2019 IMC Belfast Meeting Details

Christmas is over and the days are getting longer. Both are important milestones in the athletics calendar and thoughts are already turning to the next summer season. With that in mind, the good news this week is that the IMC Belfast Meeting goes ahead again next year on June 22.

Eamonn Christie has big plans for his meeting next year.

Meeting director Eamonn Christie released details this week of his 2019 promotion which he promises will be bigger and better than ever and will boast possibly the most lucrative track race in Ireland.

“We’re making the mile the feature race of the meeting,” Christie told the Irish News. “The British Milers’ Club is sending over four of their best runners for a mile challenge that will see an Ireland v Britain challenge.

Cathal McLaughlin sponsors mile at Belfast IMC Meeting.

“Thanks to sponsorship of Cathal McLaughlin and his company, E & I Engineering Ltd, we can offer a first prize of £300 with an added bonus of £200 if four minutes is broken. I’m sure that makes it the best prize in Ireland for a track race next summer.

Apart from the BMC boys, I’m hoping that the best Irish middle-distance runners will take part. To facilitate that I’ve selected a date for the meeting that does not clash with any major fixture across the water or in Europe.”

It is a long time since the last four minute clocking at the Mary Peters by a local athlete. Probably Larne man Davie Wilson was the last when he stopped the clock at 3:59.9 (hand-timed) back in 1991. But you have to go back to 16 August 1967 for the fastest mile run by a NI athlete in Northern Ireland.

On that occasion Derek Graham recorded 3:59.4 on a sodden Paisley Park track in chasing home Kenya’s Kip Keino who was crowned Olympic 1500m champion the following year in Mexico. At least three other Olympic champions, John Walker, Said Aouita and William Tanui have been under four minutes on various occasions at the south Belfast venue.

Aside from the feature event, Christie is also putting together and interesting undercard. Emma Mitchell renews rivalry with England’s Claire Duck in the 3000m. It could be the Banbridge woman’s first race on the track after the London Marathon where she will be targeting a qualifying time for the Tokyo Olympics in 2020.

Jason Smyth

All conquering Paralympic champion Jason Smyth is expected to line up in the 100m and Christie is also keen to put together a competitive 400m. The ladies are not being overlooked either with a top class 800m and 1500m also in Christie’s plans.

It is hoped that Ciara Mageean will make a rare appearance on the track north of the border especially now when she seems to be coming back to her very best under coach Steve Vernon in Manchester.

The Beechmount Harriers and West Coast Coolers clubs are assisting in the organisation of the meeting with Lashes by Jane in Hillsborough also making a generous contribution to the running costs of what should be one of the top three track meetings in Ireland again next year.

M & M Conquer Hills at Greencastle

Mark McKinstry completes an almost perfect autumn season.

Mark McKinstry completed an almost perfect autumn with a dominant victory in yesterday’s Greencastle 5 Miles held in cool but mild conditions. Emma Mitchell was equally impressive as she off strong opposition for the honour of being the first woman across the finish line.

Over 1000 runners plus possibly half that number of walkers made their way to the Tyrone hamlet as Oliver McCullagh and his hard-working team ensured the race maintained its mantle as the leading running fixture of the festive season.

McKinstry struck the front immediately from the gun and very quickly only had Conor Duffy and Paddy Robb for company.  The trio had distanced themselves from the main field by the three-mile mark with any one of the threesome looking capable of landing the win.

Unused to hills at his Colorado base, Robb was first to slip back when Duffy took up the running at the start of the kilometre-long ascent around the four mile marker of the contest. The Monaghan man continued to forge ahead up the steepest part of the slope as McKinstry grimly tried to stay in contact.

But Duffy had made his effort too early and sensing the weakness in his rival, the North Belfast Harrier found renewed strength. He picked up the pace as they embarked on the downhill run to the finish and quickly overhauled the fading Glaslough Harrier before going on to break the tape in 24 minutes and 40 seconds.

That meant brought the Glenwherry man’s number of victories to six this autumn, including the British & Irish Masters’ Cross Country, suffering defeats only in the Irish National Cross Country and Joe Seely 10K.

Duffy held on to cross the line in second some 26 seconds back before having to be treated by the medical team.  Robb found his legs on the downhill to consolidate third spot in 25:19 before a gap to Eoin Hughes (26:02), Míchael McCaul (26:24) and John Lenehan (26:31) in that order.

Emma Mitchell overcomes a strong women’s field.

In the women’s race, Emma Mitchell showed no sign of being ring rusty after being out of competition for three months as she threw down the gauntlet from the sound of the gun. Olympians Breege Connolly and Catriona Jennings both succumbed to the pressure by the time the Banbridge woman hit the dreaded hill. 

After that it was all one way traffic as the Eamonn Christie-coached athlete romped away for what turned out to be a facile win in 28:28. Connolly fought back to regain second spot in 28:52 as a tiring Jennings crossed the line for third almost another minute back in 29:41. Sinead Sweeney appeared to be equally exhausted struggling across the line a further six seconds back in fourth while Rebekah Nixon (30:24) and Cassie Lagan (32:09) completed the top half dozen women.

Ten Tips to Help You Run Faster in 2019



To absorb your training, it is advisable to take adequate rest which will also help prevent over-use injuries which can set your fitness back weeks, if not months. Sandwich strong workouts between easy and rest days.


Short and long intervals are fundamental to developing aerobic power. The increased demand for oxygen during these runs improves heart:lung efficiency and the rate of oxygen conversion to the muscles.


No training programme is complete without hills. They strengthen legs, improve technique and are always an excellent workout for the lungs. For middle-distance runners, try running reps downhill as well.


The introduction of fartlek training in the 1940s was revolutionary in the development of endurance training. Experiment with the duration of all sorts of hard efforts and easy recoveries. Best done off road with forest paths ideal for this type of training.


Long, slow runs are the foundation of any training programme but should be done at a moderate pace. Run them too fast and you will have nothing left for the race. These runs will improve your body’s ability to utilize carbohydrates and fats for energy. Start with an hour easy and build up depending on the race distance you are targeting.


You may have the best engine in the world but this will be wasted unless you have an efficient running technique. This will improve with training but you may have to get someone experienced to give you some tips on how to improve your running style.


Sometimes more training effect can be achieved with an hour in the gym rather than pounding the roads. Improved strength directly influences the performance of the runner and makes them more resistant to injury. It also helps you recover quicker from hard sessions. Core strength is vitally important for all runners.


One of the common failings for runners is too slow a frequency of stride. Besides slowing you down, it also means that you tire quicker. Aim for 180 foot strikes per minute but anything over 160 is acceptable. Get into the habit of counting your strides when out running – just count one leg for 30 seconds and multiply by four.


It is impossible to exaggerate the positive effect that sleep has on training and performance. Everyone is different but all runners should be getting at least eight hours per night. If you are not getting enough sleep, you will not reap the full rewards of your training.


No matter what your level you need a plan. No-one can train with intensity 52 weeks a year indefinitely. Target you’re your races sensibly throughout the year and build in periods of recovery. These can take the form of active rest where maybe you just go out for an easy run 2-3 times a week or try another sport. Preferably not one where you are going to get injured.


Most people are looking forward to the festive season and the opportunity to relax and indulge a little after a long year.  But for many sportspeople it can be a season to be endured rather than enjoyed particularly in relation to eating and drinking. Many restrict their diet believing that constant weight loss can assist in improving performance even to the point of the body’s functions beginning to shut down.

Runners believe thinner the better but nothing could be further from the truth. 

The condition can bring on a variety of health problems in both men and women including a fall in hormone levels, a deterioration in bone density, a drop in metabolic rate and mental health problems.  These symptoms collectively can indicate a condition called Relative Energy Deficiency in Sport (Red-S).

While there is no research to support the theory that less is better, it is a belief widely held in distance running circles from parkrunners to Olympic elite. The pressure to run fasterand run longer can be a catalyst for developing eating disorders. If other factors are also involved, such as peer pressure and/or low image self-esteem,the danger of developing an eating disorder can be increased exponentially.

An English runner Anna Boniface was featured this week in an investigation by the BBC’s Five Live radio station. Opportunity knocked for the Reading AC athlete when she recorded 2:37:07 in the 2017 London Marathon and was selected to represent England at the Toronto Marathon later that year.

But ten miles into the Canadian race, on her international debut, the 26-year-olds ankle fractured. Subsequent tests showed worse damage to her body, because in addition to the stress fracture of her ankle, she also had poor bone density including osteoporosis in herspine. This made future fractures more probable than possible.

“It was a lot to do with my training volume and not eating enough – not being wide enough in my food groups, being restrictive with carbohydrates,” she told BBC 5 Live Investigates. “I was training twice a day, I was running 100-plus miles aweek at times, and you burn up a lot of energy with that, and from a runner’s perspective you get it into your mind that you need to be this race weight. You get caught up in this cycle of running really fast, wanting to lose a little more weight, push that race weight a little bit more, running faster, and then just breaking, which is what happened.”

Fortunately for Anna Boniface,her condition was diagnosed before lasting damage was done.  After an extended rest and rehabilitation, she is now back running again albeit only in parkruns close to her home. Just a few weeks ago she recorded 18:03 at the Woodley event indicating she is getting back to her best form. Others are not so lucky and these behaviours spiral quickly out of control, leading rapidly to an eating disorder such as Anorexia or Bulimia.

Early intervention is crucial, and parents, coaches, or loved ones of a distance runner have an important role to play in preventing someone from experiencing many of the dangerous consequences that result from having an eating disorder. It is important to be aware of the risk factors which include: –

  • More frequent occurrences of injuries, such as sprains or muscle strains
  • Decreased concentration, coordination, and energy
  • Decreased social interaction with coaches and teammates
  • Preoccupation with food
  • Physical complaints, such as light-headedness, muscle aches, dizziness
  • Prolonging training beyond what is required for sport
  • Continued training, even when sick or injured

On Sunday, the #Trainbravecampaign is being launched to raise awareness of the risks of Red-S,particularly among promising amateur sports people who may be trying to improve their performance without giving enough thought to their diet. A little relaxation of the training regime will do no harm, probably a lot of good, over the next couple weeks.  


Filip Ingebrigtsen made it another memorable day for the incredible Norwegian family with a confident victory in the Senior Men’s race at the 25th European Cross Country Championships in the Netherlands.The Sandnes native completed a family double after Jakob earlier won the Junior Men’s race while the eldest of the three brothers Henrik was 18th behind Filip.  Ireland’s athletes performed consistently well throughout the day but lacked that little bit extra to bring home a medal from these championships for the first time since 2015.

Filip Ingebrigtsen (Getty Photos)

Behind Ingebrigtsen, Sean Tobin bounced back from a defeat in the Irish trials to finish an excellent 10th against the cream of the continent. His victor at Abbotstown, Kevin Dooney, also ran well on what was a traditional cross country course for 26th spot. Kevin Maunsell completed the Irish scoring trio in 34th to leave Ireland seventh ofthe 16 competing countries.

In the women’s race, Turkey’s Yasemin Can just about held onto repeat her 2017 victory but only after an exciting tussle with Switzerland’s Fabienne Schlumpf. The Irish women were perhaps disappointing with Sara Treacy leading the green vests home in 26th. To put it in context, that was well behind the sixth and final member of the British team who was 15th.Ciara Mageean took 43rd and Michelle Finn 51st to leave the Irish women in a lowly 11th place on the team classification.

Newcastle & District club man Ryan Forsyth turned in asuperb performance in the U23 Men’s event to take fourth behind Jimmy Gressier.The French athlete became the first man to defend successfully his title in the age group with an aggressive front-running display. Such was Gressier’s superiority he was able to celebrate along the finishing straight waving two French flags but his intended knee slide celebration across the finish line backfired into an ignominious fall on his face just short of the tape.

Forsyth, 11th in the recent American collegiate championships, was denied the bronze medal by France’s Hugo Hay with a mere second separating them at the finish line. Ireland were briefly in the teambronze position during the race but slipped to sixth when the final scores were tallied.

Denmark’s Anna Emilie Moller waited until the final straightof the U23 Women’s race to assert her authority. Omagh’s Eilish Flanagan made thelong trip home from the USA where she is studying to finish 15th. Ireland took ninth, maybe a little below expectations, in the team contest behind convincing winners Germany.

The Junior Men’s race saw a virtuoso performance from Jakob Ingebrigtsen who made it all look so easy. The European senior 1500/5000m gold medallist was always toward the front of the field before cruising away in the final kilometre for a record third consecutive victory in the race. That set up Norway for a first win in the team contest with Darragh McElhinney, in 16th,leading Ireland to a credible sixth in the team competition.

Ireland’s Sarah Healy, reigning European Youth 1500/3000m champion, was considered one of the favourites to take the Junior Women’s title.But tragedy struck for the 17-year-old Dubliner when she was brought down on a tight bend around the halfway mark of the four kilometre test. She picked herself up but the damage had already been done with the leading group grabbing a precious advantage.

A spirited effort got her back up to ninth at the finishline, one place behind team mate Emma O’Brien, but she was unable to prevent Italy’s Nadia Battocletti taking the individual gold medal. Great Britain were comfortable winners of the team race on 23 points with Ireland sixth on the 42mark.  Just four points separated third place from seventh with Healy’s fall obviously proving fatal to Irish medal hopes.

There was no joy either in the final event, the mixed relay with Ireland a distant ninth behind a balanced Spanish quartet.  Hopefully there will be a change of fortune for the Irish in Lisbon next year with Dublin now on the distant horizon in 2020. See results.


Senior Men (10,300m): 1 F Ingebrigtsen NOR 28:49, 2 I Kimeli BEL 28:52, 3 Aras Kaya TUR 28:56; … 10 Sean Tobin 29:22, 26 K Dooney 29:53, 34 K Maunsell 30:11, 55 K Batt 30:41, 67 M Clohisey 31:11, 78 D Landers 32:08. Teams: 1 Turkey 14, 2 GB/NI 34, 3 Italy 37 … 7 Ireland 70 (16 countries)

Senior Women (8300m): 1 Y Can TUR 26:05, 2 F Schlumpf SWI 26:06, 3 K B Grovdal 26:07; … S Treacy 27:46, 43 C Mageean 28:08, 51 M Finn 28:23, 57 A-M McGlynn 28:40, 62 F Ross 28:48, 64 K O’Flaherty 29:00. Team: 1 Netherlands 20, 2 GB/NI 24, 3 Germany 50, … 11 Ireland 120 (14 countries)

U23 Men (8300m): 1 J Gressier FRA 23:37, 2 S Fitwi GER 23:45, 3 H Hay FRA 23:48, 4 R Forsyth IRL 23:49, … 29 B Fay 24:47, 36 P O’Donnell 24:58, 51 C Doyle 25:17, 56 J O’Leary 25:31, 80 G Campbell 26:14. Teams: 1 France 11, 2 GB/NI 30, 3 Spain 42, … 6 Ireland 69 (16 countries).

U23 Women (6300m): 1 A E Moller DEN 20:34, 2 A Gehring GER 20:36, 3 W Pyzik POL 20:46; 16 E Flanagan 21:17, 25 A Richardson 21:32, 41 R Flanagan 22:04, 54 S O’Flaherty 22:25, 66 S McAllister 23:16. Teams: 1 Germany 21.5, 2 Spain 24.5, 3 GB/NI 33.5, … 9 Ireland 82 (13 countries)

Junior Men (6300m): 1 J Ingebrigtsen NOR 18:00, 2 O Oumaiz ESP 18:09, 3 E Bibic SRB 18:11; 16 D McElhinney 18:53, 18 S O’Leary 19:01, 21 J Battle 19:03, 60 M Power, 75 F Stewart 19:50. Teams: 1 Norway 28, 2 GB/NI 30, 3 Germany 38, 4 France 41, 5 Ireland 55 (15 countries)

Junior Women (4300m): 1 N Battocletti ITA 13:46, 2 D Sclabas SWI 13:47, 3 I Kalkan TUR 13:48; 8 E O’Brien 14:01, S Healy 14:03, 25 S Cotter 14:25, 35 J McCann 14:33, 60 S O’Sullivan 14:59, 61 L Nicholson 15:00. Teams: 1 GB/NI 23, 2 Netherlands 28, 3 Turkey 39, … 6 Ireland 42 (15 countries)

Mixed Relay: 1 Spain 16:10, 2 France 16:12, 3 Belarus 16:21, … 9 Ireland 16:40 (12 countries)

Healy Irish Medal Hope at Euro Cross Country

Seventeen-year-old Sarah Healy is Ireland’s main medal hope in the Netherlands

Sarah Healy of Ireland celebrates after she won 3000m run final during European Atletics U18 European Championship. (Photo by Laszlo Balogh/Getty Images for European Athletics)

Excitement is mounting with just two days to go now until the 25th SPAR European Cross Country Championships in Tilburg on 9 December. It is the second time the event has visited the Dutch city which welcome a record 590 athletes representing 38 nations at the Beekse Bergen Safari Park. The roll-of-honour of past winners reads like a who’s who of European distance running.

Four individual champions will be defending their titles from Samorin last December. Turkey’s Kaan Kigen Ozbilen is expected to line up in the men’s senior race, his compatriot Yasemin Can takes on all-comers in the women’s senior race, France’s Jimmy Gressier heads the men’s U23 race and precocious Norwegian Jakob Ingebrigtsen is the star attraction in the men’s U20 race.

Both Can and Ingebrigtsen will be chasing unprecedented hat-tricks in their respective events while Gressier will be looking to become the first male athlete to win back-to-back titles in the U23 race. Jakob Ingebrigtsen, the European 5000m and 1500m champion, is joined in Tilburg by his older brothers Henrik and Filip, while Spain’s team includes 2017 Senior Men’s silver medallist Adel Mechaal.

Ireland has named a team of 39 with reigning European U18 1500m and 3000m champion Sarah Healy making her debut in the U20 race. Nine Ulster athletes are included in that number.

Ciara Mageean, Ann-Marie McGlynn, Fionnuala Ross and Kerry O’Flaherty make up the greater part of the Senior Women’s team; Omagh twins Eilish and Roisin Flanagan are rewarded for some excellent performances in the US with places in the U23 selection while Stephen Scullion (Senior Men), Ryan Forsyth (U23 Men) and Fintan Stewart (Junior Men) are the remaining Red Hands in action.

The Irish runners will be looking to bridge a three year gap going back to 2015 since the last time they won a medal at these championships. There is live coverage on a number of channels including the BBC and RTE.


Left to right in photo: Mark McKeown (Secretary, Armagh AC); Kathryn Rafferty (C.K. Rafferty Solicitors); Danielle McBride ( Brand Manager, White’s Oats); Councillor Paul Duffy ( Deputy Lord Mayor of Armagh, Banbridge & Craigavon Borough Council);  Dermot Kerr (Chairman of Armagh AC); and Geraldine Quinn (Francis Haughey Construction).

Paul Duffy, Deputy Lord Mayor of Armagh, Banbridge & Craigavon Borough Council launched the 29th Armagh International Road Races this week at the Palace Demesne. The stellar event goes ahead next year on February, 14 and is organised by Armagh Athletic Club.

In his address the Race Director, James Vallely, spoke of how this event has grown and developed over the 28 years of its existence to what it is today, a major international fixture.

“The Brooks Armagh 5K is talked about as the greatest in-depth road race of its type in the world,” said Vallely. “In other big international 5K races worldwide, the total number of runners finishing in under 15 minutes would only very rarely exceed 30. In Armagh last February we had 95”.

He went on to say that the Intersport Women’s 3K is also fast gaining a major international reputation, with the first 34 finishers last time all under 10 minutes.

Vallely is hoping to welcome back both of last year’s winners, Sam Stabler and Laura Weightman, and there will be representative teams from England, Ireland, Ulster & NI, Scotland, Wales, France, Poland, Finland Belgium, USA, with full international teams from six countries.

As ever the philosophy of the organising club “sport for all” is very evident with races for various categories of runners as well as juveniles. Perhaps uniquely in this country, there is a race for pupils at Special Schools and for members of Special Olympics clubs.

The Armagh man went on in his address to pay tribute to the headline sponsors of Armagh, Banbridge & Craigavon Borough Council, Brooks Sportsgear Company, Intersport, Linwood’s Health Foods and White’s Oats and also to the scores of small businesses in the Armagh area who faithfully and generously support this event year in year out.

Further details of all races and entry conditions are available at the Armagh AC website,  www.armagh5k.com, where you can also register.


Thomas Barr

It was no surprise when Thomas Barr was named as the Athlete of the Year at the Irish Life Health National Athletics Awards which took place in Dublin last week.  The Ferrybank athlete won a bronze medal in the 400m hurdles at the European Athletics Championships in Berlin last summer.

That more or less assured him of the overall award as well the Track and Field Athlete of the Year trophy holding off quality opposition in Phil Healy.  The Bandon athlete will have taken consolation from receiving the Inspirational Performance on Irish Soil trophy for her 200m record exploits at the Cork City Sports finishing ahead of European finalist Leon Reid and Ciara Mageean.

Finn Valley’s Sommer Lecky was named U20 Athlete of the Year following her sensational silver medal in the High Jump with a national U20 record of 1.90m at the IAAF World U20 Athletics Championships in Tampere, Finland.

Other recipients with Ulster connections included Donegal Town man Eamon Harvey who was recognised with a Services to Coaching award, Milford native Paddy Marley with the Lifetime Services to Athletics nomination and North Down’s Aaron Sexton was adjudged male Schools Athlete of the Year for his performances in the colours of Bangor Grammar.

The world silver medal-winning exploits of the U20 women’s 4x100m relay team saw them sprint off with the Team of the Year due assisted in no small way by the coaching of Ulster woman Karen Kirk. Mary Purcell, a dominant figure in women’s athletics in Ireland throughout the 1970’s, was inducted into the Hall of Fame for 2018.

Clonliffe Harriers lifted the Performance Club of the Year while there was double joy for West Waterford with the Development Club of the Year award while Joe Gough from the Deise outfit was the Master Athlete of the Year.

St. Malachy’s bright young star Conall McClean

Conall McClean

One of the brightest young prospects to emerge on the Ulster running scene this autumn has to be St. Malachy’s athlete Conall McClean. The 17-year-old put in an exceptional performance last weekend at the Jingle Bells 5K held in the Phoenix Park when he smashed his personal best to finish seventh against senior opposition in 15:06. Winner of the race was Irish international miler Eoin Everard with a 14:37 mark.

It has been a spectacular autumn for the schoolboy with perhaps only one minor blot on his copybook. A regular at the Waterworks parkrun, McClean opened his winter account helping a youthful St. Malachy’s team to an unlikely victory in the NI & Ulster Senior Road Relays. He followed that up with an easy win in the provincial U18 championships before annexing the U19 crown with an impressive display of front-running at Scotstown in County Monaghan.

One would have expected him to take it easy after that but the following week he crossed town to scorch to a 15:34 timing in Victoria Park. That was the fastest parkrun recorded in Ireland but he may have regretted it eight days later when he finished tenth in the combined U18/U20 race at the Irish championships. Many had expected him to make the top six and with it a place in Ireland’s Junior team for this Sunday’s Europeans in Tilburg.

Nevertheless, an individual silver medal in the U18 age group was some consolation especially knowing that he can go one better at U19 championships in Navan next Saturday (December 15). Meanwhile it’s back to the training for the rising star under the experienced eye of coach Joe McAlister at St. Malachy’s College.


Saturday (December 8)

9:30am – parkrun – various venues

12:00noon – Rudolph Run Eskra 10K – Eskra Community Centre, Co.Tyrone – Gerry Kinsella:07796438188

12:00noon – Mighty Oaks XC – MUSA Playing Fields – Denise Dallas:07702701053

Sunday (December 9)

11:00am – Jingle All The Way 5K – Stormont – NI Hospice: 02890777123

2:00pm – Kirkistown Race Track 5K/10K/Half Marathon – Richard Bradley: contact@niduathlon.com