Provincial 10,000m Titles for Bamber and Hughes

6 July 2019

Kerry Bamber and Eoin Hughes claimed the respective NI & Ulster 10,000m championships at a sunny Meadowbank track in Magherafelt. Bamber created her own piece of history in becoming the first athlete from the Ballymena Runners’ Club to lift a senior provincial title.  She took up the lead from the gun and quickly distanced herself from last year’s bronze medallist Aisling Murray. The gap increased as the race progressed before the stylish 31-year-old crossed the finish line in 38:00.14.

Kerry in Control.

It was a satisfying day for Bamber’s coach Robert McGaughey who has had to overcome serious health issues in the past number of years without ever giving up his duties at the Ballymena club. Murray, from the Carmen Runners club, went on to take the silver medal, an upgrade from a bronze in 2018, recording a personal best 39:18.2. City of Lisburn’s Eimear McCracken took third in 40:56.2.  

Eoin Hughes

In contrast Eoin Hughes allowed his cousin and Acorns AC clubmate Vincent McKenna to set the early pace before taking command to win comfortably in 32:43.1.  Hughes’s victory emulated that of his father, who was fourth on this occasion, in the same race 30 years earlier. McKenna lapped solidly to hold on to second in 32:52.2 while behind him Letterkenny’s Conor Gallagher claimed his first ever provincial medal with a 33:54.2 timing.

Michael McKillop in the 1500m

Paralympic champion Michael McKillop chose the low-key meeting to make his debut for the season which he hopes will culminate in another gold medal at the World Para Athletics championships in Dubai next November. The North Belfast Harrier made all the running to come home well clear of the field in a credible 4:17.62 mark. (all times per ANI website).

Ben Mellon (right) continued his upward trajectory over the metric mile with a fine fourth place.

Elsewhere Fionnuala McCormack was the best of the Irish at the European 10,000m Cup at the Parliament Hill track in Northwest London.  The Kilcoole athlete finished an impressive fifth in 32:05.29 behind the winner Stef Twell who was running for her club Aldershot and broke the tape in 31:08.13. Eilish McColgan was third in 31:16.76 and led the British women to team victory. 

Ireland’s other two counters were Letterkenny’s Ann-Marie McGlynn (33:38.50) and Aoibhe Richardson (33:41.15). Other Ulster athletes Emma Mitchell (34:12.24) and Fionnuala Ross (34:25.78) also turned in creditable marks. Newcastle’s Ryan Forsyth (29:01.37) was the best of the Irish representatives in the men’s races as individual victor Yemaneberhan Crippa (27:49.79) also led Italy to the team title. Local athletes Declan Reed (31:15.63), Scott Rankin (31:19.14) and Eoghan Totten (30:21.50) all recorded good marks for the distance.

Kate O’Connor and Ellen McCartney were two of the stars at an exciting National U20 and U23 Championships at Tullamore. O’Connor, who lives in Dundalk but is eligible to represent NI, set a new Junior record with a 48.98m throw in the Javelin. City of Lisburn’s Ellen McCartney added a centimetre to the U23 Pole Vault with a 4.01m clearance. Kenyan Gideon Kimosop (71:24) and Louise Smith (83:21) were the winners of the half marathon at yesterday’s Great Rossa Run. Tommy Hughes (34:14) and Ailsa Small (40:27) claimed top spots in the 10K while Darrell McKee (16:54) and Claire McAtamney (21:03) were the best of category in the 5K race.

Age No Barrier to NI Masters

30 June 2019

Age did not blunt the competitive edge as the province’s older athletes fought for titles at the Northern Ireland Masters’ Championships at the Mary Peters Track. Derry Track Club had three athletes in action bringing home a haul of four gold medals.

Adrian Boyle mounts his challenge in the 800m.

Adrian Boyle showed no sign of rush after two years out of the “ring” as he cruised to a polished outright victory in the men’s 800m.

1167Adrian BoyleDerry Track Club2:07.51
241Ronan KearnsRathfarnham WSAF2:07.80
378Stephen OrrOrangegrove AC 2:08.06
L-R: Adrian Boyle, Robert Bigger and Cathal McLaughlin

Robert Bigger executed his race plans perfectly to land a 800m/1500m double in the M60 age group while Cathal McLaughlin was peerless in the M50 1500m.

Many of the performers on show have continued from successful Senior careers directly to the 35 years and over grade whilst others returned to competition after retiring some years ago.  Former Junior international Ramey Adams was one of the latter breed.  Despite his promising juvenile career, he was forced to retire in his early twenties on account of what he described as “chronic injuries”.

Ramey Adams (left) and Trevor McGlynn.

“I am older, wiser, heavier and much slower but hungry to compete!” he had posted on social media before the meeting. Hope springs eternal but it was with some trepidation that the 37-year-old settled in his blocks for the 400m after an absence of 13 years from competitive track. The nerves were soon dispelled at the Cliftonville FC S&C trainer smoothed his way around the first bend before drawing away for a comfortable win in a respectable 53.98 seconds.

“Today was very humbling and made me appreciate the standard I used to compete at as well as a new respect for all the young athletes through to Masters’ level still training hard. I enjoyed the day, no pressure and a good benchmark,” said Adams.

Many were content to do just one discipline and go home but not Newry woman Geraldine Finegan who won no less than seven of the eight events she entered, including setting a new F55 age group best in the uniquely Irish Weight for Distance.  Strabane’s Trevor McGlynn, a former international hurdler, also had a prolific afternoon with titles both on the track and in the field.

Conor Curran in Command in the 1500m.

The middle-distances were as always competitive with Conor Curran’s gun to tape victory in the 1500m and some impressive front-running by Rhonda Brady in the women’s 800m both catching the eye.

Class Shines Out at Belfast IMC Meeting

22 June 2019

The overdue arrival of summer meant perfect running conditions as records tumbled throughout an action-packed afternoon at the Belfast IMC Meeting at the Mary Peters Track. Numerous personal bests and one world best were testimony to a programme expertly put together by meeting director Eamonn Christie.

Miles ahead – Matt Wigelsworth wins the 1500m.

English visitor Matt Wigelsworth was the impressive winner of the feature event and returned to his Preston home £500 richer as he picked up the £200 bonus, in addition to the winner’s prize of £300, for breaking three minutes and 43 seconds in the men’s 1500m. The ice-cool 22-year-old was well off the pace in third place at the bell but stormed to the front on the final straight before stopping the clock at a personal best 3:42.67.

Dubliner Andrew Coscoran also came through strong to seize second spot in 3:43.96 with Irish Schools champion Darragh McElhinney just pipping long-time leader Shane Fitzsimons for third, also recording personal best figures of 3:45.12.

Eilish Flanagan

Omagh’s Eilish Flanagan in a class of her own in the women’s 1500m. The Carmen Runners club woman, who had only returned home from Arizona on the Wednesday before the race, opened up an unassailable lead on the penultimate circuit before coming home on her own in 4:21.06.

North Down’s Rachel Gibson also notched up a new personal mark of 4:43.89 in second place as Spain’s Claudia Jalon occupied the bronze medal spot in 4:24.83 after a late lunge for the finish line. Further down the field Cavan native Anne Gilsinan who now lives in Wexford took four seconds off her own world F50 best with an outstanding 4:41.46 timing.

Both 800m races were thrilling affairs but with contrasting outcomes. Kieran Kelly took up the running in the men’s race with 300m to go and looked all over the winner as he entered the home straight.

However, his Raheny Shamrock club colleague Cillian Kirwan had other ideas and he overhauled Kelly right on the line to win in 1:50.45. Stephen McKay was rewarded for the long trip down from Inverness with a third spot in 1:50.86.

Nadia Power gets home in the 800m and holds off a late challenge from Louise Shanahan.

Templeogue’s Nadia Power lived up to the favourite’s tag in the women’s two-lapper, striking the front on the final back straight to build up a 20 metre lead.  Although fading slightly on the run in, the Dubliner still had enough in hand to hold on for the victory in 2:04.05.

Cork athlete Louise Shanahan won the mad scramble for second in a personal best 2:04.77 while City of Glasgow’s Phillipa Millage claimed third in 2:05.48. UU’s Katie Kirk had her best run of the season to take sixth while the major surprise was Irish record holder for the event Rose-Anne Galligan ending up back in ninth.

Liam Brady wins the 5000m

Other highlight’s of a memorable afternoon included comprehensive victories in the respective 5000m races by Tullamore Harrier Liam Brady (14:32.80) and Strabane resident Ann-Marie McGlynn (16:09.35);  Finn Valley’s Shane Irwin (47.72) and North Down’s Rachel McCann (56.94) were the winners of the respective 400m races while another Finn Valley athlete Janine Boyle arguably turned in the top sprint performance of the day with a 25.79 clocking in the women’s 200m.

28 June 2019

The plaudits continue to roll in for the Belfast IMC Meeting at the Mary Peters track last weekend. “Amazing! Congrats to all involved!”, “Best athletics meet I’ve been to for a long time” and “Well done Eamon yet again a swift well run event with top class performances” were typical of the comments on social media.

Eamonn Christie

There were exciting contests of high quality throughout the afternoon with a programme that ran on-time throughout its four hour duration. While English visitor Matt Wigelsworth stole most of the headlines with his victory in the men’s 1500m, picking up a generous bonus for his winning time, there were other performances by Irish athletes that may have gone under the radar.

Nadia Power continued her preparations for next month’s European U23 championships with an emphatic win in the women’s 800m.  Further down the field in fifth place Katie Kirk showed glimpses of the form that made her a Commonwealth Games semi-finalist a few years ago, running her fastest time since 2016.

Gortin girl Eilish Flanagan showed no sign of jetlag from a midweek flight back from her Arizona base as she ran away with the 1500m. Further down the field Ann Gilshinan made the long trip from Wexford to break her own world F50 best in the 1500m registering an exceptional 4:41.46 timing.

Ann Gilshinan

The 52-year-old Cavan native gave up the sport at 20 and only returned three years ago. He attributes her ongoing success to a visit to her physio every week and daily foam roller sessions.

Meeting director Eamonn Christie is not resting on his laurels and has already been in touch with the sponsors to garner their continued support for next year.

“I’m happy with the way the meeting went and the positive response I’ve had from everyone,” said Christie. “Planning has started for next year and hopefully we can have another great day with both athletes and spectators going home happy again.”


14 June 2019

The people at the RunRepeat website ( have been crunching the numbers and has come up with some surprising conclusions about the state of running worldwide.  The statisticians at RunRepeat analysed 107.9 million race results from over 70 thousand events in 209 countries between 1986 and 2018. The key findings were: –

  • Event participation is for the first time in decline – by 13% – since 2016, which peaked with 9.1 million runners crossing the finish line. Growth continues in Asia.
  • Runners have never been slower – male runners in particular. In 1986 the average finish time in the marathon was 3:52:35, whereas today it’s 4:32:49 – a slowdown of 40 minutes and 14 seconds.
  • Runners have never been older aging from 35.2 in 1986 to 39.3 in 2018.
  • Spain has the fastest recreational runners on the marathon distance, Russia on the half marathon, Switzerland on the 10K and Ukraine on the 5K. 
  • For the first time in history, there are more female than male runners. In 2018, 50.24% of runners were female.
  • The motives for participating in running are potentially changing from being achievement-focused to being psychological, health and socially focused, which in part can be proved by more people traveling to race, slower finish times and how milestone-ages (30, 40, 50) now are much less dominant than 15 and 30 years ago.

RunRepeat has shared the UK specific data (no statistics made available for Ireland). The average 5K finish time in the UK is 33:54. That breaks down to 29:08 for male runners and 38:12 for females. Over the 10K distance, the average finish time was 58:08 with males averaging and 53:38 and the females 63:18. Both are relatively faster than the 5K averages.

The data shows that as running became more popular, the world got slower in a manner of speaking.  Between 1986 and 2001, the average marathon finish time went from 3:52:35 to 4:28:56 – an increase of 15.6%. Since 2001, the average marathon finish time has only increased by 1.4%, making it 4:32:49. In the UK, the average marathon finish time was 4:37:09.

In 1986, the average marathon finish time for a male runner was 3:48:15. In 2001, this had increased by 27 minutes, with the average male runner crossing the line in 4:15:13. After this, the average male finish time has increased slightly to 4:22:13. The average male finish time in the UK was 4:23:27.

In comparison, as more women signed up for marathons, the average female marathon time also got slower between 1986 and 2001, increasing by 14.8%, but after 2001, females seem to have got faster, declining on average by 4 minutes. The average marathon female finish time in the UK is 5:00:39.

According to the RunRepeat data, the average pace for a male marathon runner is 6:43 minutes per kilometre, which works out as 10:34 minutes per mile. The average pace for a female runner over 26.2 miles is 7:26 minutes per kilometre, or an 11:55 minute mile.

The data also reveals that the USA and the UK are the slowest marathon nations, possibly due to larger numbers of race runners, while since 2001 Spain has been the fastest marathon nation followed by Germany.

NI & Ulster Senior Champs

8 June 2019

Conall Kirk shone at a lacklustre NI & Ulster Open Senior & U18-U20 Championships with an impressive 800m and 1500m double at the Mary Peters Track.  Kirk also surpassed his father Mark Kirk who had won provincial titles over both distances but never managed to capture the two on the same day.

Impressive Double at NI & Ulster Champs

Young Kirk opened his account with a smooth win in the 800m, holding off the challenge from Andrew Wright on the homestraight, before crossing the line in a speedy 1:51.92. Later in the afternoon the Annadale Strider controlled a slow run 1500m and again taking charge on the last lap to come home unchallenged in a modest 4:00.23.

Irish Schools champion Niamh Carr grabbed the win in the women’s 800m clocking 2:15.10 while the 1500m gold medal went to Rachel Gibson who led from start to finish in 4:29.16. Janine Boyle scored a women’s 100m/200m double with 12.28 and 25.69 clockings while Ballymena & Antrim clubmates Dean Adams and Michael McAuley shared the men’s sprints notching up marks of 10.84 and 22.14 respectively.

Andrew Mellon was in top form as he showed a clean pair of heels to the opposition in the 400m as he flew to a 47.94 timing. Teenager Rachel McCann was the best of the female one-lappers cruising to victory in 57.22 seconds. Joe Halwax came up from Dublin to take the men’s 400m gold in 54.51 and Tirchonnaill’s Universities’ champion Kelly McGrory regained her 400m hurdles crown in 61.37 seconds.  

The men’s 5000m was one of the most exciting races of the day with Neil Johnston overhauling Commonwealth steeplechaser Adam Kirk-Smith on the last lap before going on to win in 14:50.67.  While the outcome of the men’s race went down to the wire, there was only ever going to be one winner in women’s 5000m as Olympian Kerry O’Flaherty dominated from gun to tape.  A 16:50.67 timing augurs well for the Newcastle athlete. England-based Mollie Courtney livened up the 100m hurdles with a 14.01 timing despite having only one opponent.

The entry for some of the field events was a tad disappointing with another English visitor Hayley Murray’s 54.98m in the hammer possibly the best performance. World Junior silver medallist Sommer Lecky did just enough to win the high jump with a 1.83m clearance while her Finn Valley colleague Michaela Byrne was best of the female triple jumpers recording a best effort of 10.83m.

Newly-crowned Irish Schools’ champion Jai Benson added the men’s provincial triple jump crown with a 14.69m effort. Bandon’s Shane Howard won the long jump getting out to 7.34m in what was maybe the best field event competition of the day with three men over seven metres. Sarah McCarthy took the women’s long jump title with a 5.46m mark.

Amy Kimber threw 31.92m to win the discus and Naomi Morgan took the shot putt gold with a heave of 10.34m.  Busiest man of the day was surely Damian Crawford, showing an energy belying his 50 years, who won the shot (10.60m) and discus (31.60m) but lost out on his speciality, the javelin, to Jack MacNeill (48.27m).