's title in 2:04:00 (1st place) and Gladys Cherono winning the ladies race in 2:19:25 (1st place).
Full results for the Berlin Marathon are available HERE.
Aurora Bangor 10k 2015:
On Saturday 26th September 2015, hundreds of athletes descended on the coastal town of Bangor, County Down, for the annual Aurora Bangor 10k road race. As expected, the popular event attracted several well-known athletes.
The course took competitors from Castle Park, down through the atmospheric Town Centre and onto the picturesque North Down coastline, where they took in a flat but promenade section before turning and making their way back towards the town and subsequently, the well-supported finish area.
The men’s race was an exceptionally close affair, which came down to a sprint finish between five men over the last 500 metres. As the leading group crested the final hill, Francis Marsh (North Down AC), Ben Morrow (Ballymena Runners), Lindsay Gordon (Meadowmill Project), Brendan Grew (North Belfast Harriers) and Paul Rowan (Willowfield Harriers) were all in the mix for the top three places.
In the end, local man Francis Marsh proved to be a popular winner. Francis broke the tape in 34:11 (1st place) and was followed by Lindsay Gordon (34:14) and Ben Morrow (34:16) in 2nd place and 3rd place. Interestingly, just fifteen seconds split the aforementioned top five men, with Paul Rowan running 34:19 (4th place) and Brendan Grew 34:26 (5th place).
The ladies race wasn’t just as closed, but did prove to be a top quality contest. North Belfast Harriers’ Breege Connolly showed an excellent display of front running as she continued her return to fitness with an impressive victory – Breege completed the course in 35:52 (1st place). Jessica Craig (North Down AC), Rachel Gibson (North Down AC), Gerrie Short (Beechmount Harriers) and Denise Logue (Ballydrain Harriers) all contested the remaining podium places. However, it was the two North Down AC ladies who eventually picked up the prizes. Jessica clocked 38:28 for 2nd place, while Boom 10k winner Rachel followed in 38:53 (3rd place).
Top 3 Men: 1st Francis Marsh (North Down AC) – 34:11, 2nd Lindsay Gordon (Meadowmill Project) – 34:14, 3rd Ben Morrow (Ballymena Runners) – 34:16
Top 3 Ladies: 1st Breege Connolly (North Belfast Harriers) – 35:52, 2nd Jessica Craig (North Down AC) – 38:28, 3rd Rachel Gibson (North Down AC) – 38:53
Full Results: Aurora Bangor 10k 2015 Results
Athletics NI announce details of 2015/16 XC League:
Today (Wednesday 23rd September 2015), Athletics Northern Ireland announced details of their upcoming Cross Country League. As it enters its fifth year, Athletics NI are introducing a number of changes to enhance the popular series.
The points scoring system has been revised to allow more clubs to score team points. The first six club teams of 4 will now score points and the individual points score will now extend to a maximum of 16 with each runner scoring one point. Clubs do not need to specifically enter the league as the points tally will be compiled from the results of each event included in the league.
An enhanced prize fund will also be available this season with a total of over £1,500 in the pot. The first six teams, in both Men’s and Women’s sections, will receive prizes rather that only the top 3 in previous years.
The League has contributed significantly to the increase in both participation and interest in cross country running across Northern Ireland, with larger fields turning out for races each year. It is hoped that these changes will create further interest in Cross Country running
Full details of how the points awarded for performance and participation will be scored are available at www.athleticsni.org/events
Athletics Northern Ireland Cross Country League Fixtures 2015-2016:
- Comber Cup Cross Country - Castlereagh - Saturday 10th October 2015
- Bobby Rea Cross Country - Jordanstown - Saturday 24th October 2015
- McConnell Shield - Ballyclare - Saturday 7th November 2015
- Malcolm Cup - Ballyclare - Saturday 5th December 2015
- Acorns AC Cross Country - Cookstown - Saturday 12th December 2015
- North West Cross Country - L'Derry - Saturday 19th December 2015
- Antrim International Cross Country - Greenmount College - Saturday 16th January 2016
- NI & Ulster Senior Cross Country Championships - Lurgan - Saturday 20th February 2016
- Stormont Cross Country - Belfast - Saturday 27th February 2016
World Mountain Running Association (WMRA) Championships (Wales):
Further afield on Saturday 19th September 2015, a number of runners from Northern Ireland will be in action at the World Mountain Running Association (WMRA) Senior and Junior Mountain Running Championships in Wales. The week-long programme events held in North Wales kicked off last Saturday (12th September 2015) and proved extremely successful for local athletes, with no less than four collecting medals in the WMRA Masters World Championships.
This week, it is the turn of the senior and junior athletes to take centre stage. In the senior men’s race, Seamus Lynch (Newcastle AC) will head the local challenge for honours, while junior stars Oisin Brennan, James Millar, Joel Harrison, Aaron Harrison and Scott McKeag will represent Northern Ireland in the British & Irish Championships, which will be held as part of the event.
Belfast City Half Marathon:
On Sunday 20th September 2015, over 3,500 athletes and associated spectators will descend on Northern Ireland’s capital city, Belfast, for the Belfast City Half Marathon, which also incorporates the NI & Ulster Half Marathon Championships. In its relatively short existence, the event has established itself as the province’s largest Half Marathon, proving popular with both competitive runners and those looking to raise worthwhile funds for local and national charities. The new course, which encompasses East Belfast, the City Centre and the Lower Falls, is described as “super-fast” by organisers and should therefore encourage fast times.
In terms of front-runners, we would expect this year's Belfast City Marathon runner up Gideon Kimosop (Project Africa) to be among a number of Kenyan athletes who are likely to dominate the male and female podium. The 27 year old was somewhat of a surprise package back in May when he went head-to-head with previous Belfast marathon winner Joel Kipsang – after an excellent battle, Gideon tired in the last 2 miles but held on to secure second place in 2:20:29. Taking this and his 1:05:15 victory at the Omagh Half Marathon into consideration, Gideon will therefore be considered as pre-race favourite.
Fellow Project Africa athlete Dan Tanui (Kenya) will also be keen to impress. In relation to the competition for local honours, Newry based athlete Paddy Hamilton (Slieve Gullion Runners) looks likely to take charge. Paddy has been in good form all year, especially over the 10k distance; two weeks ago, he secured the runners up spot in 30:53.
East Down AC’s Brendan Teer and Armagh AC’s Gary Henderson should also feature prominently, while Brian Campbell (Willowfield Harriers) has been side-lined with a minor calf injury. North Belfast Harriers will field a strong line-up as they attempt to secure the team title as well as high individual places; Andrew Annett, Mark McKinstry, Adam Boyd, Neil Carty, Andrew Considine, Brendan Grew, Jim Benson, Simon Reeve and the ever improving pair of Tommy Simmons and John Black will be the men looking to score. Despite the absence of front man Brian Campbell, Willowfield Harriers should also make the team podium with the likes of Greg Lucy, Neill Weir and Chris Moren taking charge.
The ladies race will also see Kenyan athletes come to the fore - Mercy Jemutai Tanui and Rosina Kiboino are along with Gideon Kimosop under the wing of Omagh based Project Africa Athletics coach Ciaran Collins. At the age of 21 years old, Mercy Jemutai Tanui has a bright future – the talented athlete has clocked some classy times - in 2012, she covered the marathon distance 2:31:30 and recorded a half marathon time of 1:11:19. Despite being much slower than her best, Mercy’s most recent marathon time of 2:45:41 (July 2015) makes her the marginal favourite ahead of fellow Kenyan Rosina Kiboino. Rosina has a similar marathon time when she finished as runner up at the Sofia Marathon in October 2014.
Reigning Champion of the Belfast City Half Marathon, Gladys Ganiel O’Neill (North Belfast Harriers), would normally be considered right up there with the potential favourites. However, having only recently returned to racing, Gladys is understandably not at full fitness – despite this, the gutsy athlete still put in a top quality performance to secure a NI & Ulster silver medal over 10k at Laganside two weeks ago; based on this, Gladys should not never be ruled out! In addition to Commonwealth Games star Gladys, North Belfast Harriers will also be well represented by Louise Smith who was second over the old course here last year – Gladys and Louise will also spearhead the North Belfast Harriers challenge for the ladies team title.
Lisburn Half Marathon winner and Irish Olympian Catriona Jennings (Rathfarnham WSAF) should also make the podium, while ever consistent athletes Gerrie Short (Beechmount Harriers), Gillian Wasson (Springwell Running Club), Hazel Smyth (Dumfries AC), Sarah-Jane Guiney (Albertville Harriers) and Kirsty Sharratt (Larne AC) will also be worth watching. Other ladies who will be looking to finish well up the field include Diane Watson (City of Lisburn AC), Irene Clements (Enniskillen Running Club), Anne Fitzpatrick (North Belfast Harriers), Sinead Murtagh (Newcastle AC), Susan Smyth (Dromore AC), Gillian Logan (Larne AC), Natasha Henderson (County Antrim Harriers) and Niamh Kellet (East Down AC).
As always, Northern Ireland’s twenty one 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.
Weekend: It's all about the Laganside (10k) and Waterside (Half Marathon)...
It's been a dull summer weather wise, but as we break out of it and move towards autumn, this weekend's fixtures will most definitely brighten things up.
A quick look at the official Athletics NI calendar shows that there are only two competitive events, much less than recent weekends. However, these two races, the Laganside 10k and the Waterside Half Marathon, will attract approximately 3,200 competitors in total!
Elsewhere, a large contingent of runners from Northern Ireland will travel to Scotland for the annual Ben Nevis Mountain Race, while several familiar faces are expected to compete at the Kerry Way Ultra in Ireland. Although the weekend action will kick off outside NI, we'll take a look at the major local events first.
Laganside 10k road race (inc NI & Ulster 10k road Championships):
On Sunday 6th September 2015, the eyes of the province (and beyond) will be on Northern Ireland's capital city, Belfast, for the sell-out Pure Running Laganside 10k road race, which incorporates the Northern Ireland & Ulster 10k (Road) Championships.
The one thousand plus athletes taking to the start line will have their own ambitions, but at the front end of the field, it looks like being a close contest between several of Northern Ireland's top athletes, with Stephen Scullion (Unattached), Paddy Hamilton (Slieve Gullion Runners), Joe McAllister (St Malachy’s AC) and Gary Murray (St Malachy's AC) all due to go head-to-head.
This will be England based Stephen's first race in over a year and reports suggest that he's running well within his training group, which includes Team GB's Andy Vernon and the Teddington Australian crew headed by Collis Birmingham. The always impressive Paddy is in good shape going by his recent outings, with arguably the most notable being a 31:13 at last week's Dessies 10k.
Meanwhile, Joe has returned to competition over the summer with excellent wins a Mallusk Harriers 5 mile road race and also at the Lurig Challenge. His (Joe's) team mate Gary has had a quiet few months but showed great form at the start of the year with a 14:19 5k and a 1:04:40 half marathon. Looking beyond this quartet, it’s quite an open affair, with a plethora of talent set to start. Conan McCaughey (Enniskillen Running Club), Brendan Teer (East Down AC), Brian Campbell (Willowfield Harriers), Adam Boyd (North Belfast Harriers), Andrew Annett (North Belfast Harriers), Andrew Agnew (Annadale Striders) and Paul Rowan (Willowfield Harriers) are all well capable of topping the podium on their given day, but will certainly settle for a personal best (or seasons best) and a top ten finish as part of such a competitive field.
The well-known names continue, with the likes of Chris Madden (City of Lisburn AC), Conor Curran (North Belfast Harriers), Seamus Lynch (Newcastle AC), Mark McKinstry (North Belfast Harriers), Craig McMeechan (North Down AC), Dennis Scott (North Down AC), Neill Weir (Willowfield Harriers) and Chris Moren (Willowfield Harriers) set to compete.
The men's team race for the NI & Ulster Championships (which is now four to score rather than the traditional six) is going to be a close battle. Hosts North Belfast Harriers, who have approximately one hundred athletes taking part, will be going out to defend their title but Willowfield Harriers (Brian Campbell, Paul Rowan, Neil Weir and Chris Moren) will prove hard to beat. The always consistent Newcastle AC and Acorns AC will also be worth watching.
In the ladies race, Irish international Ann-Marie McGlynn (Letterkenny AC) will start as favourite. The Strabane based star has been in exceptional form this year and despite moving towards the jumps of the Steeplechase, Ann-Marie will still have it here. After running 34:39 at the Titanic 10k back in April 2015, the current NI & Ulster 5k and 10k Champion will be keen to improve her personal best even further. Danielle Fegan (Armagh AC) is a lady who targets races well and never fails to perform whenever she takes to the start line. The multiple XC medallist ran 36:30 for 10,000m earlier this year and should clock a personal best here – she will be on the podium.
Cathy McCourt (North Belfast Harriers), Rachel Gibson (North Down AC) and recently crowned NI & Ulster 10,000m Champion Jenny Black (Orangegrove) will also have eyes on a prize-winning place. However, Catherine O'Connor (East Down AC), Mari Troeng (Newcastle AC), Gerrie Short (Beechmount Harriers), Katie Moore (North Down AC) and Maeve Lavery (Dub Runners) will not be easy pickings given their form this term. Gladys Ganiel O’Neill (North Belfast Harriers) will make a welcome return to action after starting a family and should get an excellent reception – with no pressure to be up at the front! Kerry O’Flaherty (Newcastle AC) is an unlikely starter considering her focus being on the 3,000m Steeplechase, but should the Mill Hill Mile record holder decide to run, she'll have enough stamina to get herself amongst the medals.
In the team competition, North Belfast Harriers will be keen to use their strength in depth to retain their title and complete the male/female double. However, Ballymena Runners' Kerry Bamber, Catherine McQuillan, Geraldine Quigley and Lorna Sibbett make a strong team. North Down AC should also be there or there abouts with Rachel Gibson and Katie Moore leading the charge.
As part of the race programme, there will also be a Kids 1 mile run. Over one hundred junior athletes have already signed up to the event, and with all guaranteed a finishers medal, there will be excitement in the air. There are still entries available for the Kids 1 mile run. Final race day information, including details of number collection, parking and prizes is now available on the Laganside 10k facebook page.
Waterside Half Marathon:
Also on Sunday 6th September 2015, close to two thousand runners will take to the streets of the Maiden City, Derry/Londonderry for the 34th staging of the Waterside Half Marathon, which this year boasts a brand new course taking in both sides of the River Foyle.
The weather forecast suggests a dry, cloudy morning with light winds and that would be ideal for the 13.1 mile jaunt from the Ebrington start-line back to the St Columbs Park running track finish line via the Foyle and Peace Bridges.
The race programme will kick off at 9.55am when the City's Mayor sets Wheelchair competitor Karol Doherty on his way. The remainder of the field will get the green light at 10am and in the front line will be pre-race favourites Freddy Sittuk and Mick Clohisey, from top Dublin based club Raheny Shamrock AC, Mick will be hoping to emulate his coach Dick Hooper, who won the Waterside Half Marathon back in 1987, posting an impressive 1:04:33 for the win. Reports suggest that Mick is just back from altitude training in France and has a 1:04:42 half marathon personal best. Prolific racer and a favourite with the supporters, Freddy Sittuk will be keen to retain his high profile competitive CV around the local scene – based on his winning performance at the recent Longford Marathon, were he seemed to 'hold back', Freddy should be in good shape going into this event.
Declan Reed (City of Derry AC) and Scott Rankin (Foyle Valley AC) are likely to front the local challenge with Pauric McKinney (Inishowen AC), Chris McGuinness (Foyle Valley AC) and Gary Slevin (City of Derry AC) not far away. Declan and Pauric are deep in training for the Berlin Marathon later this month (Mick Clohisey is also said to be heading there), and will therefore have the necessary endurance to mount a good challenge alongside the in-form Scott Rankin for at least the final podium place.
The ladies race looks the most open in recent years and holds out the possibility of the first ever female winner from the former City of Culture. County Derry/L'Derry athlete Theresa Kidd and Anne Paul both won the title twice, Donegal 's Bernadette Alcorn, Noreen Martin and Helena Crossan (three times), plus Omagh Harriers' Julie Butler are past winners. The final entry list suggests that one of Catherine Whoriskey (City of Derry AC), Martina McMullan (Foyle Valley AC) and Gemma McGinty (Foyle Valley AC) could make history by leading the field home. Catherine in particular is in great form and her 36:37 personal best at Dessies 10k Run last week hints at a decent half marathon. Martina has very good endurance credentials and picked up a category prize at the tough Rathlin Run last weekend, while Gemma McGinty is a fast improving podium regular. They, with Jackie McMonagle, look like the potential front runners.
Of course there will be many other runners with highly personal targets ranging from simply finishing, through setting personal bests, to contending for the various age group category awards. All these will ensure a vivid spectacle of effort and endeavour over the 13.1 miles, the challenge of the Foyle Bridge, the drop down the Boomhall pathway, the runs along the riverbank and that final stretch across the Peace Bridge to the finish on the St Columbs Park running track.
The action gets off at 9.55am in Ebrington with the first finishers expected at the running track at approximately 11.04am. The bulk of finishers are expected between 11.30am and 12.30pm, with the final finishers expected 1pm and 1.30pm.
Outside Northern Ireland this weekend:
Kerry Way Ultra (Ireland):
The weekend action for local athletes will kick off outside the province, at the Kerry Way Ultra in Ireland today (Friday 4th September 2015) at 6am. Local athletes will join competitors from across the emerald isle and further afield as they take on the enormous 200k race, along the famous Wild Atlantic Way. Athletes will start in Killarney and travel along ancient trails, old roads and coastal cliff before returning to the finish in Killarney. At this time, we are not aware of any Northern Ireland participants, but it is likely that some will take part. Their progress and results will be monitored throughout the weekend and reported early next week.
Ben Nevis Mountain Race (Scotland):
On Saturday 5th September 2015, in Scotland, Northern Ireland's top mountain running talent will take on the annual Ben Nevis mountain race.
Ben Nevis is the highest mountain in the UK. Standing at 1,344 metres (4,409 ft) above sea level, it is located at the western end of the Grampian Mountains in the Lochaber area of the Scottish Highlands, close to the town of Fort William. The mountain is a popular destination, attracting an estimated 100,000 ascents a year, the first of which was back in 1771, by James Robertson. Now in 2015, almost 40 Northern Ireland runners hope to make the gruelling ascent to the famous Summit.
It is expected that Newcastle AC pair Seamus Lynch and Ian Bailey, along with Jonny Steede (Unattached), Sam Herron (Mourne Runners) and Alex Brennan (Ballymena Runners) will lead the local contingent up and down the mountain. All but Ian, who won the Slieve Donard race in May (2015), have experience on 'The Ben' and, like most, will be looking to improve on their personal best times.
Both of Northern Ireland's most established mountain running clubs, the aforementioned Mourne Runners and Newcastle AC will again be well represented. As well as Sam Herron, Mourne Runners have an array of talent on display, including Clive Bailey, Ricky Hanna, William Marks, Eugene McCann, Mike Barton, David Bell, Darren Herron, Garth McGimpsey and the experienced Ricky Cowan. Wearing the famous red and yellow singlets of Newcastle AC, alongside Seamus Lynch and Ian Bailey, will be Martin Brogan, Eamon Campbell, Pete Grant, Brian McBurney, PJ McCrickard, Stephen Rice, Barry Wells, Brian Wilson and the female trio of Paulette Thomson, Debbie Kendall and Rita Devlin.
Not too far behind the main contenders, Ballymena Runners Conor Reid and Stephen Purvis, will be joined by Larne men Justin Maxwell (East Coast AC) and Eamonn McLaughlin (Lagan Valley AC). Others to look out for are Liam Smyth of Murlough AC, Springwell Running Club's David Holden and Armagh man Paul Hollywood (Armagh AC). In addition to the aforementioned Newcastle AC ladies, the always impressive Dianne Wilson (Dromore AC) and Lagan Valley AC ladies Hazel McLaughlin and Anne Sandford will ensure Northern Ireland Mountain Running ladies are to the fore.
Multiple winner of the Ben Nevis race, local Lochaber AC member Finlay Wild will go into the race as favourite, but will have to look out for former British Fell Running Champion Rob Jebb (Bingley Harriers). In the ladies event, Caitlin Rice (Glossopdale Harriers) is the stand out name on the entry list. Interestingly, both the male and female course records for this race have stood since 1984 and by members of the same club, Keswick AC. The legendary Kenny Stuart set a male record with a time of 1:25:34, whilst club-mate Pauline Haworth ran the course in a time of 1:43:25.
Northern Ireland's parkrun enthusiasts will welcome the second running of the all new Stormont parkrun, which takes place on Saturday 5th September 2015 alongside the country's twenty other parkrun events. For more information on these, or to locate your nearest event, please visit our dedicated ‘parkrun’ section within our fixtures page.
Run 'N the Bann 5k 2015:
On Thursday 3rd September 2015, a record number of well over three hundred athletes turned out for the annual Run 'N the Bann 5k road race in Portglenone, close to Ballymena in County Antrim.
The event, which never fails to attract a quality field, once again produced, and at the head of the pack it was Lancaster & Morecombe AC athlete Michael Crawley who stole the headlines. In favourable conditions, Michael ran out as clear winner in 16:36 (1st place) and was followed across the line by Ballymena Runners duo Michael Bennett and Richard Agnew, after they clocked 17:04 (2nd place) and 17:10 (3rd place) respectively.
In the ladies race, it was Rathlin Run 5k winner Gemma Turley (Springwell Running Club) who impressed most. After showing no signs of fatigue following her impressive effort over the tough Rathlin course, Gemma broke the tape in 18:55 (1st place) to seal victory. A mere four seconds split Geraldine Quigley (Ballymena Runners) and Lorna Sibbett (Ballymena Runners), with Geraldine taking 2nd place in 19:31 and Lorna 3rd place in 19:35.
Top 3 Men: 1st Michael Crawley (Lancaster & Morecombe AC) – 16:36, 2nd Michael Bennett (Ballymena Runners) – 17:04, 3rd Richard Agnew (Ballymena Runners) – 17:10
Top 3 Ladies: 1st Gemma Turley (Springwell Running Club) – 18:55, 2nd Geraldine Quigley (Ballymena Runners) – 19:31, 3rd Lorna Sibbett (Ballymena Runners) – 19:35
Full Results: Run N' the Bann 5k 2015 Results
Newcastle AC host annual Mill Hill Mile:
On Tuesday 1st September 2015, just over one hundred athletes turned out for the annual Mill Hill Mile road race in Castlewellan, County Down. The Newcastle AC organised event, which see’s competitors start in Annsborough and run one mile uphill to the Market House in Castlewellan, has enjoyed somewhat of a resurgence in recent years, with number again rising from 2014.
In a close race at the front, it was Paralympic Champion Michael McKillop (Brooks Running UK) who stole the headlines. Michael continued his return from injury in impressive fashion when he followed up his podium place at last week's Acorns 5k with an excellent run, leading the field home in 5:27 (1st place). Northern Ireland and Ireland international mountain runner Andrew Annett (North Belfast Harriers) took 2nd place in 5:39, before the host club's Seamus Lynch (Newcastle AC) recorded 5:44 for 3rd place.
Kerry O'Flaherty (Newcastle AC) swapped the IAAF World Championships 'Birds Nest' track for the roads and showed her class once again. Kerry bettered her own course record when she dipped under the six minute mark to secure victory in 5:58 (1st place). Joanne Mills (Newcastle AC) replicated her 2nd place finish from 2014 when she crossed the line in 6:44, finishing ten seconds ahead of club mate Sinead Murtagh (Newcastle AC), who recorded 6:54 (3rd place).
Top 3 Men: 1st Michael McKillop (Brooks Running UK) – 5:27, 3rd Andrew Annett (North Belfast Harriers) – 5:39, 3rd Seamus Lynch (Newcastle AC) – 5:44
Top 3 Ladies: 1st Kerry O'Flaherty (Newcastle AC) – 5:58, 2nd Joanne Mills (Newcastle AC) – 6:44, 3rd Sinead Murtagh (Newcastle AC) – 6:54
Full Results: Mill Hill Mile 2015 Results (Photo above by Mal McCann)
Remember - If you would like to catch up on our 'News' from August 2015, including summaries from the Rathlin Run 2015 and other events from last weekend, you can use the navigation banner at the top of the screen (and scroll to August 2015) or click HERE.