RURAL ROAD RACES AT RISK

Many road races are being cancelled following introduction of new legislation governing events on the public highway.

The Great Derrynoose Run due to be held this Sunday is the latest road race to fall victim to the new legislation governing running and triathlon events taking place on public roads. Exceptions to the new laws in include cycling races and band parades. The Derrynoose organisers made the following announcement: “It is with deep regret that due to new legislation, regulation and administration fees by our council we will not be hosting our run this year.”

This follows on the heels of the cancellation of what would have been the 39th Jude Gallagher Memorial Round the Bridges Race in Limavady.  All this is a consequence of the enactment of The Roads (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act (NI) 2010 and the Road Traffic Regulations (NI) Order 1997 before the NI Assembly was shut down in 2017. The legislation requires organisers of any triathlon or road race to foot the bill for the PSNI providing road safety. 

“We are a running club that organises events for the whole community and actively promotes a healthy lifestyle.  We are not an events company designed to promote events with a view to making a profit. Our aim is to promote a community spirit with running available to everyone,” read the statement released by the race organisers Springwell Running Club.

“While the Constabulary (sic) have their own problems regarding finance, resources and political leadership a consistent approach from the various Command Districts would have been appreciated and may have assisted Race Directors in organising events.  Springwell RC fully recognises its responsibilities and has shown over many years and numerous events the ability to safely and successfully manage races but, under the current legislation we find that our experience counts for nothing.”

The crux of the matter seems to be that many local councils now require a traffic plan before giving permission for a race to go ahead. This can cost anything from £1000 and upwards. For instance, a club in mid Ulster was recently quoted £2000 for a traffic plan for their race that attracted only 120 entries last year.  That seems cheap compared to the £4000 demanded for a half marathon in north Antrim that had just over 400 finishers in 2018.

Adding to the frustration of the running community it that there appears to be no consistency between councils in different parts of the North.  A council in the west recently said that a traffic plan was not needed as the roads were not being closed and allowed the event to go ahead. Meanwhile others have simply ignored the legislation and proceeded with their race without traffic plan, police presence or anything.

Organisers are also finding that switching to the trails does not come without its cost as the NI Forest Service are now charging £400 for use of their paths and facilities. While practically every other country in the world is trying to promote an active lifestyle, it looks like here in Northern Ireland everything possible is being done to prevent people getting out on the roads and enjoying a bit of exercise.

And many good causes are being denied a much-needed source of funds as they suffer collateral damage from what appears to be some ill-conceived legislation. Or did the governing bodies of athletics and triathlon get caught asleep at the wheel when the regulations were put out for consultation before their enactment?

COUNTDOWN ON TO BELFAST IMC

Eamonn Christie is still taking entries for Belfast IMC Meeting

Belfast IMC Meeting director Eamonn Christie confirms that he has now upwards of 100 entries for his track classic at the Mary Peters on June 22. The men’s 1500m remains the feature race but a few other races are also shaping up to be exciting affairs.

Christie expects the bonus £300 on offer for a 3:42 timing in the 1500m to bring in further top milers before the closing date for entries. The British Milers Club are sending four of its best athletes for the race with Ireland represented by, among others, teenage sensation Cian McPhillips from Longford.  At the other end of the age spectrum Shane Healy will attempt to beat the world M50 best for the metric mile of 3:58.26 held by Britain’s Adrian Heath.

The men’s 800m looks set to be a cracker too with Annadale Strider Conall Kirk carrying home hopes against the likes of European Junior bronze-medallist John Fitzsimons, Raheny Shamrock’s Kieran Kelly and Mullingar’s Shane Fitzsimons.

The women’s 800m should also be worth watching as Ulster University’s Katie Kirk seeks revenge on Leeds Carnegie student Lea Barrow who defeated her over the distance last weekend in Manchester.  Scotland’s Mhairi Hendry and 15-year-old City of Lisburn starlet Victoria Lightbody are also in the field. 

The Regent House pupil, coached by Andrea Law, ran 2:09 last weekend and looks set to be a big star in the not so distant future. Nadia Power, fresh from a 2:03 in Belgium, is the latest to be added to the 800m.

Emma Mitchell, a winner over 3000m at this meeting, moves up to 5000m on this occasion where Leeds City’s Claire Duck lies in wait along with Sinead Sweeney and Sarah Lavery.  The men’s 5000m looks like a straight shoot-out between City of Derry Spartans and North Belfast Harriers led by Declan Reed and Mark McKinstry respectively but City of Lisburn’s James Edgar may have other ideas as he chases a European Junior qualifying time.

Christie has also expressed his appreciation to Belfast City Council who have grant-aided the event along with all his other sponsors who make the meeting possible.

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ROSSA RUN BECKONS IN JULY

The Rossa crew are making preparations for their running festival.

Shane Mallon and his team in Ardboe have been busy this last few weeks finalising arrangements for the 6th The Great Rossa Run on July 7. The organising committee will again cater for all levels of runners with distances of 5K, 10K and half marathon on offer around the quiet lough-side roads on mid Ulster.

“The event attracted over 750 participants last year and we expect more this time,” said Mallon. “The event is expected to increase in size yet again this year and we are gearing up for in excess of 800 participants. In parallel to the timed runs, there will be a 5K walk/fun run for families wishing to take part.

“There is generous prize money of over £1,500 for the leading men and women in the  open categories across the three runs and first prize in the O40, O50 and O60 categories within the half marathon and 10K runs. A proportion of each entry fee is being donated to three local charities.”

All routes have been subject to professional measurement and are part of the accredited “Athletics NI Certified Course”. Registration is available on-line at the Athletics NI website (www.athleticsni.org). Collection of pre-registered race numbers will be at the Ardboe Parish Centre on the morning of the run. The Parish Centre will be open from 7:00am on race morning with late entries taken between 8:00am – 9:30am for all the runs.

DROMORE ROAD RACES ON JUNE 22

The popular Dromore (Tyrone) Community Road Race featuring a 10K, 5K and 5K Walk was launched this week. The title sponsor is again McDermott’s Pharmacy with Aware NI the designated charity. Taking place on Saturday, June 22 at 12:00 noon, online entry is open for all runners before the closing date of Friday, June 14.

The organisers are gain offering chipped timing and the runner’s name printed on your number if they enter in advance. Local runner Grainne McRory (pictured) will be hoping to go one better than her runner-up spot in the women’s race last year. Online entry and full information on the race can be found at www.dromore10k.com 

ATHLETES SUPPORT ENDA

Enda congratulates Fionnuala McCormack on one of her European successes

24 May 2019

Student protest is not new but nothing on this island has matched the furious reaction by Dublin City University’s athletes to the removal of Enda Fitzpatrick as Athletics Academy Director. The Longford native in his 14 years at the helm has built the north Dublin establishment into the top Irish university not only in track and field but also road running and cross country.

DCU had never won a varsity title before his arrival but now the figure stands at an impressive 190 and has seen many DCU athletes, such as two-time European cross country champion Fionnuala McCormack, go on to represent Ireland on the world stage.

Prior to his appointment at DCU, the former sub-four minute miler and 1500m international had been a teacher in Holy Family Secondary School in Clontarf, Dublin but received a secondment from the Department of Education & Skills (DES) to enable him to take up the post.

DCU students have reacted angrily appealing directly to the university’s resident Brian MacCraith for the Fitzpatrick to be re-instated immediately.

“It is with great disappointment and deep disgust for us to hear of the very sad termination of our esteemed Athletics director Enda Fitzpatrick by DCU hierarchy last week. The loss of his support to DCU athletics club is unquantifiable given his commitment to his role over the past 13 years where he has gone well beyond the call of duty to support new, current and past students,” read the statement.  

“When Enda arrived in DCU in 2003, 18 athletes competed for DCU Athletics throughout Irish University competitions, this figure has since grown significantly to see 115 athletes wearing the DCU singlet throughout the 2018/19 season. As a result of Enda’s commitment and contribution to the DCU Athletics Academy, DCU athletics has went from having never won any Irish university athletics titles pre 2002 to now holding 190 team titles….”

Crux of the matter seems to be the question of whether the DES were willing to extend Fitzpatrick’s secondment. DCU have stated that against a background of a teaching shortage at secondary level, they have been informed by DES that all secondments, including that of Fitzpatrick, have been cut short.

Fitzpatrick has expressed his “hurt and disappointment” over the decision, adamant that the director of sports and well-being at DCU, had not explored all the possibilities of a further extension to his secondment. He maintains that that in correspondence with Holy Faith, DCU were presented with the opportunity to apply for a further extension, via the school principal should both parties agree.

“I’m absolutely disappointed the university would take this stance,” said Fitzpatrick, “and very much hurt about that too”.

DCU Athletics Club since set up an online petition in an effort to retain the services of Fitzpatrick, with almost 2500 signatures achieved by Wednesday evening. The student athletes also held a peaceful protest outside the office of the DCU president on Tuesday before handing in a petition that DCU renew Fitzpatrick’s secondment.

 “Our fight will continue to influence the decision-makers within the university to immediately reverse this decision and allow Enda continue for the next two years until he officially retires,” promised the DCU Athletics Club members.

KILLYCLOGHER GEAR UP FOR 5K/10K

Picture Caption (L to R): Barry McCann (Omagh Tri Club), Niamh Dolan (Enda Dolan Foundation), Pat McCrory (Killyclogher GAA), Terry Canning (Omagh Harriers AC), Jimmy Carrigan (Gina Carrigan Forget Me Not), Peter O’Kane (Killyclogher GAA), Seána McQuade (KC Runners).

The 9th O’Neills Killyclogher 10K and 5K takes place on Saturday, June 8 from the eponymous club’s Ballinamullan grounds. Both courses present a great opportunity for setting personal best times on account of the flat and fast nature of the terrain.

The event is chip-timed and over the years has attracted some of the best running talent across the region. Last year’s 10K was won by Keith Shiels, Derry Track Club, in a time of 32:21 and the first female home was Grace Carson from Mid Ulster AC. Previous winners have included Stevie Duncan and Paul Barbour in the men’s race while Ann-Marie McGlynn from the Letterkenny club scored an outstanding victory in the women’s contest.

However, the organisers are keen to point that the event is for all ages and abilities and, in conjunction with the Enda Dolan Foundation, will climax a Couch to 5K programme hosted at Youth Sport Omagh with over 260 new runners taking up the challenge.

The first 400 registered for the 10K and 5K events will receive a T-Shirt. Participants can pre-register on the Athletics NI website or on the morning of the event.  Post race refreshments for all runners and walkers will be provided in the adjoining Dún Uladh centre afterwards.

The nominated charities for this year’s event are The Gina Carrigan Forget Me Not Fund and The Enda Dolan Foundation. For further details see the Killyclogher 10K or Killyclogher GAA Facebook page

ESKRA 5K SERIES LAUNCED

The popular Paul Murray Grand Prix 5K Series is back this June after the success of last year’s event. The special four race series is hosted by Knockmany Running Club in the Clogher Valley and looks set to attract plenty of interest across Tyrone and further afield. 

Proceeds from the four races will be contributed to the Air Ambulance Northern Ireland charity. Paul Murray, a member of Knockmany Running Club, was tragically killed in England in a road accident four years ago when out training for the Dublin Marathon. Paul needed use of the Air Ambulance and his family were able to be with him before his passing due to the quick response.

The four 5K races will be contested on different routes and will take place on Friday evenings (June 7, June 14, June 21 and June 28) starting each evening from Eskra Community Centre at 7:30pm. There will be prizes for each race plus awards for overall grand prix and category winners. Participants who complete the full race series will be rewarded with a special Paul Murray Grand Prix medal.

Last year saw some very competitive races with Martin Cox, Darrell McKee and Paul Barbour all claiming individual victories while the female race was dominated by Grainne O’Hagan and Paula Donnelly. Paul Barbour and Grainne O’Hagan ending up as overall series winners.

For further Information see the Paul Murray Grand Prix Facebook and Twitter pages. Online registration is available at Athletics NI website while entries will also be taken each evening.

BELFAST INTERNATIONAL SET FOR 1st AUGUST

Kate O’Connor

Athletics NI have announced details of the Belfast International Track & Field Meet to be held at the Mary Peters Track on Thursday, August 1. The good news is that the 2019 meeting will this year be part of the European Athletics Promotions (EAP) circuit. This should mean that there will be a greater international participation than in the past couple of year.

This year’s ambassador is Commonwealth Games representative, Kate O’Connor, who broke her own NI Senior javelin record last weekend at the Leinster Schools.  Earlier she opened her outdoor season with an impressive second at the Multi-Stars IAAF Challenge in Italy. The Dundalk resident will be joined at the meeting by Commonwealth Games bronze medallist Leon Reid and Portaferry woman Ciara Mageean who was third in the 1500m at the recent European Indoor Championships in Glasgow.