MINING FOR MEDALS RESUMES IN THE SPERRINS ON BOXING DAY

Hundreds are expected to arrive in the Sperrins on St. Stephen’s day seeking precious metals but there will not be a single protest from the local residents. And the mass influx of visitors will have nothing to do with the controversial local mining operation but eager runners in pursuit of gold, silver and bronze awards at the 34th Greencastle 5 Miles road race. Details were announced this week of the emblematic Tyrone race that has grown to be the biggest of its kind over the festive season in the entire country.

A group of people posing for a photo

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Adults L-R Colm Devlin (Greencastle RR C’tee), Oliver McCullagh (GRRC), Patricia McElduff (GRRC), Caolán Donnelly (O’Kane’s), Brian McCullagh (O’Kane’s) with the McElduff Children.

 “The organising committee of the Annual Greencastle 5 Mile Road Run extends a warm welcome to all participants, their families and their supporters, to our many volunteers and to our sponsors,” said race director Oliver McCullagh. “It is a long time since our first race back in 1986. Back then, we had approximately 80 entrants for our first ever outing, that number has now grown to 2000 including walkers.”

Many thought that a Boxing Day would not have been popular with the running community but the exact opposite has proven to be the case with many regarding it as a penance for their excesses to the weeks leading up to Christmas. Others swear to suffering more during the ascent of Heartbreak Hill in the fourth mile of the race than a weekend spent in Lough Derg!

“Last year many travelled long distances to be part of the record field of almost 1300 running entries. As in previous years the course hosted about 700 walkers who turned out to raise sponsorship for a host of local charities,” continued McCullagh. “This year we’re pleased to welcome a new sponsor O’Kane Plumbing & Electrics and hope it will be the start of a long and mutually fruitful relationship.”

This Greencastle road race is probably unique in that it is a community day with almost everyone in the immediate area playing some part in organising and running the event. There is a very obvious collective desire to do something for the greater good of all and over the years tens of thousands of pounds have been donated to various charities. Further information is available on the website www,greencastle5.com where registrations for the race are now being accepted.

JASON MINES FOR GOLD (BUT NOT IN THE SPERRINS)

Figure 2: Jason Smyth is looking to extend his unbeaten record.

Four Ulster athletes are included in the 11-strong team representing Ireland at the World Para Athletics Championships that started yesterday in Dubai and conclude on November 15. Standout sprinter Jason Smyth is again Ireland’s main hope to strike gold as the 32-year-old looks to continue his incredible winning streak and claim an 8th World Championship medal, his 18th major title in Paralympic sport. The Derry Track Club ace, who remains unbeaten in Paralympic competition since he entered the category some dozen years ago, runs in the T13 100m next Wednesday (Nov 13).

For Michael McKillop, it is an even longer wait until next Thursday when makes his much anticipated return to a major championships action. The Randalstown resident has battled a serious injury since his World Para Athletics Championships gold medal in London over two years ago. There are world championship debuts for both City of Lisburn’s David Leavy (T38/1500m) and Derry Track Club’s Conor McIlveen (T38 400m).  Both are latecomers to Paralympic competition but have made rapid progress in the past two years.  A place in their respective finals would represent success for both men.

Elsewhere Galway native, Alex Lee, will make history as he becomes Ireland’s first ever ‘blade runner’ when he competes for Ireland in the 100m and 200m T64 heats. World ranked number two high jumper, Jordan Lee, will also compete at his first world championships, as will shot putter, Mary Fitzgerald.  Cork’s trio of seasoned discus throwers will also compete for world championship glory as Orla Barry, Noelle Lenihan and Niamh McCarthy will all look to repeat their podium success from London 2017. European Champion T13 1500m runner, Greta Streimikyte, will hope to continue her winning streak and target the gold medal in Dubai.  The added incentive for all is the fact is that a top four finishers in each discipline will automatically secure a slot for the Paralympic Games in Tokyo 2020.

Around 1400 athletes from 122 are expected to take part thanks to the 1100 officials and 800 volunteers who will give of their time to make the championships a success. The championships will be shown live at www.olympicchannel.com.

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If you wanted to run a marathon but felt you did not know where to start, do not despair because the organisers at the Deep RiverRock Belfast City Marathon are opening applications for a new Experiment 26.2 Group. This will help, support and watch up to 15 runners cross the finish line of their first marathon next year on Sunday, May 3.

A group of people standing in front of a crowd

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Figure 3: Start of this year’s Belfast City Marathon

You could be joining around 5,000 people at the iconic Stormont Estate on Sunday 3rd May 2020 as the largest single participatory sporting event in Northern Ireland takes place for the 39th year. If you are selected for the 2020 Experiment 26.2 Group, you can expect a very comprehensive marathon training package from the event’s official sponsors and partners. As a group member, you will receive full training gear from sponsor Decathlon, a free marathon training plan and mentoring from the event’s official coach Stuart Kennedy and a full schedule of training activities inclusive of some free races such as the SPAR Craic 10K, Titanic 10K, SPAR Omagh Half Marathon and more.  Framar Health, the events official nutrition sponsor, will be providing free advice on diet, reflexology and sports massage.  Athletics NI will be offering a 12-month membership for race discounts and a 6-month membership for the Mary Peters Track.  On top of all this, the group will receive a 3-month city-wide membership with Better, the Official Gym Sponsor in 2020.  Better will also provide bespoke core and strength classes to support the group’s training. 

Experiment 26.2 will meet monthly December 2019 – April 2020 and this will include group long runs/training sessions on evenings and weekends across each month.  These should provide motivation and support for members in achieving their goal in finishing the marathon.

If you have never run a marathon before and feel you could commit your time, you can find out more about the Experiment 26.2 Group and the essential criteria required at www.belfastcitymarathon.com/get-training/Experiment-26.2-Group or email elaine.riddell@belfastcitymarathon.org. All applications must be received by the deadline 4:00pm on Friday, November 15.

RUN FOREST RUN IN DRUM MANOR

The second race in the award-winning Run Forest Run takes place on Saturday, November 16 on the excellent course at Drum Manor Forest Park near Cookstown.  Over 500 runners are expected from all over Ireland to the 5K and 10K races organised by the Born2Run Event Company whose motto is Great Races in Great Places.

The Run Forest Run Series consists of eight races all set in the beautiful forests of Northern Ireland. The Born2Run Event Company picked up the Gold accolade at this year’s Running Awards in London for the Best Race Series in the UK and Ireland. The series has proved extremely popular with runners in recent years as it gives them the opportunity to get off the roads over the winter months and sample trail running in some (literally) breath-taking locations.

All finishers receive a beautiful commemorative medal as well as hard-earned post race refreshments. There is also a special medal for first-timers while runners who complete six of the eight races in the series get a special edition technical t-shirt.  Online entry remains open until 11:00pm on Wednesday, November 13. For more information or to enter go to www.born2runevents.com

ULster athletes brilliant in dublin

hoto: Ann-Marie McGlynn is congratulated by her husband Trevor after her runner-up position in the Irish marathon championship.

Belfast man Stephen Scullion rightly grabbed the headlines following his runner-up spot and Irish championship victory at last weekend’s KBC Dublin Marathon. Despite running in the world championships just three weeks earlier, the Clonliffe Harrier showed no sign of any after affects as he cruised to a new NI record of 2:12:01, putting himself within touching distance of a place at next year’s Olympics in Japan.

However, further down the field there were spectacular performances by two other Ulster athletes.  Newcastle’s Eoin Totten took more than ten minutes off his best with a 2:16:08 timing as City of Derry Spartan Kyle Doherty followed up his recent NI & Ulster half marathon championship title with a superb 2:22:22, that was a five minute improvement of his time in the same race 12 months earlier.

If the Ulster men sparkled, the province’s women positively dazzled taking five of the top six places in the Irish championship. It looked for a long time that Ann-Marie McGlynn was going to make it an Ulster double, only for the Strabane woman to lose out to Cork’s Aoife Cooke late in the race.

Gladys Ganiel O’Neill finished with characteristic determination to take third place in the Irish championship in a new lifetime best of 2:36:42. Catriona Jennings (2:37:57), Breege Connolly (2:38:28) and Catherine Whoriskey (2:42:39) completed the leading half dozen. (no category or team results were available from Athletics Ireland at time of writing)

Earlier on Sunday morning, Banbridge athlete Emma Mitchell helped make it a red letter day for the province’s female athletes when she finished 11th in the Trinidad Alfonso Half Marathon in Valencia. Mitchell clocked a personal best 72:28 in a race won by Ethiopia’s Senbere Teferi Sora in 65:32.

Elsewhere at the Leeds Abbey Dash 10K Red Hands were also making their mark with the first three all recording personal bests. Ben Branagh crossed the finish line in 21st place with a time of 29:38, Scott Rankin (30:36) followed in 45th, John Black (30:42) in 51st while finished Chris Madden (31:07) finished 69th.

Fionnuala Ross (34:16) was the leading Ulster athlete in women’s race, claiming 17th place in a time of 34:16. She was followed home by Jessica Craig (34:40) in 23rd, Nakita Burke (35:07) in 27th and Sarah Lavery (36:12) in 41st.

DROMORE THE A-TEAM IN NOVICE CHAMPS

Individual title winners Robyn McKee and Russell White

I love it when a plan comes together,” was the message from Dromore AC stalwart and driving force Nigel McKibbin after his club dominated the NI & Ulster Novice Cross Country Championships at Greenmount last weekend. The Down club took three of the four titles on offer, easily surpassing anything it had achieved at the meeting in the past.

Robyn McKee kicked off the day for Dromore in the best possible fashion when she paced herself perfectly, biding her time until the final lap of the 4K contest before moving away to win by 14 seconds.  Leoni Mullen and Natasha Kelly claimed the minor individual medals as well as contributing to a Finn Valley team victory.

Next up was the men’s race and Dromore runners Russell White and Daniel Dawson were quick to establish their superiority over the opposition on a fast 6K course, distancing themselves from the main field to make it an emphatic one-two finish for the black and yellow vests. Lifford-Strabane’s Alan McGinley repeated his third place of 2018 as Andrew Hicks (6th) and Mark Cornett (13th) sealed a comfortable team win to complete a memorable day for the County Down club not to mention their coach of more than 30 years, Michael McGreevy.

BRADLEY AND MONAGHAN BEST IN SPOOK

Conor Bradley and Edel Monaghan were the winners of the major prizes at the ninth running of the Spooktacular 5K in Enniskillen. Record numbers, over 1200 runners, took part making the Fermanagh 5K Run/Walk the largest night time event of its kind in Ireland. The numbers were swelled by the increasing number of Couch to 5K groups taking part in the event.

No Scares for Conor Bradley as he wins comfortably in Enniskillen.

Bradley rounded off the track season with impressive performances over 3000m and 5000m, breaking eight and 14 minutes for the distances. That form has continued into the winter season with him winning Marty’s Run 5K in Derry before leading home a top class field at the Autumn Classic cross country in Dublin. The City of Derry Spartan was a class apart in Enniskillen, hitting the front at halfway and cruising to victory in 15 minutes and eight seconds. Bradley’s clubmates JP Williamson and Declan Reed filled the minor podium places eleven and twelfth seconds back respectively.

Home Sweet Home for women’s winner Edel Monaghan.

A five hour bus journey home from Dublin did not deter Edel Monaghan from scoring a home victory in the women’s race with a personal best 18:24 timing. Armagh’s Natalie Foley was runner-up in 18:41 while 2018 winner Heather Foley had to settle for third on this occasion with a 19:04 timing.

Lucky 7 for Cathal McLaughlin as he finishes runner-up in M50 category.

“We have had a great response from the Couch to 5K groups and we at the club run one and it has been very popular,” said Stephen Clawson of organising club, Enniskillen Running Club. “It is about promoting running in the county for all ages and all abilities which is the club’s ethos.”

TOMMY AND SON BREAK MARATHON RECORD

Tommy and Eoin Hughes were in record-breaking form at the weekend with the pair setting a new Guinness world mark for the combined father and son marathon time. Tommy, who represented Ireland in the 1992 Olympic marathon in Barcelona, crossed the finish line in the Frankfurt Marathon registering a time of 2:27:52 while Eoin followed shortly in 2:32:55. That gave them a combined time of 4:59:22, representing an improvement of two minutes and 50 seconds better on the previous mark of Graham and Ben Green.   Tommy’s time was also close to the M55 world best of Piet van Alphen of the Netherlands who recorded 2:25:56 in the 1986 Rotterdam Marathon.

The pair made an attempt at the Guinness world record for the fastest half-marathon by a father and son at the Belfast Half-Marathon in September 22, but came up 20 seconds short of the combined 2:20:33 goal, despite Eoin finishing second overall in 1:08:30. It was then they decided to have a go at the marathon record in Frankfurt. Now they have another target, the World Masters’ Championships in Toronto next year. Eoin enters the Masters’ grade in January when he turns 35 while his father will be 60.

POINTS MAKE PRIZES IN BELFAST NEXT YEAR

Runners in next year’s Deep RiverRock Belfast City Marathon will be able to gain points in Abbott World Marathon Majors age group world rankings for the first time. The listings started on September 30 and run until October 11, 2020 and the Belfast event has now been included for the first time among the 175 qualifying events around the globe.

The 39th Belfast marathon will take place on Sunday, May 3 with a full line up of events to suit all levels of fitness including the marathon, team relay, 8 mile walk and fun run.  The main event will start at the Stormont Estate and take in most parts of the city before finishing in Ormeau Park.

The 175 eligible events include 30 across Asia, four in Africa, 20 in Central and South America, more than 60 in Europe, 8 in Oceania and more than 50 in North America. All races carry equal status.

There have been recent changes to the board of the Belfast City Marathon with long-time race director David Seaton standing down shortly after this year’s event while Kerry Woods and Nicola McCarthy have been appointed as directors.