Northern Ireland Running

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Stephen Prentice and Breege Connolly end 2014 in style:

Lough 5 mile Road Race 2014:

On Wednesday 31st December 2014, nearly five hundred athletes turned out for the Lough 5 mile road race in Loughmacrory, County Tyrone.  Given it's 12pm start (later than the EAMS event), this was the final race of an excellent 2014 for the Northern Ireland running scene.

At the head of the pack it was Annadale Striders' Stephen Prentice who impressed most; after going through the 2 mile marker just ahead of Omagh Harriers' in-form Paul Barbour, Stephen continued at a relentless pace, increasing his lead before claiming a well-deserved victory in 26:23 (1st place).  Paul Barbour followed in 26:39 (2nd place), while Michael Murphy (City of Derry AC), who was a top ten finisher at the Greencastle 5 on Boxing Day, completed the top three in 27:58 (3rd place).

In the ladies race, North Belfast Harriers lady Breege Connolly turned on the style to secure a comfortable victory. The international athlete led from the off and crossed the line in 29:20 (1st place), nearly five minutes clear of her nearest rival, which turned out to be up and coming Omagh Harriers star Toni Moore (2nd place – 34:01).  Another junior athlete with a bright future from Omagh Harriers, Caelainn McQuaid, took 3rd place in 34:10.

Top 3 Men:  1st Stephen Prentice (Annadale Striders) – 26:23, 2nd Paul Barbour (Omagh Harriers) – 26:39, 3rd Michael Murphy (City of Derry AC) – 27:58

Top 3 Ladies:  1st Breege Connolly (North Belfast Harriers) – 29:20, 2nd Toni Moore (Omagh Harriers) – 34:01, 3rd Caelainn McQuaid (Omagh Harriers) – 34:10

Full Results:  Lough 5 mile Road Race 2014 Results

Special Preview:  'Race Over The Glens 2015'

Special Preview:  Record number expected at ROTG 2015...

After a hectic few days of Christmas racing, it's now time to look forward to one of the festive periods most popular and atmospheric events, Ballymena Runners' Race Over the Glens!  

Although, this 'Special Preview' will focus on ROTG, it isn't the only race taking place over the New Year, with the Lough 5 mile road race (in Loughmacrory, County Tyrone) and the East Antrim Marathon Series event (starting and finishing in Jordanstown, County Antrim) both scheduled for New Years Eve and events management company Endurance Junkie's Titanic Run set for New Years Day.

On Thursday 1st January 2015, record numbers of over three hundred and fifty athletes are expected to descend on Glenariff Country Park in the heart of the scenic Glens of Antrim, just outside Waterfoot (County Antrim), for the 19th annual running of the Race Over the Glens, hosted by Ballymena Runners.

Interestingly, in it's first ever running in 1995, the race attracted just twenty five runners; now, athletes show discipline as they forgo the most popular party night of the year (New Years Eve) to ensure they are in tip-top shape as they toe the line in the hope of kicking off the New Year in style.  Due to tree disease and a number of other factors, the course has changed several times, it now measured approximately 5.5 miles in distance.  Last year, ROTG attracted three hundred and thirty one runners.

It looks as if the battle at the head of the field will be one of the closest in many years, with previous winners Jarlath Falls (Ballymena & Antrim AC) and Jonny Steede (Ballymena Runners) likely to be joined in battle by the likes of Seamus Lynch (Newcastle AC), Mark McKinstry (North Belfast Harriers) and Ian Bailey (Newcastle AC).  Ballymena & Antrim AC man Jarlath Falls has enjoyed victory here on a number of occasions, including last year (2013) and despite missing most of the year through injury, the talented athlete returned to competition at the recent Malcolm Cup XC, were he he claimed an impressive third place in what was a quality field.  The host clubs Jonny Steede was victorious here in 2013 and will be hopeful of showing the same kind of form that saw him crowned North Ireland Mountain Running Association (NIMRA) Champion this year.  Both Jonny and Jarlath will need to be in top form if they want to fend of two men in red hot shape; Seamus Lynch looked strong as he battled well to win the BARF Turkey Trot on Boxing Day, then just 24 hours later, he (Seamus) and club mate David Steele took second place at Newcastle AC's Christmas Cracker.

Meanwhile, like Seamus, Mark McKinstry has shown his talents over pretty much every terrain.  Mark has progressed into a fantastic athlete over the last twelve months and has recorded personal bests over 5k (16:10), 5 miles (26:33), 10k (33:04) and Half Marathon (1:16:23), as well as notable performances in the Athletics NI XC season and a win at the 26 extreme Tollymore Marathon last month (November 2014).  Another man to watch out for could be Newcastle AC's David Steele – David has enjoyed an excellent year, with arguably his best outing being a fifth place finish and category win at the Mourne Skyline MTR, were he was up against a world class field. As mentioned above, David and club mate Seamus Lynch took second place at the Castlewellan Christmas Cracker last Saturday (27th December 2014).

Newcastle AC are expected to field a strong team, which should include the aforementioned Seamus Lynch and David Steele, as well as David O'Flaherty, Eoghan Totten and Deon McNeilly, amongst others.  North Down AC's Stephen Wylie, Ballymena Runners' Alex Brennan and East Coast AC men Matthew Hewitt and Justin Maxwell will all be aiming for top ten finishes, as will Emmet McAlister (Unattached), James Brown (Larne AC), Wayne Morrow (Larne AC), Simon Reeve (North Belfast Harriers), Chris Denton (Springwell Running Club) and Oliver Cook (Ballymena & Antrim AC).

The ladies race looks like it will be a dual between two very strong athletes, namely previous winner Sharon Trimble (North Belfast Harriers) and Clare MacAuley (Bellahouston Harriers).  The Scotland based athletes, both of whom are back in Northern Ireland for the festive period, always impress when in competition and nothing will change here.  Sharon, a winner of this race in 2012, when she finished in the top ten overall, is arguably Northern Ireland's top trail runner, and was part of the Irish team who claimed a bronze medal at the World Mountain Running Championships in 2013.  More recently, Sharon finished just outside the podium places at the Mourne Skyline Mountain-Trail Race (October 2014).  

Clare MacAuley finished as runner up at ROTG in 2013 and also enjoyed success further up the east coast of Northern Ireland when she won the Dalriada 10k race last summer (2014).  Other ladies to look for may include Lagan Valley AC trio Shileen O'Kane, Hazel McLaughlin and Ursula Daly.  All have been running well of late, with Shileen and Hazel showing their class over local, national and international mountains, and Ursula at the Greencastle 5, were she claimed second place behind Heather Foley.  Hazel and Ursula also teamed up at the Castlewellan Christmas Cracker, were they secured the runners up spot in the ladies category. 

Janice White (Ballymena Runners), Sam McNeilly (Newcastle AC), Ruth Aicken (Ballymena Runners), Catherine Roberts (North Down AC), Janice Plumb (North Belfast Harriers), Catriona Kerr (Glens Runners), Ally Bennett (County Antrim Harriers), Penny Lindsay (North Belfast Harriers) and Natalie Davidson (County Antrim Harriers) will also finish well up the field.

For those who have not entered yet, online entry is now closed but entry will be available on the day from 10.30am at the Glenariff Country Park Visitors Centre.  The race kicks off at 12pm (Midday) and will be followed by refreshments and prize-giving, which includes individual, category and team prizes.

Hundreds enjoy Newcastle AC's 31st annual Christmas Cracker:

Castlewellan Christmas Cracker 2014:

On Saturday 27th December 2014, over three hundred and fifty teams descended on the County Down town of Castlewellan for the 31st annual running of the well organised Castlewellan Christmas Cracker, which was hosted by Newcastle AC.  The event requires athletes to pair up with another runner to complete the course; some opt to run ahead of their team mate, but wait at the 'meeting point' close to the finish, while others run together the whole way.

The course, which measured 8.4 miles in distance, started in the town centre before taking the competitors into the scenic Castlewellan Country Park, were they would negotiate a tough ascent and some excellent trails before passing the stunning Castlewellan Castle en-route to the finish line.

As the the seemingly endless field started and made their way towards the town centre, previous winners, Gary O'Hanlon (Clonliffe Harriers) and Brian McCloskey (North East Runners) took up a position at the front; they were joined by two Newcastle AC teams, which consisted of David O'Flaherty-Eoghan Totten and Seamus Lynch-David Steele.  As the race neared the 4 mile marker, Gary O'Hanlon and Brian McCloskey had opened a gap of approximately thirty seconds on David O'Flaherty-Eoghan Totten, who in-turn, had 10 seconds on club mates Seamus Lynch-David Steele. A little further back, Stephen Wylie (North Down AC)-Eddie Cooke (North Belfast Harriers) and the 'mixed' team of Iain Whiteside (Carnethy HRC) and Megan Crawford (Fife AC) were also looking strong.  Stuart Kennedy (Beechmount Harriers)-Cathy McCourt (North Belfast Harriers) and the East Down AC pairing of Brendan Teer and Catherine O'Connor were running well, while North Belfast Harriers ladies Janice Plumb and Penny Lindsay were leading the ladies category.

As the race moved into the later stages, one of the leading athletes, Brian McCloskey, suffered a bad fall; however, he braved this and carried on with team mate Gary O'Hanlon and was well rewarded as the duo increased their lead on Seamus Lynch and David Steele, who had overtaken David O'Flaherty and Eoghan Totten.  Gary and Brian passed  Castlewellan Castle and descended quickly towards the finish; looking back, they could see no competition as they power onto the home straight and sealed victory in 52:26 (1st place).  Seamus Lynch showed no signs of fatigue from yesterdays win at BARF's Turkey Trot, as he and partner David Steele claimed 2nd place in 53:32, just under thirty seconds ahead of friends David O'Flaherty and Eoghan Totten, who secured 3rd place in 53:59.

Arguably the most impressive performance of the day came from Scottish based pairing Iain Whiteside and Megan Crawford; Iain, a Northern Ireland international, and Megan, a Scottish international, dominated the 'mixed' category before breaking the tape in a speedy 57:12 (1st place).  The strong running Stuart Kennedy and Cathy McCourt also nipped in under the hour, crossing the line in 59:04 (2nd place), while Brendan Teer and ladies winner of the BARF Turkey Trot, Catherine O'Connor, took the final podium spot in 1:02:27 (3rd place).

As the snowy, blizzard like conditions began, Larne based Janice Plumb and Penny Lindsay, both of North Belfast Harriers), claimed the ladies category title in 1:08:01 (1st place).  Lagan Valley AC ladies Hazel McLaughlin and Ursula Daly performed well – despite Ursula's tiredness from an excellent performance at the Greencastle 5 less than 24 hours earlier, the pair battled well to take the runners up spot in 1:10:00 (2nd place), before recent Mourne 500 finishers Joanne Curran (BARF) and Taryn McCoy (BARF) covered the challenging route in 1:13:10 (3rd place).

Podium Places:

Top 3 Male Teams:  1st Gary O'Hanlon (Clonliffe Harriers) and Brian McCloskey (North East Runners) – 52:26. 2nd Seamus Lynch (Newcastle AC) and David Steele (Newcastle AC) – 53:32, 3rd David O'Flaherty (Newcastle AC) and Eoghan Totten (Newcastle AC) – 53:59

Top 3 Mixed Teams:  1st Iain Whiteside (Carnethy HRC) and Megan Crawford (Fife AC) – 57:12, 2nd Stuart Kennedy (Beechmount Harriers) and Cathy McCourt (North Belfast Harriers) – 59:04, 3rd Brendan Teer (East Down AC) and Catherine O'Connor (East Down AC) – 1:02:27

Top 3 Ladies Teams:  1st Janice Plumb (North Belfast Harriers) and Penny Lindsay (North Belfast Harriers) – 1:08:01, 2nd Hazel McLaughlin (Lagan Valley AC) and Ursula Daly (Lagan Valley AC) – 1:10:00, 3rd Joanne Curran (BARF) and Taryn McCoy (BARF) – 1:13:10

Full Results:  Christmas Cracker 2014 Results

Seamus Lynch and Catherine O'Connor claim 'Turkey Trot' wins:

BARF Turkey Trot 2014:

On Friday 26th December 2014 (Boxing Day), seventy one hardy mountain runners turned out for the BARF (Belfast Association of Rock Climbers & Fell Runners) 'Turkey Trot' in the Mourne Mountains.

After several days of monitoring the weather situation, organisers decided to go with the original 'mountain' route, which covered 5.75 mile in distance and included 424 metres of ascent.  The course started and finished at the bottom of the Trassey Track and took competitors to the Col between Slieve Meelmore and Slieve Bearnagh and onwards towards Slieve Meelbeg and Slieve Meelmore, before descending to Happy Valley and along the Ulster Way back to the Trassey Track. 

Despite the poor weather conditions, which deteriated fast into high winds and hail on the higher points of the course, there were several top performances.  None more so than the in-form Seamus Lynch (Newcastle AC).  After heading the early chase pack, which included Eoin Lennon (Carnethy HRC) and Jonny Steede (Ballymena Runners), in pursuit of Chris Smith (Thames Valley Harriers), Seamus took up position at the head of the pack.  Seamus and Chris were never far from each other, but it was Northern Ireland international Seamus who eventually edged it, crossing the line in 43:54 (1st place).  Chris followed in 44:08 (2nd place), while Scotland based Eoin Lennon ran well to secure 3rd place in 45:09.

In the ladies race, East Down AC's ever impressive Catherine O'Connor once again stole the headlines.  Although due to race at tomorrow's Castlewellan Christmas Cracker, Catherine did not hold back as she claimed a well-deserved victory in 1:00:57 (1st place).  Mourne Skyline MTR finisher Claire Withers (Mourne Runners) followed in 1:05:21 (2nd place), while club mate Sarah Graham (Mourne Runners) completed the top three in 1:07:03 (3rd place).

Top 3 Men:  1st Seamus Lynch (Newcastle AC) – 43:54, 2nd Chris Smith (Thames Valley Harriers) – 44:08, 3rd Eoin Lennon (Carnethy HRC) – 45:09

Top 3 Ladies:  1st Catherine O'Connor (East Down AC) – 1:00:57, 2nd Claire Withers (Mourne Runners) – 1:05:21, 3rd Sarah Graham (Mourne Runners) – 1:07:03

Full Results:  BARF Turkey Trot 2014 PROVISIONAL Results  (Photo above by Jane Bell)

Paul Pollock and Heather Foley excel at wintry Greencastle 5:

Greencastle 5 mile road race 2014:

On Friday 26th December 2014 (Boxing Day), hundreds of athletes braved wintry conditions as they took on the 29th annual Greencastle 5 mile road race in Greencastle, County Tyrone.

Alongside the plethora of talent on the early start list, a host of late entries, including AAI National XC Champion Paul Pollock (Annadale Striders) and Martin Fagan (Mullingar Harriers) ensured that the race would be an exciting affair, and that did indeed prove to be the case.  The aforementioned men, Paul and Martin could not be separated in the early stages and went through the 1, 2 and 3 mile markers side by side, with Conor Duffy (Glaslough Harriers) and Eddie McGinley (Annadale Striders) just behind.  

As the snow began to fall heavily, the leading men encountered 'heartbreak hill', were the first major gaps began to appear.  In the final mile, England based Paul Pollock made a surge, which Martin Fagan could not match; as the pair descended towards the finish, Paul Pollock increased his lead steadily before breaking the tape in a new course record of 24:07 (1st place).  Martin followed in 24:28 (2nd place), before Conor Duffy, who had enjoyed an excellent race with Eddie McGinley, claimed the final podium place in 25:27 (3rd place).

While the men's field was filling with late entries, several of the high profile ladies who were due to race never started, this included current course record holder and Olympian, Maria McCambridge (DSD AC).  In truth and despite the other talent in the field, this left Heather Foley (Unattached) as clear favourite, and the triathlon star delivered impressively.  After the first mile, Heather had opened a thirty five second gap on the chasing ladies, which included Angeline McShane (City of Derry AC), Ursula Daly (Lagan Valley AC), Charlene Abraham (Unattached) and Claire Murphy (Club Unknown).  As the race progressed, Heather continued to stamp her authority on the race and eventually ran out clear winner in 30:44 (1st place). Ursula Daly came through well to take 2nd place in 33:03, while Charlene Abraham just about held on to 3rd place, after a photo finish Angeline McShane; both ladies recorded 33:52, but after a review of the finish line camera, Charlene was awarded the podium place.

Top 3 Men:  1st Paul Pollock (Annadale Striders) – 24:07, 2nd Martin Fagan (Mullingar Harriers) – 24:28, 3rd Conor Duffy (Glaslough Harriers) – 25:27

Top 3 Ladies:  1st Heather Foley (Unattached) – 30:44, 2nd Ursula Daly (Lagan Valley AC) – 33:03, 3rd Charlene Abraham (Unattached) – 33:52

Full Results:  Greencastle 5 mile Road Race 2014 Results - A full Race/Event Review and Photos from the Greencastle 5 mile road race 2014 are available within the Race Review and Photo Gallery sections of our website.

O'Sullivan, Alexander, Magennis and Mulvaney win at Burren AC races:

Burren 6 mile and 12 mile Road Races 2014:

On Friday 26th December 2014 (Boxing Day), Burren AC welcomed over one hundred and twenty runners to their annual 6 mile and 12 mile road races in County Down.

It turned out to be a successful day for local triathlon clubs, with triathletes taking two of the three podium places in the men's 12 mile race.  Rory O'Sullivan (Piranha Tri Club) claimed victory in 1:16:34 (1st place), while Don Harte (Gym-Tech) followed in 1:18:11 (2nd place).  Invictus Tri Club's Conor Reilly completed the prize-winners in 1:21:18 (3rd place).  Ladies pre-race favourite Karen Alexander (Acorns AC) lived up to her reputation, winning the ladies race clearly; Karen crossed the line in 1:21:38 (1st place), which not only saw her win the ladies category, but take 4th place overall.  Deirdre Dunford (Burren AC), the only other lady in the 12 mile race, clocked 1:42:51 for 2nd place.

In the 6 mile race, Newry AC track star Lee Magennis (pictured left) put in a quality performance to lead the field home in 37:27 (1st place).  Rory Mulvaney (Unattached) corssed the line just over thirty seconds later in 38:05 (2nd place), before NTC's Seamus Loughran recorded 38:41 for 3rd place.  Unattached athlete Seana Mulvaney claimed top honours in the ladies race, after covering the distance in 45:51 (1st place).  Just behind, Bartel Kreinien (Unattached) and Caroline Wade (Newry City Runners) ran 46:12 (2nd place) and 47:46 for 2nd place and 3rd place respectively.

12 mile Race Podium Places:

Top 3 Men:  1st Rory O'Sullivan (Piranha Tri Club) – 1:16:34, 2nd Don Harte (Gym-Tech) – 1:18:11, 3rd Conor Reilly (Invictus Tri Club) – 1:21:18

Top 3 Ladies:  1st Karen Alexander (Acorns AC) – 1:21:38, 2nd Deirdre Dunford (Burren AC) – 1:42:51 *No other ladies participated in the 12 mile race*

6 mile Race Podium Places:

Top 3 Men:  1st Lee Magennis (Newry AC) – 37:27, 2nd Rory Mulvaney (Unattached) – 38:05, 3rd Seamus Loughran (NTC) – 38:41

Top 3 Ladies:  1st Seana Mulvaney (Unattached) – 45:51, 2nd Bartel Kreinien (Unattached) – 46:12, 3rd Caroline Wade (Newry City Runners) – 47:46

Full Results:  Burren 6 mile and 12 mile Road Races 2014 Results

Special Weekend Preview:  Christmas 2014

Weekend Preview:  Christmas 2014 Special…

Christmas is renowned for over indulgence and festivities; however, after Santa has been, Boxing Day and the following days bring a busy period in the sporting world.  Locally, there are several notable running events over the Christmas period and we (NiRunning) will be on hand to cover these! 

We’ll be attending the Greencastle 5 mile road race and the Castlewellan Christmas Cracker, both of which are covered in this ‘Special Christmas Preview’.   

Alongside these, we’ll also be keeping a close eye on what happens at the BARF Turkey Trot and Burren AC’s Burren Townlands 12 mile and 6 mile races.

Greencastle 5 mile road race:

On Friday 26th December 2014 (Boxing Day), Greencastle AC will host the 29th annual running of the popular Greencastle 5 mile road race in County Tyrone.  Online entries, which remain open until midnight tonight (Wednesday 24th December 2014) have reached a record high and with a large crowd expected the action at the head of the field looks set to be epic. 

England based Northern Ireland international Stephen Scullion (Clonliffe Harriers), who won emphatically in 2013, is unlikely to start; however, the remainder of the top five may return.  This includes 2013 runner up Keith Shiels (Foyle Valley AC), the ever impressive Scotland based star Conan McCaughey (Enniskillen Running Club), Lough Fea 5k winner Paul Barbour (Omagh Harriers) and City of Derry AC man John Lenehan, who placed well at last weekend’s North West XC event a Gransha Grounds in Derry/Londonderry.

Keith has returned to form following a period of injury and has produced several quality performances over 5k in Ireland recently; he’ll be keen to step up to the 5 mile distance to test his fitness.  Young Conan McCaughey, a Novice XC Champion, ran well at the East Scotland Cross Country Championships earlier this month, placing fifteenth in a classy field.  Both Paul Barbour and John Lenehan have shown good form very recently, with Paul storming to victory at the Sperrin Harriers Winter League Series event in Lough Fea and John narrowly missing a top ten place last Saturday at the North West XC.  The aforementioned men will face tough opposition in the form of Eddie McGinley (Annadale Striders) and Scott Rankin (Foyle Valley AC); Eddie has a 5 mile personal best of 24:10 and although set in 2012, he has recorded 30:43 for 10k this year.  The Belfast man hasn’t raced since running 2:25:04 at the Dublin Marathon on October (2014), an excellent performance, but one that he personally thought could have been better, so he’ll be keen to show his worth here.

Scott Rankin is another classy athlete and one worth watching; in May 2014, the Foyle Valley AC athlete claimed victory at the Wilkies 5 mile road race in 24:39.  He (Scott) has finished on the podium no less than twenty six times in 2014, with ten of these being wins.  Arguably his best performance was a 51:47 10 mile time at the Jude Gallagher Memorial in Limavady in June (2014).  Armagh AC legend Dermot Kerr will also be there or there abouts, as will Desi Foley (Unattached), Simon Reeve (North Belfast Harriers), Paul McAnespie (Armagh AC), Michael Kerr (Carmen Runners) and Pierce McCullagh (Sperrin Harriers).

The ladies race throws up a plethora of familiar names and talented athletes, none more so that reigning Champion and Olympian Maria McCambridge (DSD AC).  Maria enjoyed an outstanding run at the Dublin Marathon in October (2014), were she was pipped to victory by race winner Esther Macharia (Kenya) in the final straight, but her 2:34:17 finish time was enough to Athens 2004 Olympian secure the AAI National Marathon title in impressive fashion.  Up against Maria will be Northern Ireland ladies Heather Foley (Unattached), Cathy McCourt (North Belfast Harriers) and Sara Moore (Omagh Harriers).  Heather Foley is a Northern Ireland cross country international who has had a superb year; in the last twelve months, Heather, who comes from a triathlon backround has won the Runher Titanic 10k, Omagh CBS 10k, Termoneeny 10k, Cookstown Half Marathon, DUNE Half Marathon and Groomsport Half Marathon, amongst other event.  On top of this, she (Heather) has taken podium at prestigious events like the Belfast City Half Marathon and the Larne Half Marathon.

Cathy McCourt has worked hard to return from injury this year and reaped the reward for her efforts with some excellent prize-winning performances. None more so than a personal best performance of 1:23:46 at the Rock N’Roll Dublin Half Marathon in Ireland, which doubled up as the AAI National Half Marathon Championships.  Aside from this, Cathy has also won the Ballymena Belles 5 mile road race, KKMcA Dervock Half Marathon, Springwell Running Club’s ‘Milk Run’ and the Mallusk 5 mile road race, were she ran 31:22; this year, the North Belfast Harriers athletes quickest 5 mile time (on record) is 30:29.  America based student Sara Moore returns home for the holidays and will be keen to show the form that she has displayed stateside – during her first year at Oklahoma City University, Irish Junior international Sara has really ‘stepped up’ a level and has shown true potential.  In November (2014), Sara took third place finish at the ‘Sooner Athletic Conference XC’ in Oklahoma (USA), before going on to the world class NAIA National XC, were she finished well up the field.  Interestingly, in the space of a year, Sara wacked twenty three seconds off her 1500m time, reducing it from 4:58 to 4:35.  Other ladies to watch out for include Marina Campbell (City of Derry AC), Cheryl Cardwell (Sperrin Harriers), Jacqueline Mulligan (Acorns AC) and Sinead Kerr (Carmen Runners).

Note from organisers (Greencastle AC):  Online entries are still available at until midnight on Wednesday 24th December 2014.  Although entries will be taken on the day, online entry is encouraged, and those who do opt for it will be guaranteed a technical t-shirt.

BARF Turkey Trot:
Also on Friday 26th December 2014 (Boxing Day), the Belfast Association of Rock Climbers and Fell Runners (BARF) will welcome mountain running enthusiasts from across the province to their annual Turkey Trot.  

The 5.75 mile event, which includes 424 metres of ascent, starts and finishes at the bottom of the Trassey Track and takes competitors to the Col between Slieve Meelmore and Slieve Bearnagh and onwards towards Slieve Meelbeg and Slieve Meelmore, before descending to Happy Valley and along the Ulster Way back to the Trassey Track.

Jonny Steede (Ballymena Runners) claimed the title in 2013 and it is likely that the 2014 Northern Ireland Mountain Running Champion will return to defend his crown.  Despite racing sparingly since claiming the NIMRA title, there is no doubt that Jonny will play a major part in proceedings if he does decide to toe the line.  The in-form Seamus Lynch (Newcastle AC), a runner up last year, will also have high hopes of challenging for top honours; to do that, he’ll have to overturn the twenty five second difference that was between him and Jonny twelve months ago.  Sam Herron (Mourne Runners), Neil Carty (North Belfast Harriers), Dale Mathers (Newry City Runners), Alex Brennan (Ballymena Runners), Emmet McAlister (Unattached), Eddie Hanna (Mourne Runners) and Phil Hodge (Murlough AC) will also be chasing podium places.

After a break in competitive mountain action since the finish of the season, it’ll be interesting to see who edges the ladies race, with 2014 NIMRA Champion Diane Wilson (Dromore AC) likely to come up against friends and international team mates Shileen O’Kane (Lagan Valley AC) and Hazel McLaughlin (Lagan Valley AC).  In truth, Diane was a dominant force through 2014, but being a humble competitor, she’ll not be taking anything for granted, especially as she knows Shileen and Hazel (and their ability) so well.  East Down AC’s Megan Wilson was a surprise, but worthy winner last year (2013), and may return to defend her crown.  Denise Mathers (Newry City Runners) and Mary Mackin (Dromore AC) should also perform well.

Note from organisers (BARF):  There is an early warning for severe weather on Boxing Day, in which event, an alternative course may be used.  This course will be within Tollymore Forest Park, starting and finishing at the Tollymore Mountain Centre.  A decision on this will be made on Christmas Day and will be relayed via the NIMRA website and BARF facebook page.  Please be prepared for bad weather with a full waterproof body cover, whistle, compass, map, gloves and hat.  All runners must be at least 18 years old and dogs are not permitted.

Burren Townlands 6 mile and 12 mile road races:
On the same day (Friday 26th December 2014), athletes descend on Burren Heritage Centre in County Down for Burren AC’s Burren Townlands 6 mile and 12 mile races.  Last year the event, which starts at 10.30am attracted a sizable crowd and this year should be no different, with a mixture of seasoned athletes and exercise enthusiasts expected.

Recent 26extreme Tollymore Half Marathon winner Phil Wood (Unattached) could be one of the front runners after performing well over the 6 mile route last year.  Triathlete Phil could be joined on the start line by the likes of Nigel Grier (Dromore AC), Karen Alexander (Acorns AC), Alan Johnston (Murlough AC), Sean Goodman (Newry City Runners), Emma Laverty (Lagan Valley AC), Laura Devine (Garscube Harriers) and Lorna Fitzpatrick (Unattached) amongst others.

Castlewellan Christmas Cracker:

On Saturday 27th December 2014, a record number of close to four hundred teams are expected to take on the Castlewellan Christmas Cracker.  The Christmas Cracker has gone from strength to strength since it was taken over by Newcastle AC and relocated to Castlewellan in the early ‘noughties’.  

It remains the most unique and one of the best attended events on the Athletics NI calendar… it requires athletes to run in teams of two and they must finish together; some teams use the tactic of running individually and meeting close to the finish, while other will work together throughout the race. 

A record breaking three hundred and seventy three teams took to the line in 2013 and 2014 promises to be bigger as the entries continue to flood in. This year’s race will again cover a multi-terrain course and will measure approximately 8.2 miles, with most of the action taking place within Castlewellan Forest; it is suitable for runners of all abilities and levels of experience.

Last Year’s winners Gary O’Hanlon (Clonliffe Harriers) and Brian McCloskey (North East Runners) will return to defend their crown and both are in great shape.  Gary O’Hanlon is one of the best known names in Irish running circles and has been victorious in pretty much every event he entered this year.  Possibly the highlight of his year was a victory in a field of 8,000 in the Dublin City Half Marathon, were he recorded 1:07:34.  He (Gary) has competed over a range of distances from 5k to Ultra distance, both at home and abroad.  His partner, Brian McCluskey has had an impressive year, clocking times of 15:41 for 5k, 20:34 for 4 miles; he also ran 32:48 for 10k. 

Other Men’s teams that will challenge for honours include Ian Bailey (Newcastle AC) – David Steele (Newcastle AC) and their club mates David O’Flaherty (Newcastle AC) and Eoghan Totten (Newcastle AC).  Even if the strong pairings don’t take the top prize, they should claim their respective 70-79 and Under 70 category prizes respectively.  The East Antrim Harriers pairing of Sam Crawford and Billy Reed will also go well overall and in their 90-99 combined age category.  Phelim McAllister (Larne AC) – James Brown (Larne AC), Chris Collins (East Antrim Harriers) – Chris Collins (East Antrim Harriers), Stephen Wylie (North Down AC) – Eddie Cooke (North Belfast Harriers), and Mark McManus (East Coast AC) – Murray Deller (East Coast AC) will finish well up the field.

The Mixed category never fails to throw up some interesting pairings and this year is no different, with the talented teams of Martin Rea (North Belfast Harriers) – Sharon Trimble (North Belfast Harriers), Brendan Teer (East Down AC) – Catherine O’Connor (East Down AC), and Michael Magee (Beechmount Harriers) – Gerrie Short (Beechmount Harriers) not only likely to head the hunt for the ‘Mixed’ victory but a high finish overall. However, all will have to out-pace the Northern Ireland and Scotland international pairing of Iain Whiteside (Carnethy HRC) and Megan Crawford (Fife AC).  Iain is now a regular on in the Northern Ireland mountain running team, while Megan, who finished as runner up in this year’s Frank Duffy 10 in Dublin (Ireland) after running 57:29, is a well-known podium regular who has represented Scotland over trail, mountain and cross country this year (2014).  Cathy McCourt (North Belfast Harriers) – Stuart Kennedy (Beechmount Harriers), Eric Montgomery (Lagan Valley AC) – Ruth Magill (Lagan Valley AC), Mark Alexander (Ballymena Runners) – Gillian Wasson (Springwell Running Club), and Kevin McVeigh (City of Lisburn AC) – Mel Minshull (City of Lisburn AC) will all be hoping for combined age category prizes.

Those into ‘betting’ would be safe putting their Christmas money (not that we would encourage that…) on BARF ladies and recent Mourne 500 finishers Joanne Curran and Taryn McCoy to take a podium place in the ladies race.  Both will be strong over this terrain and possess the speed to back that up, but they will have to see off the likes of Sam McNeilly (Newcastle AC) – Patricia McKibbin (Unattached), Pauline Bayliss (Orangegrove AC) – Julie McKimm (Orangegrove AC), and Janice Plumb (North Belfast Harriers) – Penny Lindsay (North Belfast Harriers).  All of these teams, as well as Larne AC’s Kirsty Sharratt and Ruth Wilson will be combined age category contenders.

Note from organisers (Newcastle AC):  Numbers can be collected in the clubrooms of Castlewellan GAC from 11.30am, with the race starting at 1pm. There will be a warm up in preparation for the race led by Adam Mitten of ‘Go Figure’, pipers piping along the route and refreshments in the clubrooms after the race. The presentation is scheduled for 3.45pm.

Online registration is free and the entry fee of £25 per team will be collected on the day.  Pre-registered runners will receive a free Buff.  Online registration will close at 6pm on Boxing Day (Friday 26th December 2014) and there may be some limited spaces on the day at an increased fee (£35 per team).  However, as Pre-registration is free, there is no reason for not signing in advance and helping the organisers in ensuring that there is plenty of food and water for everyone.  Register now at - There will be numerous vantage points for spectators and a walk of less than a mile will enable you to see your favourites at three different points in the race.


As always, Northern Ireland’s nineteen 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. 

Our New Year plans…

For us, there is no better way to kick off the New Year than a trip to Glenariff Forest Park, just outside Waterfoot (County Antrim) for the annual ‘Race Over The Glens’, an extremely popular and well organised event by Ballymena Runners.  Between Christmas and the New Year, we’ll be compiling a ‘Special Preview’ on Race Over the Glens.  This should be available on Tuesday 30th December 2014.

Declan Reed and Eimear Mullan secure victory at North West XC:

Over 200 turn out for North West XC 2014:

On Saturday 20th December 2014, City of Derry AC welcomed athletes from across the province to Gransha Grounds, Derry/Londonderry, for the North West XC, the sixth race of the 2014/15 Athletics NI Cross Country League.

After the competitive junior races, which covered Under 13, Under 15 and Under 17 age groups, the days 'main event', the Senior, Masters and Under 20 Open 6k competitors took to the start line.

In what proved to be a relatively close affair, particularly in the early stages, current AAI Master XC Champion Declan Reed (City of Derry AC), once again proved his worth as he claimed a well-deserved victory, crossing the line in 18:47 (1st place). Springwell Running Club athlete Ritchie Nicholls, a previous race winner in the XC League, secured 2nd place in 19:09, before Spartan athlete Aaron Doherty (City of Derry AC) pipped Springwell Running Club's Neil Johnson (4th place – 19:25), North Belfast Harriers' Mark McKinstry (5th place – 19:30) and City of Derry AC's Emmet McGinty (6th place – 19:33) to 3rd place in 19:20.  Springwell Running Club's Conor Christie topped the Under 23 standings with a finish time of 19:52 (10th place).

The ladies race brought another excellent win for Springwell Running Club's international triathlete Eimear Mullan.  Eimear made it three wins out of six XC League races win she led the ladies home in 21:22 (1st place).  North Belfast Harriers' Cathy McCourt, another athlete who has enjoyed a good XC season so far, claimed 2nd place in 22:42, while Sonia Knox (Springwell Running Club) took the final podium place in 23:10 (3rd place).  North Down AC's Katie Moore was the leading Junior lady, crossing the line in 23:42 (7th place).

Top 3 Men:  1st Declan Reed (City of Derry AC) – 18:47, 2nd Ritchie Nicholls (Springwell Running Club) – 19:09, 3rd Aaron Doherty (City of Derry AC) – 19:52

Top 3 Ladies: 1st Eimear Mullan (Springwell Running Club) – 21:22, 2nd Cathy McCourt (North Belfast Harriers) – 22:42, 3rd Sonia Knox (Springwell Running Club) – 23:10

Full Results:  North West XC 2014 Results

Oliver Cook and Natalie Hall victorious at Magherafelt 4 mile road race:

Athletes enjoy inaugural Magherafelt 'festive 4 mile road race':

On Saturday 20th December 2014, a small but enthusiastic group of athletes descended on the mid ulster town of Magherafelt for the inaugural running of the Magherafelt Harriers festive 4 mile road race.

There was an interesting battle at the front, with Oliver Cook (Ballymena & Antrim AC), Thomas Leitch (Orangegrove AC) and John Mulhern (Sperrin Harriers) amongst those involved.  In the end, it was the Ballymena & Antrim AC man, Oliver Cook, who came out on top, breaking the tape in 24:11 (1st place).  Thomas Leitch showed no real signs of fatigue following his recent exploits over 26.2 miles in Malaga, when he secured the runners up spot in 25:08; John Mulhern took 3rd place in 25:47.

Natalie Hall (Sperrin Harriers), a regular top ten finisher in the local scene, stole the headlines in the ladies race.  Natalie topped a Sperrin Harriers filled podium when she covered the distance in 27:17.  Fellow Sperrin Harriers ladies Cheryl Cardwell and Hannah Su took 2nd place and 3rd place after running 28:11 and 32:03 respectively.

Top 3 Men:  1st Oliver Cook (Ballymena & Antrim AC) – 24:11, 2nd Thomas Leitch (Orangegrove AC) – 25:08, 3rd John Mulhern (Sperrin Harriers) – 25:47

Top 3 Ladies:  1st Natalie Hall (Sperrin Harriers) – 27:17, 2nd Cheryl Cardwell (Sperrin Harriers) – 28:11, 3rd Hannah Su (Sperrin Harriers) – 32:03

Full Results:  Magherafelt Harriers 4 mile Road Race 2014 Results

John Black and Karen Alexander win Born 2 Run Tollymore 10k:

Born 2 Run Tollymore 10k 2014:

On Saturday 20th December 2014, over four hundred runners took to the trails of the scenic Tollymore Forest, just outside Newcastle (County Down) for the second race of Born 2 Run's 'Run Forest Run' 10k Series.

At the head of the pack, North Belfast Harriers' John Black put in an impressive performance.  After playing a major part at the front throughout, John eventually claimed top spot after covering the challenging route in 36:56 (1st place). Matthew Bell (Unattached) followed in 37:19 (2nd place), before long distance specialist Dale Mathers (Newry City Runners) completed the top three just under a minute later in 38:13 (3rd place).

In the ladies race, pre-event favourite Karen Alexander (Acorns AC) lived up to her reputation and not only secured victory in the ladies race, but finished in sixth place overall, having recorded 39:42 (1st place) for the distance.  Monagahan Phoenix AC's Emma McKenna also ran well, taking 2nd place in 42:39; St Peter's AC lady Eileen Steven crossed the line in 46:26, taking 3rd place.

Top 3 Men:  1st John Black (North Belfast Harriers) – 36:45, 2nd Matthew Bell (Unattached) – 37:19, 3rd Dale Mathers (Newry City Runners) – 38:13

Top 3 Ladies:  1st Karen Alexander (Acorns AC) – 39:42, 2nd Emma McKenna (Monaghan Phoenix AC) – 42:39, 3rd Eileen Stevenson (St Peter's AC) – 46:26

Full Results:  Born 2 Run Tollymore 10k 2014 Results

Weekend Preview:  The penultimate weekend of 2014 is upon us...

Weekend Preview:  The penultimate weekend of 2014…

The penultimate weekend of running action of an enthralling 2014 is upon us and with it comes an excellent choice of races, covering almost all terrain (road, trail and cross country).  The official fixtures calendar shows Born 2 Run’s trail race in Tollymore (Newcastle), the Magherafelt Harriers road race and also the sixth race of the ongoing Athletics NI Cross Country League in Derry/Londonderry, which will be hosted by City of Derry AC.

The action will kick off early on Saturday 20th December 2014, when events management company Born 2 Run will welcome approximately four hundred and fifty athletes from across the province (and beyond) to the second race of their ‘Run Forest Run’ Series, the Tollymore 10k, which will be held within the confines of the scenic Tollymore Forest Park just outside Newcastle, County Down.

Stuart Paulin (Unattached) may make use of the limited on the day entries, and if he does, the recent Minnowburn 10k winner will prove hard to beat. Stuart seems to excel on the forest trails and will no doubt be high in confidence following his win (at Minnowburn) two weeks ago, as well as his excellent performance at the 26extreme Tollymore Trail Marathon last month (November 2014).  Paddy Havern (Newry City Runners) also performed well at the Minnowburn 10k, which was the first race of the ‘Run Forest Run’ Series, and he will be aiming for a similar top ten position this time around.  Gareth Murdock (Murlough AC), Gerard Heaney (St Peter’s AC), Thomas McKinstry (North Belfast Harriers), Dermot Winters (Newry City Runners) and Brian Derby (Dub Runners) should all finish well up the field.

The ladies race will more than likely be dominated by the exceptionally talented Karen Alexander (Acorns AC); despite having been relatively quiet on the local scene this year, Karen has not failed to impress.  Her most recent outing was an excellent run at the Masters World Mountain Running Championships in Austria (September 2014) – Prior to that, Karen also celebrated victory at a trail half marathon in Austria.  Minnowburn 10k winner Emma-Louise Kirk (North East Runners) will return and should claim the runners up spot.  The battle for the remaining podium spot could be an interesting one, with a number of noteable pre-entries; from these, Anne Killen (Unattached), Eileen Stevenson (St Peter’s AC), Collette O’Hagan (North East Runners), Donna Owens (Omagh Harriers), Natalie Bowbanks (Unattached), Andrea Heslip (Dromore AC), Nicola Mathers (Murlough AC) and Ally Bennett (County Antrim Harriers) look like the most likely contenders.

Also on Saturday 20th December 2014, City of Derry AC will host the North West XC in Gransha Grounds, Derry/Londonderry.  This event will be the sixth race of the ongoing Athletics NI Cross Country League, which has proved extremely popular with clubs across Northern Ireland.

The five race programme catering for Primary School runners to Seniors and Masters, kicks off at 11.40am with the school pupils racing over 1k and continues with races for Under 13's, Under 15’s and Under 17’s, before the ‘feature’ race of the day, the Open 6k race for Under 20's, Seniors and Masters starts at 12.35pm.

Organisers estimate that over three hundred participants will take part in the aforementioned Open 6k event.  The men’s race should be a very close affair, with City of Derry AC’s very own Connor Bradley, fresh from his 5k personal best of 14:20 in Dublin two weeks ago, is expected to line up alongside 2013 winner and fellow Spartan Allan Bogle.  Current AAI National Masters XC Champion Declan Reed (City of Derry AC) and JP Williamson (City of Derry AC), who is just back from America for Christmas, will ensure that the host club field a very strong side as they continue to chase down Newcastle AC, who presently top the overall Athletics NI XC League 2014/15 standings.  

Northern Ireland international Gary Murray (St Malachy’s AC) could also be in attendance and may well join Foyle Valley AC men Scott Rankin, Pius McIntyre and Keith Shiels on the start line, while the always well represented Newcastle AC should have Seamus Lynch, David McNeilly, David O’Flaherty and Ian Bailey in team colours.  North Belfast Harriers’ Alan O’Hara produced an excellent performance at this event last year, taking third place; although just back from injury, Alan will no doubt run well if he enters.  His club mates Mark McKinstry and Adam Boyd will be hoping to keep up their recent good form, which has included a win at the 26extreme Tollymore Trail Marathon and a 32:09 finish at the Seeley Cup 10 respectively, as they chase high placings.  Although he’s kept somewhat of a low profile of late, the same could be said for former NI & Ulster Junior XC Champion Brendan Teer (East Down AC); Neil Johnston (Springwell Running Club), Francis Marsh (North Down AC) and Stephen Wylie (North Down AC) will also finish well up the field.

The ladies event could well turn out to be the highlight of the day!  International triathlete Aileen Reid (City of Derry AC) will front the Spartans challenge and if Springwell Running Club’s Eimear Mullan and North Belfast Harriers’ Gladys Ganiel O’Neill turn out, it could prove an epic battle at the front.  Aileen and Eimear have won two XC League races each and although having not featured ‘on the country’ thus far this year, reigning 2013 Champion and Commonwealth Games competitor Gladys will prove to be a hard lady to knock off top spot.  Jessica Craig (North Down AC), Rachel Gibson (North Down AC) and Cathy McCourt (North Belfast Harriers) have all impressed in the XC League and will be hoping to continue that here as they aim for podium places.  However, they will be chased by a plethora of talented athletes, including Marina Campbell (City of Derry AC), Sonia Knox (Springwell Running Club), Sarah Kivelehan (City of Derry AC), Alexandra Kirk (Springwell Running Club), Catherine Whoriskey (City of Derry AC), Sam McNeilly (Newcastle AC) and Gemma Turley (Springwell Running Club).

On the same day (Saturday 20th December 2014), a sizeable crowd is expected to travel to the mid-ulster town of Magherafelt for the inaugural running of the Magherafelt Harriers Festive 4 mile road race.

Earlier this year (March 2014), relatively new club Magherafelt Harriers hosted their first ever event, a very successful ‘Classic 10k’.  That event was won by North Belfast Harriers’ Adam Boyd; although Adam, alongside the runner up Aaron Meharg (Acorns AC), will more than likely opt for the North West XC, other participants who performed well that day are likely to return.  Delfim Pimentel (Unattached) could be a major ‘player’ at the front of the pack, but will have to show the same kind of form that he did a few years ago, when he was a podium regular, if he wants to see off other potential candidates, which could include Gavin Corey (Sperrin Harriers) and Ballymena Runners men Kevin O’Boyle, Alex Brennan and Richard Johnston.  

Paul Barbour (Omagh Harriers) is another athlete who could make use of the ‘on the day’ entries.  Last week, Paul dominated proceedings at the Eskra 10k and will be hoping for a similar outcome here if he toes the line.  Bryan Edgar (Springwell Running Club) and Michael Kerr (Carmen Runners) may also compete.

Anne Paul (City of Derry AC) may start as favourite in the ladies event; Anne tends to race sparingly but never fails to impress whenever she does turn out.  The Spartan athletes claimed top spot at the most recent Sperrin Harriers Winter League Series event at Lough Fea, were she covered the 5k course in 19:57.  Geraldine Quigley (Larne AC), Cheryl Cardwell (Sperrin Harriers), Ruth Aiken (Ballymena Runners), Jacqueline McIlrath (Ballymena Runners), Natalie Hall (Sperrin Harriers) and Collete McCourt (Dub Runners) will all be there or there abouts if they decide to race.

As always, Northern Ireland’s nineteen 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. 

Danny Mooney produces top performance at 'GOAL Mile' 2014:

Letterkenny AC 'GOAL Mile' 2014:

On Monday 15th December 2014, Northern Ireland Commonwealth Games team member Danny Mooney (Letterkenny AC) once again impressed in the County Donegal town of Letterkenny (Ireland).

After recording the fastest time at Letterkenny AC's 'Turkey Trot' 5k a day earlier (Sunday 14th December 2014), when he covered the distance in 15:33, Danny lined up at the 'GOAL Mile' at the impressive Danny McDaid Track in Letterkenny.  

Danny once again claimed top spot, after crossing the line in 4:45 (1st place), six seconds ahead of Letterkenny AC club mate Ciaran Doherty who ran 4:51 (2nd place).  The ladies race was won by Finn Valley AC's Teresa Doherty (McGloin) in 5:12 (1st place).

Full Results:  Letterkenny AC 'GOAL Mile' 2014 Results

Runners from NI selected to represent Ireland at 24hr World Championships:

Susan McCartney and Eddie Gallen selected for Ireland:

This week, Athletics Ireland announced the Irish team for the 24 hour World Championships 2015, which will take place in Turin, Italy on the weekend of Saturday 11th April and Sunday 12th April 2015.

Two Northern Ireland born athletes have been named in the team; England based Susan McCartney (Unattached) and Spain based Eddie Gallen (Finn Valley AC) will take to the start line of the prestigious World Championships.  Susan, a winner of the Mourne Way Ultra Marathon and a Mourne Skyline MTR finisher, will be making her international debut.  Meanwhile, international veteran Eddie, who has represented Ireland at the 24 hour World Championships on at least five occasions, will be hoping to improve on his personal best of 139.1 miles (in 24 hours).

Susan and Eddie will be joined on the team by a number of familiar Irish faces; Ruthann Sheahan (Athenry AC), John O’Regan (Le Cheile AC) and Eoin Keith (Boards AC) are all well-known to the Northern Ireland ultra-distance community.   Aside from their other achievements, all three have enjoyed success at the Energia 24 hour Race whilst winning Irish ultra-running titles.

Full details available on the Athletics Ireland website HERE.

Kevin Seaward and Danny Mooney excel in England and Ireland:

Local athletes compete outside Northern Ireland:

On Sunday 14th December 2014, several Northern Ireland athletes impressed at events outside the province, namely the Telford 10k in England and the Letterkenny AC ‘Turkey Trot’ 5k in Ireland.

In Telford, St Malachy’s AC man Kevin Seaward donned the colours of his mainland club Cardiff AC as he joined over eight hundred athletes at the Telford 10k, an event well known for its fast and flat course.  Kevin followed on from previous successes of Northern Ireland athletes at the event when he clocked an excellent new personal best of 30:04 to claim 3rd place.  The closely contested race was won by John Beattie (Newham & Essex Beagles AC) in 29:52 (1st place).

In Letterkenny, County Donegal (Ireland), Northern Ireland Commonwealth Games competitor Danny Mooney (Letterkenny) excelled at the annual Letterkenny AC ‘Turkey Trot’; the unique event requires participants to predict their 5k finish time and run without watches, then the closest person to their finish time wins the top prize.  

Although missing his finish time by three seconds, Danny won’t be too disappointed as he recorded the fastest time of the day, 15:33 (1st place).  City of Derry AC’s Catherine Whoriskey showed that she is getting back to top form when she crossed the line in 19:51, this was enough to see her (Catherine) finish as 5th place fastest lady, two seconds outside her predicted finish time of 19:53.  The fastest lady of the day was Finn Valley AC’s Teresa Doherty (nee McGloin), who ran 16:42 (1st place).  Interestingly, Shaun McBride (Club Unknown) predicted his finish time of 25:30 exactly.

Full Results:  Telford 10k 2014 ResultsLetterkenny AC ‘Turkey Trot’ 5k 2014 Results

Ann-Marie McGlynn captains Ireland ladies to Euro XC bronze medal:

European XC Championships 2014:

On Sunday 14th December 2014, three athletes from Northern Ireland lined up for Ireland at the prestigious European XC Championships in Samokov, Bulgaria.

Strabane based Letterkenny AC athlete Ann-Marie McGlynn put in a classy performance to finish as the final scoring member of the impressive Ireland ladies team, who claimed a bronze medal in the team competition.  

Individually, Ann-Marie finished strongly to complete the muddy 8k course in 31:35 (46th place).  

The other bronze medal winning Ireland ladies were Fionnuala Britton (Kilcoole AC), Sara Treacy (Dunboyne AC), Michelle Finn (Leevale AC), Siobhan O'Doherty (Borrisokane AC) and Laura Crowe (An Riocht AC).  The race was won by Great Britain & NI's Gemma Steel in 28:27 (1st place); Great Britatin & NI, whose team contained no Northern Ireland athletes, took gold in the team standings.

Irish team captain Ann-Marie told Athletics Ireland, “I am thrilled, I knew coming in that we had a chance. I am just so delighted for the girl’s, we have really gelled as a team and this is just brilliant to get a team medal, I am delighted.”

In the senior men's 10k race, recently crowned AAI National Senior XC Champion, Paul Pollock (Annadale Striders) started conservatively and made his way through the field well, picking off some of the athletes who were obviously starting to pay for their fast start, before eventually claiming 23rd place in 33:55.  Turkey's Polat Kemboi Arikan won the race in 32:19 won the individual gold and also led the Turkish team to the top prize in the team competition.  The Ireland team of Paul Pollock, Breandan O'Neill (DSD AC), Kevin Batt (DSD AC), Mark Clohisey (Raheny Shamrock AC), Conor Dooney (Raheny Shamrock AC) and Mark Hanrahan (Leevale AC) claimed 6th place.

Unfortunately, there wasn't such a positive outcome for talented Under 23 athlete Ryan McDermott (Annadale Striders); Ryan started the race but was forced to withdraw.  Speaking about the Ireland team's overall performance at the European XC Championships, team leader and Athletics Ireland National Endurance Coach Chris Jones said “I am delighted for the senior women, we knew coming in that there was a chance and the team really delivered that today so credit to them. I was very encouraged by the senior men in what was a very competitive race, a result we can build on for the future.  For the junior and U-23 athletes it was all about exposing them to this level of competition, we will continue to work with these groups to a point where we are fielding competitive teams.” 

Full Results:  European XC Championships 2014 Results (Photo used above by Athletics Ireland)

Martin Cox and Grainne O'Hagan claim wins at Eskra 10k:

Eskra 10k (and 5k) 2014:

On Saturday 13th December 2014, over two hundred and fifty athletes braved to cold and frosty conditions to take on the well-organised Eskra 10k road race in County Tyrone.

Martin Cox (Unattached) improved on his seventh place finish at this event in 2013 when he claimed an impressive victory in 35:23 (1st place).  Carmen Runners man Michael Kerr followed on from a win at a recent local charity event, when he secured the runners up spot in 36:30 (2nd place), before Oisin Donnelly (Omagh Harriers) completed the top three men in 37:21 (3rd place).

Local lady Grainne O'Hagan (Knockmany Runners) was a popular winner in the ladies race after crossing the line in 40:42 (1st place).  Foyle Valley AC's Denise McElhone ran well to finish in 43:05 (2nd place), while Enniskillen Running Club's Karen Dolan (43:17) followed twelve seconds later to take 3rd place.

In the team competition, Knockmany Runners 'A' (1st place) topped the men's table, with Omagh Triathlon Club in 2nd place; Foyle Valley AC 'A' (3rd place) completed the top three.  Knockmany Runners 'A' (1st place) took the ladies title, with Sperrin Harriers (pictured above) and Knockmany Runners 'C' in 2nd place and 3rd place respectively.

Top 3 Men:  1st Martin Cox (Unattached) – 35:23, 2nd Michael Kerr (Carmen Runners) – 36:30, 3rd Oisin Donnelly (Omagh Harriers) – 37:21 

Top 3 Ladies:  1st Grainne O'Hagan (Knockmany Runners) – 40:42, 2nd Denise McElhone (Foyle Valley AC) – 43:05, 3rd Karen Dolan (Enniskillen Running Club)

Full Results:  Eskra 10k 2014 Results (Team Results:  Men and Ladies) – Eskra 5k Run 2014 Results (Above photo by Sperrin Harriers)

Weekend Preview:  Eskra 10k and Euro XC take centre stage...

Weekend Preview:  Eskra 10k, Euro XC, Letterkenny 5k...

As the festive season approaches, local running enthusiasts will enjoy a relatively quiet weekend before a busy few weeks of racing over Christmas and the New Year.  

However, that doesn’t mean there are no events on for those wanting to race!  Locally, the well organised and popular Eskra 10k road race and associated 5k run will be the highlight of the weekend.  Northern Ireland based athletes will also be in action at the prestigious IAAF European Cross Country Championships in Bulgaria and the Letterkenny AC 'Turkey Trot' 5k.

The racing will kick off on Saturday 13th December 2014 in the County Tyrone, were a large number of athletes are expected to descend on the village of Eskra for the annual Eskra 10k road race (and associated 5k run).

Each year, this event attracts several well-known runners and this year should be no different.  Local hero and current NI & Ulster Masters XC Champion Stephen Duncan (Omagh Harriers) should play a major part in proceedings.  Stephen, who won this event in 2012 will not come up against the 2013 Champion Keith Shiels (Foyle Valley AC) but will have to be on form to get the better of Omagh Harriers club mate Paul Barbour (Omagh Harriers) and Anndale Striders' Fermanagh man Stephen Prentice.  Both Paul and Stephen have been in excellent form of late; Paul won the Sperrin Harriers Winter League 5k at Lough Fea last week, while Stephen enjoyed an excellent outing at the Seeley Cup 10k two weeks ago, were he recorded a new personal best of 32:49.  Triathlete Desi Foley (Unattached), Fergus McGirr (Enniskillen Running Club), Michael Kerr (Carmen Runners) and Derek Somerville (Omagh Harriers) should all feature and will aim for top ten finishes if they do.

In the ladies race, Pauline McGurren (Sperrin Harriers), Julie Butler (Omagh Harriers) and Emma McKenna (Monaghan Phoenix AC) should feature. Defending Champion Pauline McGurren has been off the radar for a few months but may well turn out here; however, should the talented athlete compete, she’ll have to fend off the challenge of NI & Ulster 3,000m medallist Julie Butler and recent Minnowburn 10k winner Emma McKenna if she wants to retain her title.  Omagh Harriers' Deirdre Haigney, Enniskillen Running Club's Carla Prentice, Foyle Valley AC's Trish McClintock and Carmen Runners Ciara Coyle will also challenge for podium places if they enter on the day.

On Sunday 14th December 2014, three Northern Ireland athletes will represent Ireland at the IAAF European Cross Country Championships in Samokov, Bulgaria.  Paul Pollock (Annadale Striders), Ryan McDermott (Annadale Striders) and Ann-Marie McGlynn (Letterkenny AC) will all have high hopes of impressing at the event, and based on recent form, all three are certainly on course to do so.

Two time (and current) AAI National Cross Country Champion Paul Pollock and double European XC Champion Fionnuala Britton (Kilcoole AC) will be classed as the top contenders in the thirty three strong Ireland team.  Holywood Doctor Paul has quickly bounced back to peak fitness, following an injury which prevented him racing in the European Marathon in Zurich (Switzerland) over the summer.  Following rest, Paul won the highly competitive GloHealth Inter-County XC Championships in Dundalk three weeks ago. This surely makes him the favourite to be first Irishman across the line on Sunday, ahead of team mates Mark Hanrahan (Leevale A.C) and Mick Clohisey (Raheny Shamrock A.C) who he enjoyed an epic battle with at the aforementioned Inter-County XC. The remainder of the team includes Kevin Maunsell (Clonmel AC), Breandan O’Neill (DSD AC) and Kevin Batt (St Coca’s AC).

More recently, Paul set a personal best in the Seeley Cup 10k two weeks ago after which, he stated that he would proceed with caution in Bulgaria in the early stages of such a high quality race. Conditions permitting, the former AAI National Marathon Champion will certainly be aiming for a top twenty placing following his excellent performance at the event in 2013.

Paul Pollock’s Annadale Striders team mate, Ryan McDermott, will run as part of the Under 23 team; he (Ryan) has enjoyed a strong start to his cross country season claiming victory at the McConnell Shield, Malcolm Cup and Athletics Ireland Autumn Cross Country Events. Ryan will run alongside Liam Brady (Tullamore Harriers), Brandon Hargreaves (Clonliffe Harriers), Kevin Dooney (Raheny Shamrocks AC), Dara Chesser (Ennis Track Club) and Conor Duffy (Glaslough Harriers).

In the Senior Women's event there will be intense Irish interest once more in 30 year old Fionnuala Britton of Kilcoole AC.  Alongside Fionnuala, racing again for Ireland is Strabane based Ann-Marie McGlynn.  The ever consistent and impressive Ann-Marie, who has been named as captain of the ladies team, claimed fourth place in the 3,000m at the IAAF European Team Championships last summer and will be hoping to replicate such a high placing.  The IAAF European Cross Country Championships will be televised live on RTE 2 on Sunday 14th December 2014 from 10.55am. Note – IAAF Euro XC preview compiled using information from Athletics Ireland and Athletics NI websites.

Also on Sunday 14th December 2014, a number of Northern Ireland based athletes are expected to make the short border crossing to Letterkenny in County Donegal (Ireland) for the Letterkenny AC 'Turkey Trot' 5k road race, which will start at the town's Aura Centre.  Keith Shiels (Foyle Valley AC), Greg Roberts (City of Derry AC), Mark Mullan (City of Derry AC), Claire McGuigan (Lifford AC), Catherine Whoriskey (City of Derry AC) may be amongst the familiar faces who take to the start line.

As always, Northern Ireland’s nineteen 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.

Ballymena Runners and Mark Kirk nominated for British Athletics awards:

Vote for NI nominee's in British Athletics awards:

Recently crowned Athletics Northern Ireland ‘Club of the Year’ Ballymena Runners and NI based Middle Distance Coach Mark Kirk have been shortlisted for the national ‘Club of the Year’ and 'Volunteer of the Year' awards respectively, at the prestigious British Athletics Annual Awards.

County Antrim based club Ballymena Runners, who boast a membership in excess of three hundred athletes, has enjoyed an excellent year with their members excelling over all terrain.  They (Ballymena Runners) have received the nomination because of their efforts in attracting club members and catering for them by ensuring that potential coaches are put through recognised courses.  

The local club will find themselves up against Swansea Harriers, Stevenage and North Herts AC and Edinburgh AC as they try to secure the prestigious award.

Meanwhile, highly respected coach, Mark Kirk has been nominated for his work with his entire middle distance squad, but in particular, the part he has played in Katie Kirk's rise through the ranks.  The highlight of an outstanding season for Katie was a personal best of 2:02.63 over 800m in the Commonwealth Games semi-final.

Please show your support for Ballymena Runners and Mark Kirk by voting for them, it will take no more than thirty seconds of your time but will draw further positive attention to our local running and athletics scene should they claim the prize.  

What do you have to do?

All you have to do is go to the 'British Athletics' facebook page (HERE), ‘like’ the page and get voting.  Voting closes at midnight on Thursday 11th December 2014.

Athletes from Northern Ireland impress in Ireland and Spain:

Local athletes produce excellent performances in Ireland and Spain:

Over the course of the weekend (Friday 5th, Saturday 6th and Sunday 7th December 2014), athletes from Northern Ireland have been in action outside the province.  Although all performed well, there were several stand-out performances.

Two of these came in Phoenix Park in Dublin (Ireland), were at least three local runners took on the annual Jingle Bells 5k road race.  Despite only having returned from an injury lay-off, Conor Bradley (City of Derry AC) looked in fine form as he clocked an excellent 14:20 for 2nd place.  North Down AC's Michael Dyer crossed the line in 15:32 (12th place), before Ciara Mageean (UCD AC) once again showed her class to secure 2nd place in the ladies race, running 15:47.  

Kerry O'Flaherty (Newcastle AC), winner of the Seeley Cup 10k last week, narrowly missed a podium spot in the competitive ladies race after finishing in 16:35 (5th place).  The men's race was won by John Travers (Donore Harriers) in 14:05 (1st place), while Mary Cullen (North Sligo AC) returned to competition to win the ladies race in 15:37 (1st place).

There were also impressive and prize-winning performances by local athletes in Clonakilty (Ireland), were at least six local runners took on two events at the Clonakilty Waterfront Marathon in West Cork.  On Friday 5th December 2014, Seapark AC athlete Gillian Cordner claimed 2nd place (in the ladies race) in the ‘Directors Run’, a 26.2 mile event held the day before the main Clonakilty Waterfront Marathon.  Gillian covered the distance in 3:50:56; fellow Northern Ireland based athlete Eugene Winters (100 Marathon Club) ran 4:29:10.  The race was won by Aidan Hogan (Ireland) in 3:28:02 (1st place), while Maria Byrne (Ireland) took the ladies title in 3:34:19 (1st place).

The following day, Saturday 6th December 2014, North Down AC’s Darren Hamilton clocked 3:06:29 for 17th place in the main Clonakilty Waterfront Marathon.  St Peters AC’s Connor Mulholland followed in 3:12:28.  Enniskillen Running Club’s Tara Malone continued what has been an excellent year when she crossed the line in 3:19:23, which was enough to secure 3rd place in the ladies race.  Unattached athlete Paul Floyd completed the 26.2 miles in 3:20:51. Seapark AC marathon specialist Gary Connolly (3:45:09) arrived into the finish area to huge applause, this was well-deserved, given that it was Gary’s 100th Marathon.  Gillian Cordner completed her second marathon in as many days in 4:03:26.  The race was won by Gary O’Hanlon (Clonliffe Harriers) in 2:29:12 (1st place), while Leevale AC lady Nollaig O’Neill claimed the ladies top prize in 3:01:24 (1st place).

Further afield, on Sunday 7th December 2014, a number of familiar faces took on the 5th annual Malaga Marathon in Spain.  North Belfast Harriers hero Tommy Hughes covered the 26.2 mile course in 2:32:21, which saw him claim 12th place.  However, in a mysterious and dramatic twist, the NI man and several other athletes were disqualfied for allegedly taking a wrong turn on part of the course.  

Thomas Leitch (Orangegrove AC) dipped under three hours in 2:59:57, before Gerry Gribbon (North Belfast Harriers) crossed the line in 3:22:03. Bangor man Stephen Purdie (Unattached) also ran well, recording 3:29:00 for the distance.  The race was won by Kenyan runner John Mutai in 2:13:10 (1st place).

Full Results:  Jingle Bells 5k 2014 Results - Malaga Marathon 2014 Results - Clonakilty Marathon 2014 Results

Paul Barbour and Anne Paul claim wins at Sperrin Harriers 5k:

Sperrin Harriers Winter League Series - Round 2 (Lough Fea 5k):

Over the weekend (Saturday 6th December 2014), over one hundred and thirty athletes, drawn from more than twenty clubs, navigated their way into the scenic heart of the Sperrin Mountains to resume battle with the terrain, the elements and each other.  This was the second successive record turnout for a Sperrin Harriers Winter League Series event which highlights the growing popularity of trail running in Northern Ireland, in general, and of this Series in particular.

Conditions were cold and breezy but the 5k course around Lough Fea was relatively flat and fast and, in his first appearance in the 2014/15 League, Paul Barbour (Omagh Harriers) duly registered an impressive winning time of 16:17 (1st place).  Round 1 winner, Gavin Corey (Sperrin Harriers), had to settle for the runner-up positon this time around (2nd place - 16:41) but will consolidate his position at the top of the League standings.  Finally, in his first race of the Series, Matthew Hewitt (East Coast AC) completed the podium places in 16:46 (3rd place).

Like in the men’s League, a new entrant in the ladies’competition took top points on the day.  Experienced City of Derry AC athlete, Anne Paul (1st place - 19:56), finished well clear of her fellow county woman, Denise Ward (Foyle Valley AC), who crossed the line in 20:20 (2nd place).  Denise will be pleased to have stepped on to the podium after narrowly missing out, in fourth place, in Round 1.  Collette McCourt (Dub Runners) was the top lady in the first fixture but will, nevertheless, have been pleased to round out the top three ladies’ positions here.  The Dub Runners athlete recorded 20:27 to keep her ahead in her League campaign.

Top 3 Men:  1st Paul Barbour (Omagh Harriers) - 16:17, 2nd Gavin Corey (Sperrin Harriers) - 16:41, 3rd Matthew Hewitt (East Coast AC) - 16:46

Top 3 Ladies:  1st Anne Paul (City of Derry AC) - 19:56, 2nd Denise Ward (Foyle Valley AC) - 20:20, 3rd Collette McCourt (Dub Runners) - 20:27

Full Results:  Sperrin Harriers Winter League Series (Race 2) 2014 Results

Danielle Fegan and Olivia Nelson claim AA National XC titles:

Local athletes impress at GloHealth AAI National Uneven Age Group & Novice XC Championships:

On Sunday 7th December 2014, a number of Northern Ireland based runners travelled south to Santry, Dublin (Ireland) for the GloHealth AAI National Uneven Age Group and Novice Cross Country Championships, an event that attracted a large number of quality athletes.

The day got off to an excellent start for the local contingent when City of Lisburn AC's Olivia Nelson (1st place) showed her speedy to claim a sprint finish victory in her Under 15 event.  In the team standings, Springwell Running Club's Abigail McBroom, Niamh Carr, Hermoine Skuce and Ellie McBroom collected silver medals after finishing as runners up to DSD AC (1st place).  The always impressive Christy Conlon (Beechmount Harriers) added another National medal to his already bursting trophy cabinet when he secured silver in the Under 17 age group, taking 2nd place behind race winner Shane Hughes (Mullingar Harriers).  In the Under 19 category, Lagan Valley AC trio Emer Magee, Emma Laverty and Jane Matthews took silver medals after claiming 2nd place in the team standings, behind winners Leevale AC (1st place).

Arguably the performance of the day came from Northern Ireland international Danielle Fegan (Armagh AC) came out on top after an epic battle with Mary-Anne O'Sullivan (Tinryland AC) in the Novice Ladies 4,000m race. After spending the entire race side by side, Danielle made a move with 400m to go and held on to break the tape in 15:19 (1st place).  North Down AC's Rachel Gibson also performed well in the same race, taking a top ten spot in 16:11 (10th place).

Full Results:  GloHealth AAI Uneven Age Group and Novice XC Championships 2014 Results.  A full report on the event can be found on the Athletics Ireland website HERE.

Ryan McDermott, Philip Tweedie & Eimear Mullan excel at Malcolm Cup XC:

Malcolm Cup Cross Country 2014:

On Saturday 6th December 2014, hundreds of athletes and spectators descended on Sixmilewater Park in Ballyclare for the annual Malcolm Cup Cross Country. The Annadale Striders organised event was the fifth race in the popular Athletics NI Cross Country League 2014/15.

The day kicked off with various junior races, before the ladies and veteran men took to the start line of their 3 mile event. Springwell Running Club's Philip Tweddie put in a strong performance at the front to secure an impressive victory in 16:27 (1st place). Behind, there was an interesting battle for second and third place, with Mark Wright (Annadale Striders), Francis Tumelty (East Down AC) and Nat Glenn (North Belfast Harriers) amongst the contenders. However, in the end it was 2013 winner Mark Wright who took the runners up spot in 17:06 (2nd place), with Francis Tumelty following in 17:18 (3rd place).

In the ladies race, it was defending champion Eimear Mullan (Springwell Running Club) who once again stole the show. The exceptionally talented triathlete dominated proceedings before breaking the tape in 17:30 (1st place); this not only secure victory in the ladies race but also ensure a 5th place finish overal for the classy athlete. Cathy McCourt (North Belfast Harriers) continued her good form to take 2nd place in 18:24, while Jessica Craig (North Down AC) just edged out North Belfast Harriers' Claire Connor (4th place – 18:39) to 3rd place, after recording 18:36.

The final race of the day was the prestigious Malcolm Cup XC, which saw the one hundred and fourteen competitors complete a 5 mile course. In the early stages, pre-race favourite and current NI & Ulster Junior XC champion Ryan McDermott (Annadale Striders) had AAI Masters XC champion Declan Reed (City of Derry AC) for company. However, as the race progressed, Ryan moved clear and never looked back; the Annadale Striders man looked strong as held his lead before claiming the title in 20:57 (1st place). Declan Reed clocked 21:01 for 2nd place, while Jarlath Falls (Ballymena & Antrim AC) celebrated his return to competition with a podium place after crossing the line in 21:26 (3rd place).

In the team competition, City of Derry AC (1st place) claimed both the male and female title, just edging out Springwell Running Club (2nd place) in the very close ladies table; North Belfast Harriers took 3rd place. Foyle Valley AC and Newcastle AC claimed 2nd place and 3rd place repectively in the men's final standings.

Top 3 Men (5 miles):  1st Ryan McDermott (Annadale Striders) – 20:57, 2nd Declan Reed (City of Derry AC) – 21:01, 3rd Jarlath Falls (Ballymena & Antrim AC) – 21:26

Top 3 Men (3 miles):  1st Philip Tweedie (Springwell Running Club) – 16:27, 2nd Mark Wright (Annadale Striders) – 17:06, 3rd Francis Tumelty (East Down AC) – 17:18

Top 3 Ladies (3 miles):  1st Eimear Mullan (Springwell Running Club) – 17:30, 2nd Cathy McCourt (North Belfast Harriers) – 18:24, 3rd Jessica Craig (North Down AC) – 18:36

Full Results: Malcolm Cup XC 2014 Results – A selection of photos from the Malcolm Cup XC are available within our Photo Gallery.

Stuart Paulin and Emma McKenna win Born 2 Run's Minnowburn 10k:

Minnowburn 10k 2014:

On Saturday 6th December 2014, over four hundred athletes travelled to the Mary Peters Track for the Born 2 Run Minnowburn 10k; being the opening event of the six race ‘Run Forest Run’ Series.

Pre-race favourites, Richard Coey (Ballydrain Harriers) and Stuart Paulin (Unattached) played a major part at the front as predicted, although it was Stuart Paulin who impressed most.  Stuart continued the form that brought him a runners up spot at the recent 26extreme Tollymore Marathon, to win in 37:54 (1st place). Richard Coey (38:05) continued his fine form of late to take 2nd place, before Camron Burns (Unattached) completed the podium in 38:48 (3rd place).

Monaghan Phoenix AC’s Emma McKenna bettered her 2nd place finish at last years Born 2 Run Gosford Forest 10k last year, when she claimed victory in 42:11 (1st place) securing top spot in the ladies race. Penny Lindsay (North Belfast Harriers) followed in 43:49 (2nd place), before her North Belfast Harriers’ team mate Janice Plumb completed the tough course in 45:00 (3rd place).

Top 3 Men: 1st Stuart Paulin (Unattached) – 37:54; 2nd Richard Coey (Ballydrain Harriers) – 38:05; 3rd Camron Burns (Unattached) – 38:48

Top 3 Ladies: 1st Emma McKenna (Monaghan Phoenix AC) – 42:11; 2nd Penny Lindsay (North Belfast Harriers) – 43:49; 3rd Janice Plumb (North Belfast Harriers) – 45:00

Full Results:  Minnowburn 10k 2014 Results

Weekend Preview:  Malcolm Cup XC, Minnowburn 10k and more...

Weekend Preview: Malcolm Cup XC, Minnowburn 10k...

After a short break, the Athletics NI Cross Country League 2014/15 returns this weekend… and it’s back to Sixmilewater Park in Ballyclare, but this time for the Malcolm Cup XC, an event hosted by Belfast based club Annadale Striders.  

It is anticipated that large numbers will also compete at the Born 2 Run Minnowburn 10k and Sperrin Harriers’ Winter Trail Series event at Lough Fea, close to Cookstown. A large contingent of athletes from Northern Ireland will also travel south to Santry, Dublin (Ireland) for the AAI Uneven Age Group and Novice Cross Country Championships.

The action kicks off on Saturday 6th December 2014 at the home of athletics in Northern Ireland, the Mary Peters Track in Belfast, where the Born 2 Run roadshow will roll into town for their ‘Minnowburn 10k’ race.  

This is the first event of the six race ‘Run Forest Run’ Series, which will see events take place in some of Northern Ireland’s most scenic forests, namely, Tollymore, Castlewellan, Kilbroney and Gosford.  Information on other races in the Series can be found at  The Series opener will take in the trails and paths around Mary Peters Track and the nearby Lagan River path.  Although online entries have closed, on the day entry is available from 9am.  The race will start at 11am.

Stuart Paulin (Unattached) and Richard Coey (Ballydrain Harriers) should be the main contenders; Stuart, a regular podium finisher at Born 2 Run and 26extreme events, claimed a well-deserved runners up spot at the recent 26extreme Tollymore Marathon.  The consistent athlete held on well that day despite tiring towards the end and it will be the confidence he takes from that, going into this shorter race, that could well give him the edge.  Richard Coey seems to be getting back to the same form that saw him record personal bests over 5k (17:22), 10k (35:15) Half Marathon (1:18:32) and Marathon (2:53:58) in 2013.  He (Richard) ran 35:54 at last week’s Seeley Cup 10k, which followed on from podium finishes at the Darragh Cross 5, Stangford Festival 10k and Three Lakes 10k.  Despite their pre-race favourite status’, Stuart and Richard won’t get everything their own way and will have to work hard if they want to stay ahead of Nick Irvine (North Down AC), Gareth Watton (North Down AC) and Jonathan Lyons (Dromore AC), who will all be chasing the final podium place.  Dermot Winters (Slieve Gullion Runners), Thomas McKinstry (North Belfast Harriers), Mark Colhoun (Unattached), Richard Hand (Dromore AC), Andrew McDermott (Dub Runners) and Stephen O’Gorman (Banbridge AC) will all be aiming to finish well up the field.

Dub Runners’ Maeve Trainor (nee Lavery) will play a part at the head of the ladies field and after a good performance at the Seeley Cup, were she clocked 39:02, the recent NiRunning ‘Runner Profile’ will be eager to improve on her second place finish at this event in 2013.  Emma McKenna (Monaghan Phoenix AC) is another lady worth watching; the 1:34:24 Half Marathoner was a second place finisher at Born 2 Run’s Gosford Forest 10k last year and is always in or around the podium places – she won’t be far away here.  Nicola Mathers (Murlough AC) and Eileen Stevenson (St Peter’s AC) are notable entrants and will have their eyes on the prizes, while Natalie Bowbanks (Unattached), Nuala Muldoon (North Belfast Harriers), Lisa Mulholland (St Peter’s AC), Sandy Carr (North Belfast Harriers) and Selena Miles (Orangegrove AC) should also perform well.

Also on Saturday 6th December 2014, Annadale Striders will welcome athletes to their Malcolm Cup XC at Sixmilewater Park in Ballyclare.  

The Athletics NI Cross Country League has proved exceptionally popular this year and the McConnell Shield XC, which took place at the same venue last month (November 2014) attracted it’s biggest crowd in years, so a similar turnout is expected here.

Amongst those competing and also watching, will be some men who have enjoyed success at the event in the past.  This includes organiser Davy Smith who claimed third place in 1976 and 1977; Phil Tweedie (1986) and Jim Newberry (1981) also enjoyed third place finishes at the event, while Ray Curran, who may run tomorrow, took the runners up position in 1977.  

Willowfield Harriers’ Paul Rowan, a man who still possess the ability to win races, won the Malcolm Cup in 1992 and present Secretary of Athletics NI, John Allen, although not likely to race, produced an excellent run of results at the event in years gone by, winning in 1972 and finishing as runner up 1973, 1974, 1975 and 1976.  Interestingly, Lagan Valley AC athlete and NiRunning friend John Glover celebrated the 50th anniversary of his win at the Malcolm Cup Youth XC just last week! Whether John will lace up his spikes to recreate that performance - albeit, the race was in Dundonald then - remains unclear.

Many of the athletes who line up in Sixmilewater Park, Ballyclare tomorrow will aspire to achieve the performances of the aforementioned men and one of those may be a young athlete who has already stamped his mark on one of Northern Ireland’s most prestigious titles, current NI & Ulster Junior XC Champion, Ryan McDermott (Annadale Striders).  The Annadale Striders man has enjoyed an excellent year since picking up the Junior XC trophy in January 2014; he (Ryan) won the McConnell Shield XC and more recently, the unassuming and talented athlete collected a bronze medal in the Under 23 category at the GloHealth AAI Inter-County XC Championships and was selected for the Ireland U-23 squad for the upcoming European Cross Country Championships on the back of that.

Scott Rankin (Foyle Valley AC) will be hoping to be in or around the top places after his excellent outing at the Seeley Cup last weekend, were he secured second place behind Paul Pollock in a time of 31:13.  Brendan Teer (East Down AC), Andrew Wright (Willowfield Harriers), Allan Bogle (City of Derry AC), Adam Boyd (North Belfast Harriers), Alan O'Hara (North Belfast Harriers) and Mark McKinstry (North Belfast Harriers) will also be there or there abouts, while Newcastle AC should once again field a strong team, which could include Seamus Lynch, David Steele, David O'Flaherty, Ian Bailey and team captain David McNeilly.  In the veteran event, East Down AC's Barrie Atkinson, Dromore AC's Nigel McKibbin and Annadale Striders club mates Mark Wright and Paul Carroll, will prove hard to beat if they opt for this 3 mile race over the previously mentioned 4 mile senior event.

Northern Ireland international runner Karen Alexander (Acorns AC) may make her first appearance of the cross country season here.  She (Karen) finished just outside the prize-winning places in 2013 and will be eager to improve on that this time around.  Jessica Craig (North Down AC) and Cathy McCourt (North Belfast Harriers) have both been running well over 'the country' this season and are regular faces on the podium; the pair will almost certainly be in the mix here once again, but will have to show the same kind of form as they did at McConnell Shield and the Bobby Rea XC to hold off Jenny Black (Orangegrove AC), Marina Campbell (City of Derry AC), Sonia Knox (Springwell Running Club), Gemma Turley (Springwell Running Club), Catherine Whoriskey (City of Derry AC) and Shileen O'Kane (Lagan Valley AC).  

On the same day (Saturday 6th December 2014), trail running enthusiasts from across Northern Ireland will head towards Lough Fea in the heart of the Sperrin Mountains and close to Cookstown for the second race in Sperrin Harriers’ annual Winter Trail Series. On this occasion, competitors will cover a 5k course.

Race 1 winner Gavin Corey (Sperrin Harriers) is expected to return for this event and the talented duathlete will prove hard to beat given his form in recent local events.  However, Gavin will once again face the strong running Alex Brennan, who two weeks ago, was crowned Ballymena Runners’ ‘Athlete of the Year’ on the same night that he lifted the NIMRA Championship Vet40 title.  Alex has claimed numerous podium finishes and race wins in 2014, this includes victories at the Twin Peaks and Slieve Gallion races; however, some may see his third place finish at the Lurig Challenge as his strongest performance. County Tyrone man Delfim Pimentel (Unattached) should also toe the line and could be joined by 26extreme Tollymore 10k podium finishers Mark Alexander (Ballymena Runners) and Conor Reid (Ballymena Runners).  Michael Kerr (Carmen Runners), Thomas Leitch (Orangegrove AC) and John McCambridge (St Peter’s AC) should also go well.

Prior to the first race of the Winter Series, despite being a good runner and with the greatest of respect, Collette McCourt (Dub Runners) wasn’t really a name that would have been regularly found within the top three finishers – However, Collete’s outstanding performance brought her well-deserved plaudits and the confidence gained from that win will no doubt spur Collette on here; there is a fair chance that the Dub Runners lady will find herself amongst the top finishers once again.  Sperrin Harriers ladies Cheryl Cardwell, Natalie Hall and Angela O'Neill will also be considered as contenders, as will Helen Weir (North Belfast Harriers), who claimed a podium place at the 26extreme Tollymore Half Marathon last month (November 2014).

On Sunday 7th December 2014, a large crowd of junior and senior athletes from Northern Ireland will travel to Santry, Dublin (Ireland) for the GloHealth AAI Uneven Age Group and Novice XC Championships.  

After such an impressive medal haul from fellow NI based runners at the AAI Even Age Group and Senior Inter-County XC Championships two weeks ago, the local competitors will be hopeful of a similar outcome.

In the Uneven Age Group Championships, local stars Conor Christy (Beechmount Harriers), Paddy Robb (St Malachy’s AC), Sean Corry (Omagh Harriers), Edel Monaghan (Omagh Harriers), Aoife Dunlop (Beechmount Harriers), Jonny Whan (City of Lisburn AC), Enya Haigney (Omagh Harriers), Aife McSheffrey (Springwell Running Club), Ryan Miskelly (Lagan Valley AC), Paul Carty (Lagan Valley AC), Abigail McBrown (Springwell Running Club), Toni Moore (Omagh Harriers) and Olivia Hall (3 Ways AC) will all be hoping for podium places in their respective categories. 

In the Senior ‘Novice’ XC Championships, Northern Ireland ladies Rachel Gibson (North Down AC), Danielle Fegan (Armagh AC) and Catherine O'Connor (East Down AC) will finish well up the pack.  If on form, all three have the ability to claim a medal here.  The men's race will see Armagh AC athletes Leroy Brady, Gary Henderson and Daniel Fegan line up alongside a strong Acorns AC squad, which will be headed by Aaron Meharg, Glenn Donnelly, Darrell McKee, Bliadhan Glass and Shane Donnelly.

Closer to home on Sunday 7th December 2014, Limavady District Council will host the Turkey Run 10k at the Benone Complex in Limavady.  The event will attract a mixture of recognised athletes as well as fun runners and exercise enthusiasts.  Online entry for the event is close but entries are still available on the day from the Benone Tourist Complex between 9.45am and 10.45am, with the race starting at 11.30am.

As always, Northern Ireland’s nineteen 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. 

Note:  As the majority of our team are out of the country this weekend (Friday 5th December to Monday 8th December 2014), there may be a delay in the uploading of race summaries and results this weekend.  However, we will endeavour to have things back to normal as soon as possible.

Remember - If you would like to catch up on our 'News' from November 2014, you can use the navigation banner at the top of the screen (and scroll to November 2014) or click HERE.

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