Lough 5 mile Road Race 2015:
On Thursday 31st December 2015, well over five hundred athletes turned out for the annual Lough 5 mile road race, a popular festive event held in the County Tyrone village of Loughmacrory.
At the front, well known athletes Paddy Hamilton (Slieve Gullion Runners), Scott Rankin (Foyle Valley AC) and Chris Madden (City of Lisburn AC) were first to complete a lap of the lough, and in truth, always looked like the men who would fill the top three positions, despite the best efforts of the accomplished athletes behind. In the ladies race, Julie Butler (Omagh Harriers) led from early on with Anne Paul (City of Derry AC), Emma Rice (Sperrin Harriers) and Niamh Heaney (Omagh Harriers) in pursuit.
In the end, it was Slieve Gullion Runners front man Paddy Hamilton who led the field home. The former Annadale Striders athlete broke the tape in an impressive 25:14 (1st place) to secure top spot. Scott Rankin replicated his finishing position at the Greencastle 5, when he took 2nd place in 25:29, while Chris Madden completed the top three in 25:50 (3rd place).
Julie Butler continued her dominance in the ladies race to seal an easy victory in 30:39 (1st place), while Omagh Harriers starlet Niamh Heaney worked her way through the competitive field well to secure 2nd place in 33:42; this was just four seconds ahead of Anne Paul who clocked 33:46 for 3rd place.
Top 3 Men: 1st Paddy Hamilton (Slieve Gullion Runners) – 25:14, 2nd Scott Rankin (Foyle Valley AC) – 25:29, 3rd Chris Madden (City of Lisburn AC) – 25:50
Top 3 Ladies: 1st Julie Butler (Omagh Harriers) – 30:39, 2nd Niamh Heaney (Omagh Harriers) – 33:42, 3rd Anne Paul (City of Derry AC) – 33:46
Full Results: Lough 5 mile Road Race 2015 Results
Special Preview: Record numbers expected at ROTG 2016...
After a busy and exciting few days of Christmas racing, it's now time to look forward to one of the festive periods most popular and atmospheric events, Race Over the Glens, hosted by Ballymena Runners.
Although, this 'Special Preview' will focus solely on ROTG, it isn't the only race taking place over this New Year weekend, with the Lough 5 mile road race (in Loughmacrory, County Tyrone), an event which attracts large numbers, scheduled for tomorrow – Thursday 31st December 2015 (New Years Eve). Details on the Lough 5 mile road race are available on the Athletics NI website HERE. Born 2 Run will also host the next race of their ‘Run Forest Run Series’, the Kilbroney 10k on Saturday 2nd January 2016 – More details are available HERE.
Race Over The Glens:
On Friday 1st January 2016, record numbers are expected to descend on the rejuvenated Glenariff Forest Park in the heart of the scenic Glens of Antrim, just outside Waterfoot (County Antrim), for the 20th annual running of the Race Over the Glens.
Interestingly, in its 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 measures just over 6 miles in distance, taking in approximately 320 metres of ascent.
All runners will start with their own hopes and expectations, however, at the front of the pack competition for top spot is expected to be fierce – several previous winners are expected to return. Reigning Champions Jarlath Falls (Ballymena & Antrim AC) and Shalene McMurray (Newcastle AC) should start and will both play a major part in proceedings.
Jarlath returned to competition recently with a good run at the Malcolm Cup, where he took seventh place against some in-form competitors; this race will suit Jarlath better than the muddy conditions experienced in Ballyclare that day as he strives for a hat-trick of consecutive wins.
Unfortunately, NIMRA Champion Seamus Lynch is unlikely to start, which means that the Ballymena & Antrim AC man may contest top spot with North Belfast Harriers duo Andrew Annett and Mark McKinstry.
Andrew partnered the aforementioned Seamus Lynch at the Castlewellan Christmas Cracker, where the men claimed an impressive podium spot – this was just 48 hours after he (Andrew) had secured a fourth place finish at the prestigious Greencastle 5 mile road race on Boxing Day, having covered the route in 26:21. Given Andrew’s 'flat' speed and his strength on the climbs, he’ll be a certain contender here. The same could be said for Mark McKinstry, who is also running well. Last week, Mark broke the Larne parkrun course record having completed the very challenging two lap course in an excellent 16:29. This follows several excellent results in the ongoing Athletics NI XC League for the ever improving North Belfast Harriers man.
Eglinton Trail Race winner Allan Bogle (City of Derry AC) may also make the trip to the Glens and will feature well if he does, as will previous winner and Olympian James McIlroy (Larne AC), should he compete whilst home for the festive period. David McNeilly (Newcastle AC) partnered 2014 ROTG ladies winner Shalene McMurray (Newcastle AC) to victory in the ‘mixed’ category at the Castlewellan Christmas Cracker and will no doubt play a part at the front here, alongside Neill Weir (Willowfield Harriers) and the likes of William McKee (Mourne Runners), John Black (North Belfast Harriers), Stephen Wylie (North Down AC) and Deon McNeilly (Newcastle AC) if they enter on the day. Jonny Steede (Unattached) will return to action following some time off and will hope for a top ten finish on a course that he enjoys – Justin Maxwell (East Coast AC), Kevin O'Boyle (Unattached), Matt Wray (Unattached), Wayne Morrow (Larne AC), Paul McAnespie (Armagh AC) and Alex Brennan (Ballymena Runners) will all feature well up the field, while Thomas Leitch (Orangegrove AC) will hope to build on an exceptional run at the recent Knockdhu Classic Fell Race, where he took fourth place after showing great strength on the tough ascents.
In the ladies race, it is hard to look past Shalene McMurray (Newcastle AC) for the top prize. Since her win here twelve months ago, Shalene has returned to regular competition for Newcastle AC and has impressed over various terrain. This week (as previously mentioned) Shalene, accompanied by David McNeilly, cruised to victory at the Castlewellan Christmas Cracker. The exceptionally talented athlete has also regularly placed in or around the podium spots at Athletics NI XC League fixtures; just before Christmas, Shalene finished a close second to Julie Butler (Omagh Harriers) at the North West XC.
It is unlikely that Mourne Runners athlete and AAI National Marathon medallist Laura Graham will make the trip to the Glens, but should she do so, Laura will provide strong competition having dominated Born 2 Run’s Run Forest Run Trail Series thus far.
NIMRA Champion and a previous winner of ROTG, Shileen O’Kane (Lagan Valley AC), will also be in the mix, as will fellow Northern Ireland internationals Gillian Wasson (Springwell Running Club) and Sam McNeilly (Newcastle AC). Ballymena Runners ladies Catherine McQuillan and Kerrie Bamber have shown good form recently and will almost certainly feature within the top ten here, as will Dalriada 5k/10k prize-winner and podium finisher at ROTG in 2013, Clare MacAuley (Ballyhouston Harriers). Springwell Running Club’s Kerrie McIlmoyle will also be worth watching as she continues to work her way through the ranks, while Gillian Cordner (Seapark AC) and Natasha Henderson (County Antrim Harriers) should place well.
Over the Christmas and New Year period, Northern Ireland’s twenty one parkrun events will operate under local arrangement. Please check out your local parkrun page (links available within our ‘fixtures’ page) for full details.
Castlewellan Christmas Cracker 2015:
On Monday 28th December 2015, a record number of four hundred and fifty teams descended on the County Down village of Castlewellan for the 32nd annual running of the well-organised Castlewellan Christmas Cracker, hosted by Newcastle AC. The festive favourite 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 approximately 8.3 miles in distance, started in the town centre before taking the competitors into the scenic Castlewellan Country Park, where they would negotiate several tough ascents and some excellent trails before passing the stunning Castlewellan Castle en-route to the atmospheric finish line.
It was a close affair at the head of the pack, with Eoghan Totten (Newcastle AC) – Andrew Monaghan (Lagan Valley AC), Gary O’Hanlon (Clonliffe Harriers) – Brian McCluskey (North East Runners), Seamus Lynch (Newcastle AC) – Andrew Annett (North Belfast Harriers) and Eoin Lennon (Carnethy HRC) and Iain Whiteside (Carnethy HRC) all setting the pace. In the ‘mixed’ race, Newcastle AC’s David McNeilly and Shalene McMurray were setting a relentless pace and looked as if they would live up to their pre-race favourite status; in the ladies race, Ballydrain Harriers pair Denise Logue and Amanda Perry were working their way through the field well.
After negotiating numerous tough ascents, the leaders descended towards Castlewellan Castle and onwards towards the finish line, and it was the youngest team of the lead pack who reached the finishing straight first – Eoghan Totten and Andrew Monaghan looked strong as they quickly covered the final metres to take victory in 50:54 (1st place). Outgoing Champions, Gary O’Hanlon and Brian McCluskey took 2nd place in 51:22, before NIMRA Champion Seamus Lynch and Irish international Andrew Annett completed the top three in 51:35 (3rd place).
In the mixed race, there was no stopping the host club’s David McNeilly and Shalene McMurray as they cruised to an impressive victory in 59:29 (1st place). Brendan Donnelly (Newcastle AC) and Emma Burgess (Highgate Harriers) secured 2nd place in 1:03:17, while in an epic battle for 3rd place, Colm Murtagh and Sinead Murtagh reached the finish line in 1:03:24 (3rd place), just six seconds ahead of Dromore AC’s Rebecca Henderson and Peter Murtagh (4th place – 1:03:30) and thirteen seconds ahead of East Down AC’s Ciaran Denvir and Catherine O’Connor (5th place – 1:03:37).
In the ladies race, the impressive and progressive running from Denise Logue and Amanda Perry paid off as the ladies broke the tape in 1:08:54 (1st place). In an exceptionally close finish, North Down AC ladies Catherine Roberts and Valerie McDonough just pipped 2014 Champion Janice Plumb and Penny Lindsay, both of North Belfast Harriers, to 2nd place. Catherine and Valerie clocked 1:12:03, with Janice and Penny following in 1:12:07 (3rd place).
Top 3 Male Teams: 1st Eoghan Totten (Newcastle AC) & Andrew Monaghan (Lagan Valley AC) – 50:54, 2nd Brian McCluskey (North East Runners) & Gary O’Hanlon (Clonliffe Harriers) – 51:22, 3rd Seamus Lynch (Newcastle AC) & Andrew Annett (North Belfast Harriers) – 51:35
Top 3 Mixed Teams: 1st David Mc Neilly (Newcastle AC) & Shalene McMurray (Newcastle AC) – 59:29, 2nd Brendan Donnelly (Newcastle AC) & Emma Burgess (Highgate Harriers) – 1:03:15, 3rd Colm Murtagh (Newcastle AC) & Sinead Murtagh (Newcastle AC) – 1:03:24
Top 3 Ladies Teams: 1st Denise Logue (Ballydrain Harriers) & Amanda Perry (Ballydrain Harriers) – 1:08:54, 2nd Catherine Roberts (North Down AC) & Valerie McDonough (North Down AC) – 1:12:03, 3rd Janice Plumb (North Belfast Harriers) & Penny Lindsay (North Belfast Harriers) – 1:12:07
Greencastle 5 mile Road Race 2015:
On Saturday 26th December 2015 (Boxing Day), well over one thousand athletes turned out for the 30th annual running of the traditional Greencastle 5 mile road race in County Tyrone.
After the seemingly endless field set off, things quickly began to settle at the front, with pre-race favourite and course record holder Paul Pollock (Annadale Striders) being joined by St Malachy’s AC star Ben Branagh and Foyle Valley AC front man Scott Rankin. Behind, Andrew Annett (North Belfast Harriers), Brendan Murphy (City of Derry AC), Michael Crawley (Sperrin Harriers), Shane Brady (Clones AC), Darrell McKee (Acorns AC) and St Peters AC’s fast improving Gerard Heaney all started well.
In the ladies race, Ann-Marie McGlynn (Letterkenny AC) had taken up a position at the front, with Heather Foley (Unattached), Judith Lonnen (City of Lisburn AC) and Karen Alexander (Acorns AC) in pursuit.
As the race progressed into the second half, Paul Pollock made a significant move at the front, moving clear of Ben Branagh, who had battled well to stay alongside the Northern Ireland half marathon record holder; Scott Rankin was still chasing, lying just behind in third place as they passed through 3 miles. The untouchable Ann-Marie McGlynn was dominating proceedings in the ladies race and looked to have sealed the title as she reached ‘the hill’. Heather Foley had cemented second spot but there was an excellent battle going on just behind for the final podium place, with the always impressive Judith Lonnen and Karen Alexander both marking their return to competition with excellent runs.
Paul Pollock crested the much talked about hill with apparent ease and made his way downhill towards the atmospheric finish area. There was no stopping the Rio 2016 hopeful as he covered the remaining metres quickly to break the tape in 24:24 (1st place). In the final stages, the powerful Scott Rankin caught and passed Ben Branagh to seal the runners up prize in 25:21 (2nd place), while Ben held on for a well-deserved 3rd place in 25:50.
Predictably, it was Letterkenny AC lady and winner of the recent Seeley Cup, Ann-Marie McGlynn, who claimed the ladies title. After a superb display of front running, the exceptionally talented Strabane based athlete clocked a new course record of 27:59 for 1st place. Former Champion Heather Foley secured 2nd place in 29:25, while Karen Alexander just edged out Judith Lonnen (4th place – 31:37) for 3rd place, after crossing the line in 31:26.
Top 3 Men: 1st Paul Pollock (Annadale Striders) – 24:24, 2nd Scott Rankin (Foyle Valley AC) – 25:21, 3rd Ben Branagh (St Malachy’s AC) – 25:50
Top 3 Ladies: 1st Ann-Marie McGlynn (Letterkenny AC) – 27:59, 2nd Heather Foley (Unattached) – 29:25, 3rd Karen Alexander (Acorns AC) – 31:26
Full Results: Greencastle 5 mile Road Race 2015 Results (Photos by Malcolm McCausland - Inside Track)
BARF Turkey Trot 2015:
On Saturday 26th December 2015 (Boxing Day), seventy seven mountain runners descended on the Mourne Mountains for the BARF (Belfast Association of Rock Climbers & Fell Runners) 'Turkey Trot'.
The interesting route, which covered 5.7 miles in distance and included 435 metres of ascent, 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.
In the absence of 2014 Champions Seamus Lynch (Newcastle AC) and Catherine O’Connor (East Down AC), everything was up for grabs and it was deserving athletes who were crowned 2015 Champions. In the men’s race, Scotland based athlete Iain Whiteside (Carnethy HRC) and well-known Orienteer and runner Paul Pruzina (Ballydrain Harriers) led the way early on, with Paul just ahead as the pair crossed the Slieve Meelmore - Slieve Meelbeg Col. In the end though, it was the strong finish by Iain, in particular his descent towards Happy Valley, which saw him secure victory in 45:34 (1st place). The always impressive Paul, home for the Christmas holidays, took 2nd place just over a minute later in 46:54 (2nd place), while Newcastle AC’s David Hicks completed the top three in 49:18 (3rd place).
Diane Wilson (Dromore AC) continued to show the outstanding form that has seen her secure wins at prestigious races such as the Ben Nevis Mountain Race and the Garmin Mourne Skyline MTR as she cruised to victory, covering the course in 56:47 (1st place). Megan Wilson (Unattached), performed well to take 2nd place in 58:27, before Moira O’Sullivan (Unattached) claimed the final podium place in 1:03:37 (3rd place).
Top 3 Men: 1st Iain Whiteside (Carnethy HRC) – 45:34, 2nd Paul Pruzina (Ballydrain Harriers) – 46:54, 3rd David Hicks (Newcastle AC) – 49:18
Top 3 Ladies: 1st Diane Wilson (Dromore AC) – 56:47, 2nd Megan Wilson (Unattached) – 58:27, 3rd Moira O’Sullivan (Unattached) – 1:03:37
Weekend Preview: Christmas 2015 Special…
The Christmas period is renowned for over indulgence and festivities; it offers some well-deserved time away from the day to day stresses – it’s great!
However, after Santa has been, the turkey barely has enough time to cool before Boxing Day arrives and signals a busy period in the sporting world. In terms of running, there are several notable events over the Christmas period and of course, we (NiRunning) will be on hand to cover these as best as we can!
Personally, we’ll be attending the Castlewellan Christmas Cracker. There are of course several other ‘Crackers’ on the fixture list.
This preview will also feature the 30th annual Greencastle 5 mile road race - a Boxing Day classic – and BARF’s popular ‘Turkey Trot'. Alongside this trio of superb offerings, we’ll also be keeping an eye on other races, such as the Burren Townlands 12 mile and 6 mile races, another annual festive favourite.
Greencastle 5 mile Road Race:
On Saturday 26th December 2015 (Boxing Day), Greencastle AC will host the 30th annual running of the popular Greencastle 5 mile road race in County Tyrone. Online entries, which are still open, have reached the 600 mark and the action at the head of the field looks set to be epic.
Interestingly, it looks like the snow, ice and blizzard like conditions from the last few years will make way for some milder weather, which the masses will appreciate as they tackle ‘the hill’. Amongst the crowds will be Irish boxing hero Paddy Barnes, an Olympic medallist in Beijing 2008 and London 2012. Despite Paddy’s ability, he’ll not compete at the front of the back, nor is that his aim (he’s doing it with a friend for charity) – he’ll leave that to the runners, several of whom will be hoping to join him in Rio for the 2016 Olympics!
Course record holder and arguably Northern Ireland’s top endurance runner, Paul Pollock (Annadale Striders), will toe the line. Following on from his recent impressive outing at the European XC Championships in France, Paul will be keen to finish the year well as he gears towards Brazil next Summer. The Northern Ireland and Ireland international enjoyed an excellent dual with Martin Fagan here twelve months ago, when he (Paul) broke clear in the final mile to secure victory in 24:07. In terms of other challengers, it’s hard to see anyone matching Paul, but Andrew Annett (North Belfast Harriers), Scott Rankin (Foyle Valley AC), Stephen Kerr (Armagh AC), Keith Shiels (Foyle Valley AC) and City of Derry AC men Brendan Murphy and John Lenehan will all have high hopes of securing a podium place. St Malachys AC’s Ben Branagh, Derry City Track Club’s Darragh Crossan, Sperrin Harriers’ Michael Crawley and Clones AC’s Shane Brady should all finish in or around the top ten.
Despite the withdrawal of previous winner and Olympian Maria McCambridge, the ladies race will prove to be an exciting affair; with 2014 winner Heather Foley (Unattached) set to go head-to-head with the always impressive Danielle Fegan (Armagh AC).
Heather won in 30:44 last year and has been in good form throughout 2015 – although Danielle’s 5 mile personal best (31:39) is slower than this, it was set back in 2012, and she has improved massively since then. In fact, Danielle recently clocked a new 10k personal best of 35:36 in Leeds last month. Maeve Lavery (DUB Runners) and Debbie Matchett (Ballydrain Harriers) will also feature, as will mountain runner Ciara Largey (Lochaber AC) and North Belfast Harriers’ Geraldine Branagh, which makes for an exciting race for the final podium place.
BARF Turkey Trot Mountain Race:
Also on Saturday 26th December 2015 (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, a traditional annual event in the heart of the Mourne Mountains in County Down.
The 5.7 mile event, which includes 435 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.
It’s hard to look past the almost unstoppable Seamus Lynch (Newcastle AC) for victory here, but the NIMRA Champion, who covered the course in 43:54 in 2014, will face stiff opposition in the form of international mountain runners Eoin Lennon (Carnethy HRC) and Iain Whiteside (Carnethy HRC), who are both home for Christmas… and will team up for the Castlewellan Christmas Cracker. Jonny Steede (Ballymena Runners) may return to competition, while Mourne Runners men Sam Herron, Gary Bailey, Clive Bailey and Dale Mathers should all play a prominent part in proceedings.
In the ladies race, NIMRA Champion Shileen O’Kane (Lagan Valley AC) should start, and could well be joined by her friend and closest rival Diane Wilson (Dromore AC), who will be hoping to replicate the same kind of form which saw her race to victory at the Ben Nevis Mountain Race and Garmin Mourne Skyline MTR during the latter part of 2015. Behind, Catherine O’Connor (East Down AC) may feature, as could Claire Withers (Mourne Runners), Beverly Herron (Mourne Runners) and Jackie Toal (BARF).
Burren Townlands 6 mile and 12 mile Road Races:
On the same day (Saturday 26th December 2015), athletes will descend on Burren Heritage Centre in County Down for Burren AC’s Burren Townlands 6 mile and 12 mile races. In previous years, the event has attracted some very positive feedback, which should assist in attracting a sizeable crowd this year, with a mixture of seasoned athletes and exercise enthusiasts expected.
Last year, it was Rory O’Sullivan (Piranha Tri Club) and Karen Alexander (Acorns AC) who excelled in the 12 mile event and Lee Magennis (Newry AC) and Seana Mulvaney (Unattached) who led the 6 mile competitors home. All four could well return to defend their titles and may be joined on the start line by the likes of Brendan Teer (East Down AC), Phil Wood (Unattached), Norman Smyth (Newcastle AC), Barrie Atkinson (East Down AC), Gillian Burns (Dromore AC), Emma Laverty (Lagan Valley AC), Nigel Grier (Dromore AC) and Don Harte (Newry City Runners).
Castlewellan Christmas Cracker:
On Monday 28th December 2015, a record number of four hundred and fifty 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. The race 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 others will work together throughout the race.
In 2014, a record breaking three hundred and fifty teams took to the line and 2015 promises to be bigger as the entries reached capacity approximately two weeks ago. This year’s race will again cover a multi-terrain course and will measure approximately 8.5 miles, with most of the action taking place in the area around 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 good shape. Overall, both men have enjoyed a successful year since winning the event twelve months ago – Gary kicked off 2015 with a new Irish 50k record of 2:59:19 and just last month, the well-known distance runner performed well whilst representing Ireland at the World 50k Championships in Doha.
Closer to home, Gary claimed fifth place at the Dublin Half Marathon and narrowly missed a top ten spot at the Dublin Marathon in October (2015), where he ran just over 2:25:00 for twelfth place. His partner, Brian, continues to improve and this year recorded 15:15 for 5k and 32:18 for 10k – Brian was also selected as Louth’s Senior Athlete of the year for the second year running. However, the crowning moment of his year so far was a gold medal in the team competition at the recent British & Irish Masters International XC Championships in Santry last month (November 2015).
The Irish stars will not have it all their own way though, with a further 202 men’s teams all vying for high placing’s. Within this record number are several teams who are well capable of challenging for honours, none more so than the in-form Seamus Lynch (Newcastle AC) and Andrew Annett (North Belfast Harriers). Seamus has been in exceptional form throughout 2015, showing his talent in the mountains when winning the NIMRA Championship, but also improving his times significantly on the roads – he has also impressed with numerous wins and podium places in the Athletics NI XC League. Meanwhile, his partner Andrew Annett never fails to impress – Andrew has represented both Northern Ireland and Ireland this year and shown his versatility over almost every terrain; he helped North Belfast Harriers to top spot at the NI & Ulster Road Relay Championships.
Eoghan Totten (Newcastle AC) and Andrew Monaghan (Lagan Valley AC) are home from University for Christmas and will team up for this race, and given the fact that they do not race regularly at home, they may go under the radar; they will be worth watching!
Another pairing who will definitely play a major part at the front are Carnethy HRC’s Eoin Lennon and Iain Whiteside – the Scotland based men have been in fine form of late, with Eoin having made his Ireland debut in France this year and won numerous races, including the Glencoe Marathon. Iain, a Northern Ireland international mountain runner, has shown his speedy edge and his most recent outing was a 33:12 finish over a tough 10k cross country course in Edinburgh.
William McKee (Mourne Runners) will hope to take his good run of form from the latest Born 2 Run events into this one as he pairs up with North Belfast Harriers new boy Lindsay Gordon to make what will be a strong team, especially over this ‘faster’ course.
Mark McKinstry (North Belfast Harriers) and Neill Weir (Willowfield Harriers) will be there or there abouts, as will Mourne Runners men Sam Herron and Gary Bailey, and Belfast based duo John Black (North Belfast Harriers) and James Trainor (DUB Runners). Other teams to look out for include Martin Melville (Newcastle AC) – Paul Carlin (Newcastle AC), Deon McNeilly (Newcastle AC) – Dale Mathers (Mourne Runners), Sam Crawford (East Antrim Harriers) – Billy Reed (East Antrim Harriers) and Mourne Runners duo Richard Bell and Clive Bailey.
In the ladies race, Jackie Toal and Victoria Simms will spearhead BARF’s challenge for a podium place, but they will have to see off the strong challenges of Newcastle AC ladies Sam McNeilly and Patricia McKibbin, and North Belfast Harriers pair Janice Plumb and Penny Lindsay. Ballydrain Harriers’ Amanda Perry and Denise Logue will also be worth watching, while Ann Terek and Melanie Minshull, both from City of Lisburn AC, will finish well up the field. Orangegrove AC’s Julie McKimm and Pauline Bayliss, and Ballymena Runners’ Paula McAllister and Sharon Harvey, will also be hoping to be amongst the main contenders.
The ‘mixed’ category is always an interesting event, and this year there will be some excellent teams involved. Newcastle AC’s David McNeilly and Shalene McMurray will start as favourites, given both their recent form and talent over a variety of terrain. However, Dromore AC’s Rebecca Henderson and Peter Murtagh, and Beechmount Harriers’ Catherine Diver and Michael Magee, will both go well. Another Beechmount Harriers team of Gerrie Short and Paul Blaney, should be in the mix at the front. Ballymena Runners’ Pawel Lapiniski and Kerry Bamber, and North Belfast Harriers pair Kent Swann and Roisin Hughes will also challenge. The husband and wife team of Eamonn McLaughlin and Hazel McLaughlin, both from Lagan Valley AC, could play a part, while the pairs of Ciaran Denvir (East Down AC) – Catherine O’Connor (East Down AC), Mark Alexander (Ballymena Runners) – Gillian Wasson (Springwell Running Club), Sammy Drummond (Larne AC) – Patricia Blair (Larne AC) and Drew Fowler (Ballydrain Harriers) – Gillian Logan (Larne AC) will all perform well.
Northern Ireland’s twenty one parkrun events will have their own local arrangements over the Christmas and New Year period, so we recommend that if you would like more information on these, or to locate your nearest event, you should 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 Wednesday 30th December 2015.
Double European XC Champion set for IAAF Antrim International (by Athletics NI):
Former double European Cross Country Champion Fionnuala McCormack is the latest big name to be announced for the Greenmount Cross Country International at Antrim next month (January 2016). This meeting is one of twelve IAAF World Cross Country permits and is supported by Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council.
31 year old Fionnuala is second only to the great Sonia O'Sullivan in the list of top female Irish cross country runners. She has consistently been the backbone of successful Irish teams as illustrated recently by their bronze medals for the second year running in the European Cross Country Championships in France.
In the race Fionnuala fought her way through to 4th position to lead the Irish team to a comfortable rostrum place behind the GB and French teams. She commented afterwards that while she was delighted for the team she was getting a little tired of finishing 4th for the 3rd time.
Fionnuala is however her own harshest critic as she has two previous individual European titles to her name from 2011 and 2012. The former Olympic Steeplechaser has now moved to the marathon and her time of 2:33:15 secs in October (2015) qualifies her for the Rio Olympics next summer. Fionnuala has also experienced success at Greenmount with two previous wins to her credit. However in next month's race she will be fully challenged by Birtukan Fente Alemu of Ethiopia who is the current Antrim title holder. Last March the African enjoyed a comfortable victory by sixteen seconds over runner up Steph Twell, who interestingly was the first female winner at Greenmount back in 2009. Birtukan Fente Alemu is also a Steeplechaser with a 3k personal of 9:24.91 which ranks her fifteenth in the World Lists. The 29 year old was a finalist in the World Championships in 2011 and was unlucky to miss out on this year's final in Beijing last August.
The race is shaping up as one the classics as newly crowned European Under 23 Champion Louise Carton of Belgium will also be competing. The meeting will also include the current Men's champion Thomas Ayeko of Uganda.
For further race entry information and online entry is available from www.athleticsni.org/Events
Born 2 Run ‘Run Forest Run’ Tollymore 10k:
On Saturday 19th December 2015, nearly seven hundred athletes descended on the picturesque Tollymore Forest Park in County Down for the Born 2 Run Tollymore 10k, which is part of the local events management company’s ‘Run Forest Run’ Series.
As expected, Mourne Runners duo William McKee and Laura Graham dominated proceedings, with both completing a hat-trick of victories, following on from wins in Gosford and Loughgall. In the men’s race, William cruised to victory, negotiating the challenging route in 35:19 (1st place). St Peter’s AC man Gerard Heaney followed just over a minute later in 36:21 (2nd place), while Paul Carroll (Annadale Striders) crossed the line twenty seconds later in 36:41 for 3rd place.
Laura Graham put in a strong performance in the ladies event, leading the field home in an excellent 39:01 (1st place); this was enough to see Laura secure 9th place overall. North Belfast Harriers’ Louise Smith claimed the runners up spot in 40:24 (2nd place), before East Down AC’s Northern Ireland international mountain runner Catherine O’Connor recorded 42:13 for 3rd place.
Top 3 Men: 1st William McKee (Mourne Runners) – 35:19, 2nd Gerard Heaney (St Peter’s AC) – 36:21, 3rd Paul Carroll (Annadale Striders) – 36:41
Top 3 Ladies: 1st Laura Graham (Mourne Runners) – 39:01, 2nd Louise Smith (North Belfast Harriers) – 40:24, 3rd Catherine O’Connor (East Down AC) – 42:13
Full Results: Born 2 Run ‘Run Forest Run’ Tollymore 10k 2015 Results
Knockdhu Classic Fell Race:
On Saturday 19th December 2015, nearly fifty athletes turned out for a new edition of the famous Knockdhu Classic Fell Race in Cairncastle, just outside the coastal town of Larne. In its day, the Knockdhu Classic Fell Race was a prominent fixture on the international calendar. Unfortunately, the race ceased to exist after its final running in 2009.
However, hard work by Lagan Valley AC’s Northern Ireland international mountain runner Hazel McLaughlin, has now allowed many athletes who never had the opportunity to compete at the event the chance to do so; of course, quite a few of the athletes how had raced at the event previously, enjoyed their return. Although a competitive fixture, the race also had a charitable aspect to it, with well over £600 collected for local charity Cancer Focus NI.
The tough course covered approximately 4.3 miles with 1,500m of ascent. In windy conditions the field set off along as relatively fast and flat section before encountering their first thigh burning ascent. In what was a close race, Mourne Runners men Sam Herron, Dale Mathers and Clive Bailey contested top spot. In the end, after a fast descent and a brave leap over the final fence, it was Dale Mathers who broke the tape first. The former Newry City Runners star clocked 47:19 (1st place). Sam followed in 47:26 (2nd place), with Clive just behind in 47:34 (3rd place).
In the ladies race, current NIMRA Champion Shileen O’Kane (Lagan Valley AC) showed her strength on the tough ascents as she soared to an impressive victory. The Northern Ireland international led the ladies home in 52:50 (1st place), which not only saw her take 1st place in the ladies race, but an excellent 8th place overall. Springwell Running Club’s Gillian Wasson followed in 56:46 (2nd place), before Jackie Toal (BARF) completed the top three in 58:49 (3rd place).
Top 3 Men: 1st Dale Mathers (Mourne Runners) – 47:19, 2nd Sam Herron (Mourne Runners) – 47:26, 3rd Clive Bailey (Mourne Runners) – 47:34
Top 3 Ladies: 1st Shileen O’Kane (Lagan Valley AC) – 52:50, 2nd Gillian Wasson (Springwell Running Club) – 56:46, 3rd Jackie Toal (BARF) – 58:49
Full Results: Knockdhu Classic Fell Race 2015 Results
Weekend Preview: A weekend of ‘off-road’ favourites…
We’re just one week out from the Christmas and New Year holidays which means a welcome return of several festive favourites to the official fixtures calendar.
The Athletics NI XC League continues with the popular North West XC, while trail runners will be catered for with Born 2 Run’s Tollymore 10k. Just outside Larne, there’s a new edition of the famous Knockdhu Classic Fell Race taking place, thanks to the hard work of a local athlete.
Knockdhu Classic Fell Race:
The weekend action will kick off just outside Larne on Saturday 19th December 2015, where a capacity field will take on a new edition of the famous Knockdhu Classic Fell Race. In its day, the Knockdhu Classic Fell Race, then organised by Larne AC, was a prominent fixture on the international calendar. Unfortunately, the race ceased to exist after its final running in 2009, when Stephen Cunningham and Karen Alexander claimed victory.
Now, following hard work by Lagan Valley AC’s Northern Ireland international mountain runner Hazel McLaughlin, the race is back. Hazel, who is originally from the Larne area and knows the scenic fells of Knockdhu and Scawt exceptionally well, has re-introduced the event as a charity race, with a limited number of places available; these filled very quickly.
The tough course covers approximately 4.3 miles with 1,500m of ascent - amongst those likely to head the pack are Mourne Runners men Sam Herron and Clive Bailey. Both men featured well in this year’s MINRA Championship and enjoyed excellent runs at the Seven Sevens British Championship Race in the Mourne Mountains, with Sam taking thirteenth place and Clive following in seventeenth place. Billy Reed (East Antrim Harriers) is another athlete to look out for following an excellent year, during which he made his Irish international debut. The ever consistent Dale Mathers (Mourne Runners) will also be in the mix, as will Richard Nunan (Ireland), Richard Bell (Mourne Runners), Emmet McAlister (Unattached) and Richard Hanna (Mourne Runners). Local men Andy Gregg (Larne AC), Wayne Morrow (Larne AC) and Phelim McAllister (Larne AC) will all be hoping for strong performances; Andy in particular will be very familiar with this route.
In the ladies race, it’s hard to look past NIMRA Champion and well respected Northern Ireland international Shileen O’Kane (Lagan Valley AC) as a potential winner. The experienced and versatile athlete has been in excellent form throughout 2015 and claimed a top three finish at the Garmin Mourne Skyline MTR in October (2015). Jackie Toal (BARF) and Gillian Wasson (Springwell Running Club) will be also be well in the mix, while Joanne Curran (BARF) and the fast improving Paulette Thomson (Newcastle AC) will be hoping to edge into the podium places. Ballymena Runners’ Paula McAllister should also perform well.
Born 2 Run ‘Run Forest Run’ Tollymore 10k:
Also on Saturday 19th December 2015, nearly seven hundred athletes are expected to take to the epic trails of Tollymore Forest, close to Newcastle (County Down), for the fourth race of local event management company Born 2 Run’s ‘Run Forest Run’ Series, the Tollymore 10k. This particular race has attracted the largest number of entries in the Series thus far.
Mourne Runners duo William McKee and Laura Graham have dominated the last few races in the Series, winning in Loughgall and Gosford, and they talented pair will toe the line again here. There will be no stopping William in the men’s event, although Annadale Striders’ Paul Carroll should be there or there abouts. Stephen O’Gorman (Dromore AC) and Aaron Woodman (PACE Running Club) have both been performing well in the local trail running scene of late and will be hoping for more of the same here. Oliver Cook (PACE Running Club) and Bobbie Nicholson (Seapark AC) will finish well up the field.
Laura Graham will be the overwhelming favourite going into the ladies race, barring any on the day entries, but even then, it’s hard to look past the always impressive performer for top spot. That leaves two further prize winning places up for grabs, and based on recent form, it looks as if Collette McCourt (Dub Runners) and Niamh Kellett (East Down AC) should take these. Although there are a number of ladies who will be worth keeping an eye on, including Gillian Cordner (Seapark AC), Ruth Hill (Unattached), Amanda Perry (Ballydrain Harriers), Catherine Roberts (North Down AC), Paula Wallace (North Belfast Harriers) and young Edie Carroll (East Down AC).
North West XC:
In the Maiden City of Derry/Londonderry on Saturday 19th December 2015, City of Derry AC will host the latest fixture in the competitive Athletics NI Cross Country League, the North West XC. The event, held within the confines of Gransha Grounds, is continually establishing itself as one of the seasonal favourites and as such, will attract a large crowd.
As we move into the second half of the league, Foyle Valley AC and Acorns AC top the respective men’s and ladies tables, but there is still plenty to play for and with approximately four hundred athletes expected to turn out, the competition should fierce.
There will be a comprehensive five race programme covering all age groups from Primary Schools to Masters.
The Open 6k at 12.30pm is the feature event and with both Athletics NI XC League and NI Masters Athletic Association (NIMAA) XC League points up for grabs, it will pull in top class performers from all across Northern Ireland and Ulster. North West based clubs City of Derry AC, Derry City Track Club and Foyle Valley AC will all be battling it out for local bragging rights.
The Foyle Valley AC men’s and ladies squads have seriously targeted Athletics NI XC League honours and with five of the nine scoring races already gone the purple vests are looking good, with the men in top spot and ladies just behind Acorns AC. Scott Rankin, Chris McGuinness, Pius McIntyre and Keith Shields are likely to front Foyle Valley AC’s challenge and will have to be at their best to repel hosts, City of Derry Spartans, who will also have good strength in depth - Declan Reed, Allan Bogle, Greg Roberts, JP Williamson, Arnie Doherty and Emmett McGinty are expected to lead the red vests on the three lap Gransha course.
Newcastle AC's mountain running Champion Seamus Lynch has won the last two League races at Ballyclare and Cookstown and will be going for a treble in Gransha. Brian Campbell (Willowfield Harriers), Mark McKinstry (North Belfast Harriers), Andrew Annett (North Belfast Harriers), Neil McCartan (East Down AC) and James Hamilton (Ballymena Runners) will also go well if the take part.
City of Derry AC duo Aileen Morrison and Catherine Whoriskey finished a close up first and second in Ballyclare two weeks ago and are expected to be up front again at this event, but may have to contend with a few old rivals from North Down AC and North Belfast Harriers; for example, Jessica Craig and Rachel Gibson sat out the Ballyclare 3 miler but will feature prominently if they feature here. In the team competition, Jackie McMonagle, Hannah Shields, Amy Jackson, Aoife Laverty and Anne Paul will back up the aforementioned Aileen and Catherine, while Newcastle AC may call upon the always reliable Joanne Mills, Mari Troeng, Sam McNeilly, Rita Devlin and Patricia McKibbin as they strive for honours.
Martina McMullan, Sarah Lindsay and Gemma McGinty should give the Foyle Valley AC ladies a good chance of contesting for team points, while Derry City Track Club’s Amy McDaid and Hannah McGowan should also be prominent as the locals do battle with the quality visiting runners. All the races will be chip timed and changing and showers plus excellent post-race refreshments will be available. David McKibbin will also be on hand to provide his informative race commentary for both spectators and runners! Note: North West XC preview compiled with the assistance of City of Derry 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.
IAAF Antrim International XC 2016:
As the festive period approaches, Athletics NI continue to prepare for the prestigious annual Antrim International Cross Country. Following on from the opening of entries, several high profile names have announced that they will be competing.
Alongside reigning Champion Thomas Ayeko (Uganda), newly crowned European Under 23 Cross Country Champion Louise Carton (Belgium) is the latest big name to be added to the fast growing start list, which will also include a plethora of local talent.
The meeting, which will take place on Saturday 16th January 2016 is one of twelve IAAF World Cross Country permits and is supported by Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council. Louise was the surprise but clear winner at the weekend (Sunday 13th December 2015) over the fast 6,000 metres Championship course in Hyeres, France.
The tall 21 year old was always in contention in a race which featured the favourite Jip Vastenburg of the Netherlands plus Team GB's 1,500 metres star Laura Muir. Half way through the race, Louise forced the pace and opened a clear gap on the opposition which she held to the finish. Jip Vastenburg snatched silver with Scottish girl Laura Muir fading to fifth place; Laura did however have the consolation of a gold medal as part of the winning Great Britain & NI team. Louise who is the Under 23 European 5,000 metres silver medallist was seventh in this competition last year and is presently in excellent form this season with a string of cross country victories to her credit. She will certainly be aiming for a rostrum position at Antrim.
Ugandan star Thomas Ayeko could well mount a successful defence of his title as he is in particularly sparkling form. The 23 year old was an impressive fifth in the Great North Run in September (2015) behind winner Mo Farah. Thomas's time of 1:01:14 was only two seconds short of his personal best set in March 2015). This is the second time he has finished fifth behind Mo Farah at Gateshead.
In October (2015), Thomas also ran a personal best of 2:12:17 when finishing just outside the podium places (fourth place) in the Rennes Marathon. At Greenmount he will be aiming to repeat his tactics from this event in 2015 and break clear early on - this resulted in a thirteen second victory margin over Edwin Soi of Kenya. Thomas was determined to avoid a repeat of the 2014 race where he lost out to World Champion Japhet Korir by a mere two seconds. Other stars already announced for this meeting is 2013 World 10,000 metres bronze medallist Belaynesh Oljira of Ethiopia and team mate Etagegu Woldu who took bronze in the World Junior Cross Country last March in China.
Visit www.athleticsni.org/Events for further information and online entry.
Armagh AC athlete impresses in England:
Over the course of the weekend (Saturday 12th October 2015), Northern Ireland international cross country star Danielle Fegan (Armagh AC) was in action for her second club, England based Tyne Bridge Harriers at the North Eastern Counties Cross Country Championships in Sedgefield, England.
Up against top quality opposition such as Team GB stars Laura Weightman (Morpeth Harriers & AC) and Alyson Dixon (Sunderland Strollers), amongst others, the NI & Ulster Senior XC medallist and current GloHealth AAI Intermediate XC Champion performed to her usual high standard. In what was a close contest for podium places, Danielle narrowly missed out, but secured an excellent 4th place after completing the 8.3k course in 33:19. The race was won by Rosie Smith (Durham City Harriers) in 31:55 (1st place).
Full Results: North Eastern XC Championships 2015 Results (Photo by Matthew Wright)
Euro Cross Country Championships 2015 Results:
On Sunday 13th December 2015, a fighting fourth place finish from Ireland’s Fionnuala McCormack led the Irish women’s team, which included Northern Ireland based star Kerry O’Flaherty (Newcastle AC), to magnificent bronze medals at the European Cross Country Championships in Hyeres, France.
In the 8k race, which was won by Dutch star Sifan Hassan in 25:47 (1st place), Kerry recorded 28:11 for 55th place. The medal winning team also included the aforementioned Fionnuala McCormack as well as Lizzie Lee, Caroline Crowley, Ciara Durkan and Michelle Finn.
Kerry was joined on the Irish team by fellow Northern Ireland runners Paul Pollock (Annadale Striders), Emma Mitchell (Banbridge AC) and James Edgar (City of Lisburn AC). In the senior men’s 10k won by Ali Kaya (Turkey) in 29:20 (1st place), Paul Pollock battled well to take 45th place in 31:31. In the Under 23 ladies 6k, Emma Mitchell clocked 21:01 for 36th place; the race was won by Belgium’s Louise Carton in 19:46 (1st place). In the junior men’s 6k, James Edgar finished in 19:17, sealing 70th place; the race was won by Yemaneberhan Crippa (Italy) in 17:39 (1st place).
Mighty Oaks Cross Country:
On Saturday 12th December 2015, popular local club Acorns AC played host to hundreds of athletes for the 2nd annual running of their Mighty Oaks Cross Country, which took place on the snow covered grounds of Mid Ulster Sports Arena in Cookstown.
The event, which was the fifth round of the Athletics NI cross country league, kicked off with a number of junior races, which saw victories for Tomas Haigney (Omagh Harriers), Casey Miskelly (Ballydrain Harriers), Dylan McBride (Willowfield Harriers), Patricia Nugent (Armagh AC), Jack Moore (Omagh Harriers), Annie NiLochlain (Mid Ulster AC), Ethan Dunn (Dromore AC) and Grace Carson (Mid Ulster AC).
In the ladies 3 mile race, young Omagh Harriers star Enya Haigney and unattached athlete Heather Foley enjoyed an excellent dual, which in the end, was won eventually won by All Ireland XC medallist Enya in 21:35 (1st place). Heather Foley just two seconds later in 21:37 (2nd place), while NI & Ulster Novice XC Champion Natalie Hall (Acorns AC) completed the top three in 22:15 (3rd place).
The men’s race brought another outstanding display of front running from Newcastle AC’s ever improving NIMRA Champion Seamus Lynch. Seamus, who won the Malcolm Cup XC last week, secured victory after covering the 5 mile course in 30:13 (1st place). Scott Rankin (Foyle Valley AC) ran well to take 2nd place in 30:54, before Allan Bogle (City of Derry AC) crossed the line in 31:03 for 3rd place.
Top 3 Men (5 miles): 1st Seamus Lynch (Newcastle AC) – 30:13, 2nd Scott Rankin (Foyle Valley AC) – 30:54, 3rd Allan Bogle (City of Derry AC) – 31:03
Top 3 Ladies (3 miles): 1st Enya Haigney (Omagh Harriers) – 21:35, 2nd Heather Foley (Unattached) – 21:37, 3rd Natalie Hall (Acorns AC) – 22:15
Full Results: Mighty Oaks XC 2015 Results
Eskra 10k Road Race:
On Saturday 12th December 2015, well over four hundred athletes from across Northern Ireland turned out for the annual Eskra 10k road race in the County Tyrone village of Eskra; the event is also referred to as the Rudolph Run and therefore attracted a mixture of established athletes and fitness enthusiasts.
It was a day when the pre-race favourites lived up to expectation, with local hero Stephen Duncan (Omagh Harriers) and Seeley 10k winner Ann-Marie McGlynn (Letterkenny AC) sealing impressive wins.
In the men’s race, international athlete Stephen Duncan showed his class from the off and gradually moved clear of the chasing Stephen Wylie (North Down AC) as the race progressed, eventually breaking the tape in 32:23 (1st place). Stephen, who won the Griddle 10k last week, also ran well, secured 2nd place in 34:42.
Ann-Marie McGlynn then took third place overall, therefore sealing the ladies title with ease; Ann-Marie clocked 35:01 (1st place) for victory. Enniskillen Running Club’s Fergus McGirr then claimed 3rd place in in the men’s race in 35:04. Omagh Harriers’ Julie Butler was the second lady home in 37:57 (2nd place), while Ita Monaghan (QUB Tri-Club) completed the top three in 42:15 (3rd place).
Top 3 Men: 1st Stephen Duncan (Omagh Harriers) – 32:23, 2nd Stephen Wylie (North Down AC) – 34:42, 3rd Fergus McGirr (Enniskillen Running Club) - 34:42
Top 3 Ladies: 1st Ann-Marie McGlynn (Letterkenny AC) – 35:01, 2nd Julie Butler (Omagh Harriers) – 37:57, 3rd Ita Monaghan (QUB Tri-Club) – 42:15
Full Results: Eskra 10k 2015 Results (Photo by Paul Barbour).
Weekend Preview: Cross Country bandwagon rolls on…
This weekend, the fast moving cross country bandwagon will roll on, with the local focus being on the 2nd annual Might Acorns XC event in Cookstown.
The provinces’ road racers will also have the option of the popular Eskra 10k road race in County Tyrone, while further afield, four athletes from Northern Ireland will represent Ireland at the IAAF European Cross Country Championships in France.
Mighty Oaks Cross Country:
On Saturday 12th December 2015, popular local club Acorns AC will welcome athletes from across Northern Ireland to the 2nd annual running of their Mighty Oaks Cross Country, which will again be held at the Mid Ulster Sports Arena in Cookstown.
Following on from the successful running of the event in 2014, the race is now part of the prestigious Athletics NI XC League and will be the fifth fixture, following on from well attended events in Comber, Jordanstown and Ballyclare. The extensive race programme will kick off at 12pm and will include Under 11, Under 13, Under 15 and Under 17 races before the Ladies and Men take on their respective 3 mile and 5 mile events.
The ladies will take to the start line first and it’s likely that City of Derry AC star Catherine Whoriskey will play a major part in proceedings. Following on from her excellent performance at last weekend’s Malcolm Cup, were she claimed second place, the Waterside Half Marathon winner will be eyeing up a win. North Down AC ladies Jessica Craig, Rachel Gibson and Jodi Smith will be keen to lead their team to maximum points as they strive to cement their place at the top of the XC League, while Karen Alexander (Acorns AC) and newly crowned NI & Ulster Novice XC Champion Natalie Hall (Acorns AC) will perform well for the hosts. Joanne Mills (Newcastle AC), Mari Troeng (Newcastle AC), Catherine McQuillan (Ballymena Runners) and Annalisa Mullan (Foyle Valley AC) will all be worth watching.
In the men’s race, North West clubs City of Derry AC and Foyle Valley AC, and County Down’s Newcastle AC will be amongst the best represented clubs. Amongst the plethora of talent from all three clubs will be Malcolm Cup winner Seamus Lynch (Newcastle AC), Allan Bogle (City of Derry AC) and Scott Rankin (Foyle Valley AC). All three men made the top six last week and will again challenge for the podium place – they will be joined by Mark McKinstry (North Belfast Harriers), Brian Campbell (Willowfield Harriers), Darrell McKee (Acorns AC), James Hamilton (Ballymena Runners) and Alex Brennan (Ballymena Runners).
Eskra 10k Road Race:
Also on Saturday 12th December 2015, a large turnout is expected at the Eskra 10k road race in the County Tyrone village of Eskra; the event is also referred to as the Rudolph Run and therefore attracts a mixture of established athletes and fitness enthusiasts.
Local hero Stephen Duncan (Omagh Harriers) may toe the line, and if he does, the WPFG medallist will prove hard to beat. Shane Brady (Clones AC), a podium finisher at the Enniskillen Spooktacular 5k, may also race, while Derek Somerville (Omagh Harriers), Chris McPeake (City of Derry AC) and Gavin Corey (Sperrin Harriers) could also start.
One of the major talking points will be the entry of Irish international star and winner of the recent Seeley Cup, Ann-Marie McGlynn (Letterkenny AC). At the Seeley Cup, despite poor conditions, Ann-Marie clocked an excellent 34:16 for victory; if conditions are better, the Letterkenny AC athlete is more than capable of improving on this. Other ladies who may contest the podium places could include Pauline McGurren (Sperrin Harriers) and Patricia O’Hagan (St Peter’s AC).
IAAF European Cross Country Championships:
On Sunday 13th December 2015, four athletes from Northern Ireland will represent Ireland at the IAAF European Cross Country Championships in Italy. Paul Pollock (Annadale Striders) and Kerry O’Flaherty (Newcastle AC) will compete in the Senior races, while Emma Mitchell (Banbridge AC) will line up in the Under 23 race and James Edgar (City of Lisburn AC) in the Junior event.
Ahead of the prestigious event, local runner Paul Pollock spoke to BBC Sport NI – the interview is available below:
Paul Pollock is cautious about his own chances at Sunday's European Cross Country Championships but believes a men's team medal can be achieved. Pollock, 29, will be running for Ireland in the event for the sixth time while the women's team in Hyeres will include Newcastle's Kerry O'Flaherty. "I've never felt I've run that well at the Europeans so I'm not making any predictions this time," says Pollock. "But I think we've got a strong team so I'm pretty optimistic in that regard."
The Irish men's squad in the southern French coastal town will include Joe Sweeney, fifth at the championships in 2011, and Mick Clohisey who won the recent Irish Championships at Santry ahead of John Coghlan and Pollock. "I think we can be there or thereabouts in the medal shake-up if enough of us perform to our capabilities," adds Pollock.
"Joe Sweeney has a good pedigree at these championship and with conditions likely to be firm enough, I think John Coghlan, with his four-minute miler speed, should go well. Mick Clohisey is running well on the country as he showed at Santry after getting the Olympic marathon qualifying time in Berlin and Ryan Creech is a quality athlete too so I think we're looking pretty strong team-wise for Sunday."
Mick Clohisey finished three seconds ahead of Pollock at the Berlin Marathon in September to put himself currently in line for an Olympic spot alongside Kevin Seaward and Sergiu Ciobanu, who both also achieved the Rio qualifying time in the German capital. Pollock bravely ran a personal best of 2:15:38 in Berlin despite having missed three weeks of training immediately before the event because of an 11-centimetre quad muscle tear.
"I started the race not knowing whether I was going to be able to finish and felt the injury all through the race, although I tried to put it out of my mind, and hadn't any strength left over the last four kilometres. I had mixed feeling afterwards. But being able to run that fast despite having missed such important training told me that I was capable of going faster."
Paul, who regularly trains in England with his fellow Northern Ireland man Seaward, under the guidance of coach Andy Hobdell, is likely to make another attempt at securing Olympic selection at the London Marathon. "At the minute, the plan is probably to run the World Half-Marathon Championship in Cardiff on 26 March, which will be exactly four weeks before London. But over the next few months, it's all about staying injury-free.”
“I missed a couple of days training last week because of a calf niggle but things have been going generally OK over the last few weeks so hopefully I'll run pretty well this weekend. After that, I plan to run the Greencastle Five-Mile Road Race on the 26th of December, which is always a well organised event." Pollock impressively broke the course record in the Tyrone event last year after dipping up Gareth Turnbull's previous mark as he clocked 24 minutes and seven seconds. Fellow Northern Ireland athlete Kerry O'Flaherty has already secured an Olympic Games steeplechase spot and will join Paul Pollock in France.
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.
Ciara Mageean set for Rio 2016 (by BBC Sport Northern Ireland):
Northern Ireland lady Ciara Mageean (UCD AC) will almost certainly compete at the Olympic Games in Rio in 2016 after the IAAF lowered the qualifying standard for the women's 1500m event.
The benchmark has been moved from 4:06.00 to 4:07.00 as too few athletes were making the former time. Northern Ireland athlete Ciara twice ran under 4:07.00 in Italy in September 2015, as she brought her personal best down to 4:06.49.
The Portaferry woman, 23, has suffered an injury-affected couple of years. Her personal best performance in Rovereto in September cut .05secs off her Northern Ireland record. Despite achieving the qualifying standard, Ciara opted not to compete at the World Championships in Beijing as she continued her comeback.
Ciara won a superb world junior 1500m silver medal in 2010 but her hopes of competing at the London Olympics in 2012 were ended by a foot injury. An injury in her other foot caused her to miss this year's European Indoor Championships in March and she was only able to return to major competition in the latter part of the outdoor season. However, her form over recent months indicated that she was on course to qualify for the Olympics in Brazil.
McGrady's continue to show support for local running community:
This week, Downpatrick based businesses McGrady Insurance, M.B McGrady & Co and McGrady Financial Services have shown their support for the local running scene - following on from their sponsorship of the McGrady Financial Junior XC Series, the associated firms have backed local athlete Kerry O'Flaherty in her bid for success at the Rio 2016 Olympics. Below is the official press release:
McGrady's of Downpatrick help fund Kerry's Road to Rio:
The first Northern Irish track and field athlete in 16 years to make an Olympic Games qualifying time has just been handed an early Christmas present by three local businesses in Downpatrick ahead of participating in this weekend’s European Cross Country Championships.
Kerry O’Flaherty, one of Ireland’s best track and field athletes, has already met the qualifying time in the 3k Steeplechase required for the Olympic Games next summer in Brazil. Now with the help of three Downpatrick businesses – McGrady Insurance, M.B McGrady & Co. Chartered Accountants and McGrady Financial Services – Kerry will be able to fund months of altitude training in the Pyrenees as part of her preparation for the 2016 Olympics in Rio.
Hailing from Newcastle in Co. Down, Kerry’s winter training includes cross country. This weekend, Kerry is part of the Irish team, participating in Hyères in France at the 2015 European Cross Country Championships, and there are high hopes for an Irish team medal. Following competing at this year’s World Championships in Beijing, Kerry is well aware of the standards of the best female chasers in the World, and for Kerry, preparation in the run up to Rio 2016 is key. This significant sponsorship from the County Down businesses is crucial in helping to fund high altitude training, which is essential for athletes who are competing at the top of their game.
“In 2009 I decided to follow my dream of reaching an Olympics and since then, have committed 100% to reaching Rio 2016. To perform at the highest level, you have to be absolutely dedicated 24/7, therefore there’s not the normal security of employment for living expenses, travels etc. The support of all three McGradys’ businesses will help to ensure that I can train in Font Romeu in the Pyrenees mountains after Easter, and I’m incredibly grateful for their support as it will help me get into the best shape possible for achieving my goal,” explains Kerry.
With limited funding available, Kerry reached out to local businesses in a bid to help her to realise her dream of attending the 2016 Olympics in Rio. The signs are good, and by reaching Rio, Kerry will become one of very few athletes from Northern Ireland competing on the world’s greatest sporting platform next summer.
Fintan McGrady, Managing Director with McGrady Insurance comments: “We’re immensely proud to be funding a central part of Kerry’s preparation for Rio. Her drive and determination are admirable and all three businesses are 100% behind Kerry’s efforts. We’ll be following Kerry’s progress and our teams are hopeful of seeing a local girl from Newcastle achieve her dreams on the world stage come August 2016.”
Training seven days a week, for the last six years, at 34, this may be one of Kerry’s last opportunities to reach an Olympics. As a professional athlete, it’s not a given that there’s funding, therefore for Kerry and other athletes, private sponsorship is crucial in helping Northern Irish sportspeople to perform at the highest level.
“Over the years, our businesses have grown in Downpatrick thanks to our community and their ongoing custom. Therefore, when we heard about a local athlete, who was the first in 16 years to reach the track & field qualifying time for the Olympics, we felt that it right to step up and help Kerry to represent Co. Down, Northern Ireland and Ireland in Rio. By joining forces with McGrady Insurance and McGrady Financial Services, we’ve been able to increase our donation, and we’re thrilled to be able to help Kerry on her ‘Road to Rio’,” adds Malachy McGrady, Partner with M.B McGrady & Co. Chartered Accountants.
Managing Director of McGrady Financial Services, Philip McCrickard, says: “As a member of Newcastle Athletics Club, I’ve been following Kerry’s progress over the last few years, and the grit and determination that she’s shown to be the very best is hugely inspiring. Kerry has already achieved so much, representing Ireland across the world, and as local business owners, we’re proud to be supporting one of Ireland’s finest athletes.”
Notorious as one of the most difficult track and field events, the 3,000m Steeplechase is Kerry’s chosen event. In July past, Kerry and two other Irish runners - Michelle Finn (from Cork) and Sarah Treacy (from Meath) - became the first-ever trio of Irish athletes to all achieve the Olympic standard of 9.45.00 at one event in an unprecedented historic night for Irish athletics. Kerry’s time of 9.42.61 was also inside the world championship standard of 9.44.00, enabling Kerry to compete in Beijing earlier in the year and established her as Ireland’s number 1 female steeplechaser for 2015.
McGrady Insurance, M.B McGrady & Co. Chartered Accountants and McGrady Financial Services are all situated on St. Patrick’s Avenue in Downpatrick. For further information on Kerry O’Flaherty, please see www.runkerryrun.com.
GloHealth Novice and Uneven Ages Cross Country Championships 2015:
On Sunday 6th December 2015, thousands of athletes and spectators travelled to Dungarvan, Ireland for the GloHealth Novice and Uneven Ages Cross Country Championships in St Augustine’s College. Amongst the masses was a large crowd from Northern Ireland.
The horrendous weather conditions associated with Storm Desmond had cleared, leaving a calm day. However, running conditions were muddy underfoot after the heavy rain.
Irish athletes Aoife Cooke (Youghal AC) and Stephen Lawlor (St Abban’s AC) were surprise winners in the Novice race, with Paddy Robb (St Malachy’s AC) and Rachel Gibson (North Down AC) leading the local contingent home – Paddy took 7th place, completing the 6k course in 20:17, while Rachel covered the 4k ladies course in 16:09 for 8th place.
Despite these quality efforts, undoubtedly the best performance from a Northern Ireland based athlete was that of North Down AC’s Craig McMeechan. In the Under 17 event, Craig secured gold after leading the field home in 1st place – he was followed by fellow NI man Eoin McCann, who took 2nd place and the associated silver medal.
There was also an individual medal for Lagan Valley AC’s Tim Scott, who claimed 3rd place in the Under 15 race won by Donore Harriers’ Louis McLoughlin. Tim’s performance saw him lead his Lagan Valley AC team, which also contained Cormac O’Rourke, Peter Carty and Callum McCabe to team gold; an excellent achievement. Belfast based Lagan Valley AC were also in the medals in the Under 15 Girls team competition - Molly Dougan, Anna Hill, Libby Maloney and Sophie Senior ran well to secure 2nd place behind Metro/St Brigid’s AC.
In the Under 17 Girls race, Omagh Harriers’ Enya Haigney picked up a bronze medal after crossing the line in 3rd place, just ahead of club mate and friend Niamh Heaney. The strong outings from Enya and Niamh, backed up by Caelinn McQuaid and Morgan Owens, ensured that Omagh Harriers collected bronze medals after sealing 3rd place in the team competition won by DSD AC.
Full Results: GloHealth Novice and Uneven Ages Cross Country Championships 2015 Results – Please Note: Times are not available for any of the Uneven Age Group races.
The Griddle 10k 2015:
On Sunday 6th December 2015, runners from across Northern Ireland turned out for the annual Griddle 10k in County Down, an event hosted by Saul GAC in association with popular local athletic club East Down AC and renowned for its tough but scenic course.
In windy conditions, it was pre-race favourite Stephen Wylie (North Down AC) who impressed most. After showing off his talent with some excellent displays in Australia recently, Stephen claimed an excellent victory, leading the field home in 34:43 (1st place). Newcastle AC’s fast improving Martin Melville secured 2nd place in 35:39, while his club mate Aidan Brown (Newcastle AC), a second place finisher here in 2014, took 3rd place in 37:35.
In the ladies race, Heather Foley (Unattached) looked a class apart as she cruised to a convincing win. The former Commonwealth Games triathlete broke the tape in 38:21, winning by nearly two minutes. Last year’s Griddle 10k Champion, Catherine O'Connor (East Down AC), showed little or no fatigue from an excellent run at the Malcolm Cup XC less than 24 hours earlier when she narrowly missed a sub 40 minute finish to take 2nd place in 40:17 – interestingly, this was four seconds quicker than Catherine’s winning time twelve months ago. Another East Down AC athlete, Laura Gardiner, clocked 43:29 for 3rd place.
Top 3 Men: 1st Stephen Wylie (North Down AC) – 34:43, 2nd Martin Melville (Newcastle AC) – 35:39, 3rd Aidan Brown (Newcastle AC) – 37:35
Top 3 Ladies: 1st Heather Foley (Unattached) – 38:21, 2nd Catherine O'Connor (East Down AC) – 41:17, 3rd Laura Gardiner (East Down AC) – 43:40
Full Results: Griddle 10k 2015 Results
Action on Hearing Loss NI 5 mile Road Race 2015:
On Sunday 6th December 2015, nearly two hundred athletes descended on a windy Hazelbank Park in Newtownabbey for the annual Action on Hearing Loss NI 5 mile road race and associated 1 mile run. The event, used a fundraiser for the worthwhile charity, attracted a mixture of established athletes and fitness enthusiasts.
The flat and fast ‘out and back’ course started and finished within the confines of the shoreline Hazelbank Park and would have provided a perfect opportunity for personal best hunters had it not of been for the conditions; however, some impressive times were still posted throughout the field.
At the head of the pack, North Belfast Harriers star and previous winner at Action on Hearing Loss events, Simon Reeve, sealed a narrow victory in 29:24 (1st place). Stephen Nicholson (Club Unknown) recorded 29:25 for 2nd place, while Mark Walker (Unattached) followed on from a good run at Saturday’s Malcolm Cup XC with a podium finish, taking 3rd place in 29:35.
Dromore AC’s ever impressive Gillian Burns was the star of the show in the ladies race, dominating the field to win in 31:32 (1st place). Endurance specialist Gillian Cordner (Seapark AC) claimed the runners up spot in 36:12 (2nd place), before Susan Thompson (Unattached) completed the top three in 36:44 (3rd place).
Top 3 Men: 1st Simon Reeve (North Belfast Harriers) – 29:24, 2nd Stephen Nicholson (Club Unknown) – 29:25, 3rd Mark Walker (Unattached) – 29:35
Top 3 Ladies: 1st Gillian Burns (Dromore AC) – 31:32, 2nd Gillian Cordner (Seapark AC) – 36:12, 3rd Susan Thompson (Unattached) – 36:44
Full Results: Action on Hearing Loss NI 5m Road Race 2015 Results
Malcolm Cup XC 2015:
On Saturday 5th December 2015, hundreds of athletes and spectators braved wet and windy conditions as they descended on Sixmilewater Park in Ballyclare for the Malcolm Cup XC, an event hosted by Annadale Striders - it was also the latest fixture in the Athletics NI Cross Country League.
The extensive event programme kicked off with a junior race before the Ladies and Vet 35+ Men took to the start line for their 3 mile event. In what was an excellent race, Springwell Running Club’s Philip Tweddie, the winner of this event in 2014, set the early pace. However, in the latter stages, Ballydrain Harriers’ ever improving Gareth Lyons moved alongside Philip and in a strong finish, Gareth edged clear to secure victory in 17:26 (1st place). Philip followed in 17:33 (2nd place), while Barrie Atkinson (East Down AC) came through well to take 3rd place in 17:55.
In the ladies race, world class triathlete Aileen Reid (City of Derry AC) led from the off and despite the best efforts of her club mate, Catherine Whoriskey (City of Derry AC), who was also in top form, it was Aileen who ran out victorious. The Irish international broke the tape in 18:54 (1st place), with Catherine following just four seconds later in 18:57 (2nd place). The always impressive Rebecca Henderson (Dromore AC) sealed 3rd place in 19:29. In the team competition, Dromore AC claimed 1st place, with Newcastle AC and Lagan Valley AC taking 2nd place and 3rd place respectively.
Further junior races followed, which were all well supported and fiercely contested, showing that the future of running in Northern Ireland is in safe hands! It was then the turn of the Senior and Under 20 men to take to the start line for their 4 mile race.
By now, the wind had whipped up further and the underfoot conditions had deteriorated. However, the field got off to a flying start. City of Derry AC’s Allan Bogle headed a strong pack which included the likes of Seamus Lynch (Newcastle AC), Neil McCartan (East Down AC), Brian Campbell (Willowfield Harriers), Scott Rankin (Foyle Valley AC), Mark McKinstry (North Belfast Harriers), Andrew Agnew (Annadale Striders) and Andrew (Annett (North Belfast Harriers).
As the race progressed, Seamus Lynch moved into the lead and despite a hefty head-wind as the athletes made their way towards the back end of the course, the Newcastle AC man used this section to increase the distance between himself, Allan Bogle, Neil McCartan, Mark McKinstry and Brian Campbell.
In the final lap, the gap increased further and Seamus ran out deserved winner in 22:24 (1st place), with Mark McKinstry just seeing off Brian Campbell to take 2nd place in 22:34, while Brian completed the top three in 22:36 (3rd place). Foyle Valley AC's Ray McGilloway was the first Under 20 athlete to finish in 24:06 (16th place). Meanwhile, in the team competition, Foyle Valley AC picked up the prestigious Malcolm Cup trophy after taking 1st place ahead of City of Derry AC (2nd place) and North Belfast Harriers (3rd place).
Veteran Men’s 35+ Race (3 miles) – Top 3: 1st Gareth Lyons (Ballydrain Harriers) – 17:26, 2nd Philip Tweedie (Springwell Running Club) – 17:33, 3rd Barrie Atkinson (East Down AC) – 17:55
Ladies Race (3 miles) – Top 3: 1st Aileen Reid (City of Derry AC) – 18:54, 2nd Catherine Whoriskey (City of Derry AC) – 18:57, 3rd Rebecca Henderson (Dromore AC) – 19:29
Senior and Under 20 Men’s Race (4 miles) – Top 3: 1st Seamus Lynch (Newcastle AC) – 22:24, 2nd Mark McKinstry (North Belfast Harriers) – 22:34, 3rd Brian Campbell (Willowfield Harriers) – 22:36
Born 2 Run ‘Run Forest Run’ Loughgall 10k 2015:
On Saturday 5th December 2015, just shy of four hundred runners took on Born 2 Run’s Loughgall 10k race in County Armagh. The event was the third race of the event management company’s Run Forest Run Series.
The course, which measured just short of 6.2 miles, saw competitors complete a short section on the road through the picturesque village of Loughgall, before returning to Loughgall Estate through the impressive main gates. The route then followed the forest paths around the estate, passing Loughgall Golf Course.
William McKee (Mourne Runners) lived up to his pre-race favourite status when he added to several recent victories with a 29:29 finish for 1st place. Aaron Woodman (Pace Running Club) followed on from his podium finish at the 26extreme Tollymore 10k when he crossed the line in 31:38 for 2nd place, before Stephen O’Gorman (Dromore AC) completed the top three in 32:13 (3rd place).
In the ladies race, Laura Graham (Mourne Runners) once again showed her class to seal another impressive win. The Mourne Runners lady continued her dominance of the Run Forest Run Series with a 32:48 clocking for 1st place. North Belfast Harriers’ Louise Smith completed the course in 33:36 (2nd place), while Esther Dickson (Unattached) recorded 35:27 for 3rd place.
Top 3 Men: 1st William McKee (Mourne Runners) – 29:29, 2nd Aaron Woodman (Pace Running Club) – 31:38, 3rd Stephen O’Gorman (Dromore AC) – 32:13
Top 3 Ladies: 1st Laura Graham (Mourne Runners) – 32:48, 3rd Louise Smith (North Belfast Harriers) - 33:36, 3rd Esther Dickson (Unattached) - 35:27
Full Results: Born 2 Run ‘Run Forest Run’ Loughgall 10k 2015 Results