Johnston and mitchell exceL in greencastle

26 December 2019

Nothing trumps speed and track specialist Neil Johnston proved it once again when he was the emphatic winner of the Greencastle 5 Miles road race in Tyrone. The race confirmed its status as the number one holiday fixture with over 700 hardy runners crossing the finish line in damp and windy conditions.

Neil Johnston speeds home.

Johnston was making his debut in the race and was in a group of three, along with Scott Rankin and Mark McKinstry, who broke away from the field almost from the gun. But Johnston’s track speed told as he took an early lead on the downhill before going on to break the tape in 24 minutes and 54 seconds. Rankin held on to the runner-up spot a further 24 seconds back with 2018 winner McKinstry having to settle for third on this occasion in 25:34.

“Conditions were pretty tough there but I just went out with Scott and Mark McKinstry,” said the Coleraine man. “It’s downhill then and I started getting a bit of a lead and then Scott and myself broke off. I think I was in the lead from two miles on and built it on. But it’s a tough climb from three to four miles.”

Matthew Neill was the first U20, taking fourth in 25:50, while Eoin Hughes (26:16) and Colin Griffin (26:33) rounded off the top half dozen finishers.

Emma Mitchell completed her third consecutive victory in the women’s race it could not have been any easier for the Clonliffe Harrier who won by over three minutes in 29:21. Pauline McGurren (32:24) and April Clarke (32:32) completed the women’s podium.

The organisers set new standards in terms of the content of the goody bags both in terms of the quantity of the items included and the quality. No more plastic bottles, replaced by paper cartons and surely a first anywhere …. a pack of four free range eggs!

Results –


Many runners may be interested, if they have not seen it already, in a documentary Gamechangers produced by Academy winning director James Cameron and directed by Academy Award winner Louis Psihoyos (2009’s “The Cove” and 2015’s “Racing Extinction”). Currently available on Netflix after being released in June, the film boasts some big hitters in the entertainment and sporting world as executive producers, including Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jackie Chan, Novo Djokovic and Lewis Hamilton.

The documentary may be of benefit to athletes and runners, indeed anyone who takes part in a sport, as it claims to highlight the misconceptions around eating meat to support physical prowess in sport.  James Wilks, who instructs members of the U.S. defence forces, narrates the film, based on his own personal experiences, that looked at how plant-based diets affected every part of our bodies.

Vegan diets involve completely cutting out all animal products including meat, eggs, cheese and milk. Veganism and vegetarianism have exploded in the last few years, with millions of people looking to cut out animal products for both ethical and health reasons. A report by research firm Global Data claims that veganism has seen a 600 percent increase in the last three years in the US.  Research has shown that plant-based diets, eliminating red meats and at times seafood, can lower blood pressure and risk of obesity.

The coverage showed the change plant-based diets had on the quality of athlete’s blood and the endurance they had on the field or in the gym. Arnold Schwarzenegger also weighed in on the side of a vegetarian diet, saying in his early days of bodybuilding he was a big meat eater.

“I ate a lot of meat, I ate my 10-15 eggs a day and you know had my 250g of protein a day because I weighed 250 pounds,” admitted Schwarzenegger. “But as I got older and read up on it, I recognised the fact you really don’t have to get your protein from meat or animals.”

Readers may find particularly interesting the part of the documentary that focussed on the NFC team Tennessee Titans, featuring their linebacker Derrick Morgan, who had not made the play-offs in almost a decade. Half of the team ditched animal products altogether after Morgan, who is interviewed, started reading research about plant-based food and recovery, and how eating the right foods accelerates the healing process.

Derrick’s wife started cooking him plant-based meals, and eventually the other guys wanted to try the diet as well. Not only did they love the delicious plant-based food but the Titans had their best ever season in 2017 reaching the play-offs and only going out to the New England Patriots, the eventual Superbowl champions.


  1. Protein Shortage

Meat, fish, eggs and dairy products are common sources of protein for most people. anyone who consumes these foods typically get plenty of protein in their daily diets, but Vegans need to turn to beans and nuts to get enough. The recommended daily amount is 46 grams per day for women and 56 grams daily for men. Vegans rely on tofu, beans and nuts as their sources of protein, a cup of dry beans has about 16 grams of protein, and a 100-gram serving of extra-firm tofu yields just under 10 grams.

  • Iron Deficiency

Omnivores get their iron mostly from meat, particularly red meat, so it is important for Vegans to consume iron-rich foods as well. Iron deficiency can lead to fatigue and problems with brain function. Females need 18 milligrams of iron daily, but the requirement jumps to 27 milligrams for pregnant women while surprisingly men only need 8 milligrams daily. Soya beans, white beans and spinach are good sources of iron, but Vegans may need a daily iron supplement.

  • Other Essential Minerals and Vitamins.

In the absence of dairy products in their diet, Vegans need to look elsewhere to meet their calcium requirements of 1,000 milligrams per day. Vitamin D assists the body in absorbing calcium, adults need 600 international units per day. It is almost inevitable that Vegans need to either take a vitamin D supplement or drink soy milk fortified with vitamin D. They almost certainly need to take a vitamin B12 supplement as the vitamin is almost exclusively found in animal products.

Vegan Runners is the fastest growing running club in the UK

The Vegan Society of Ireland has been promoting Ve.ganism and Animal Rights in Ireland since 2009. Its website contains lots of information for anyone thinking of practising veganism or is already a Vegan. Vegan Runners ( offer membership for just £6 per year and can provide introductions to others in the UK of a like mind.


Well done, Ireland; a country that welcomes immigrants and a nation that has waved good-bye to countless emigrants for centuries while others have stuck out at home through thick and thin. The arrivals, the departures and remainers came together in perfect synchronicity yesterday to help Ireland to its best ever day at the European Cross Country Championships in Lisbon.  Two individual and two team medals surpassed anything achieved before at a European Cross Country and bridged a four year gap since an Irish athlete trod the presentation podium.

Efrem Gidey ….from holding camp to European podium

And that welcoming attitude paid dividends when a refugee from Eritrea won a bronze medal for the country in the Junior Men’s team race. Two years ago, Efrem Gidey was languishing in the holding camp at Calais in France but yesterday he declared himself a proud Irish man standing alongside the all-conquering Norwegian Jakob Ingebrigtsen on the medal podium of a continental championships.

Gidey was in the leading group from the opening lap and when the reigning European Senior 1500m/5000m champion Ingebrigtsen applied the pressure halfway through the 6225m event, the 19-year-old was only one of two men to respond. The Norwegian pulled away to away to seal his fourth consecutive by over half a minute while Gidey fought out the minor places with Turkey’s Ayetullah Aslanhan.

In the end the Turk won that battle by three seconds with Gidey seemingly would have been happier with a team medal than his own achievement but Ireland lost third place on countback after finishing on the same points as Portugal.

“I’m so happy,” he said. “Ireland is my country and means so much. I am doing it for Ireland because it is doing it for me. A good opportunity – I am learning English and I’m going to school.”

Gidey lives in Tyrellstown, a northern suburb of Dublin and is a member of Clonliffe Harriers. He is current Irish Schools cross country champion and recently won the Leinster Senior Men’s cross country title.  Some thought he was ill-advised in running the recent National Senior at Abbotstown but finished ninth, helping Clonliffe regain the team title.  He was sick last week and only got the all-clear to compete on Friday past when Athletics Ireland managed to secure a visa for him to enter Portugal.

Three young Irish woman who, like so many before them, went to the United States to further their education and running careers, supplied medals two and three. Cork’s Stephanie Cotter ran a well-timed race to take the individual bronze in the U23 race while further down the field the Tyrone twins, Eilish and Roisin Flanagan, battled hard to claim 9th and 17th respectively to put Ireland in the silver medal spot behind a strong Netherlands trio.

All three women attend Adams State University and agreed that they would not be where they are today were it not for the coaching and facilities made available to them in Alamosa, Colorado.

“I came off the NCAA season and I was very happy with it and I knew I was fit coming in here,” said Cotter. “I went out to win it but I knew Moller was strong, so I said I would go out in the top five and if there were any moves, I’d cover them. I think about the third lap, she put in a big surge and I wasn’t able to go with it. This season, I think Adams State has transformed me completely as a runner.”

For Eilish Flanagan, from the Tyrone hamlet of Gortin, it was her second European silver medal of the year after finishing runner-up in the U23 3000m steeplechase in the summer.

“It’s really hard to believe (two medals), it’s been a really amazing year for myself,” said Eilish Flanagan. “It’s something to bring home to Gortin, to the country and our small community. We are able to work well with our coach at Adams State and he has improved us every single year.”

There was almost a fairy-tale ending to the meeting with Fionnuala McCormack, an athlete who has plied her entire running trade at home, was narrowly beaten for the bronze medal in the Senior Women’s race. Making a woman’s record 16th appearance at these championships, the Wicklow woman was denied third spot by the fast finishing Swede Samrawit Mengsteab by a miserable two seconds.

Another stay at home advocate Ciara Mageean, in 20th, had a cracking run on a tough and hilly course to cement a surprise silver team medal for the Irish colleens. The trio was completed by another leaver Aoibhe Richardson (17th), a Kilkenny woman studying in the US. All roads now lead to Dublin for the 2020 championships when the challenge will be to equal or better the Lisbon medal total. It will need all the arrivals, departed and remainers to do that.


JUNIOR MEN (6225m): 1 J Ingebrigtsen 18:20, 2 A Aslanhan TUR 18:58, 3 E Gidey IRL 19:01; Team: 1 GBR 25, 2 NOR 38, 3 IRL (3 Efrem Gidey, 12 Darragh McElhinney, 24 Thomas McStay) 39

JUNIOR WOMEN (4225m): N Bacolcatti ITA 13:58, 2 K Lukan 14:01, 3 M Machado POR 14:10; 1 ITA 29, 2 GBR 29, 3 FRA 38, 11 IRL (46 Jodie McCann, 62 A O’Cuill, 77 Sarah Kelly) 185

 U23 MEN (8225m): J Gressier FRA 24:17, 2 E Bibic 24:25, 3 A Oukhelfen ESP 24:34; Team: 1 FRA 17, 2 ITA 29, 3 GER 45, 7 IRL (22 Brian Fay, 25 Jack O’Leary, 26 Peter Lynch) 73

U23 WOMEN (6225m): A E Moller DEN 20:30, 2 J Lau NED 21:09, 3 Stephanie Cotter IRL 21:15; Team: 1 NED 17, 2 IRL (3 Cotter, 9 Eilish Flanagan, 17 Roisin Flanagan) 29, 3 GBR 47.

MIXED RELAY: 1 GBR 17:55, 2 BELARUS 18;01, 3 FRA 18:05, 7 IRL 18:40

SENIOR MEN (10,225m): 1. R Fsiha SWE 29:59, 2 A Kaya TUR 30:10, 3 Y Crippa ITA 30:21; Team: 1 GBR 36, 2 BEL 38, 3 ESP 45, 13 IRL (18 Sean Tobin, 52 32:28, 61 Eoin Everard) 131

SENIOR WOMEN (8225m): 1 Y Can TUR 26:52, 2 K B Grovdal NOR 27:07, 3 S Mengsteab SWE 27:43; Teams: 1 GBR 26, 2 IRL (4 Fionnuala McCormack, 17 Aoibhe Richardson, 20 Ciara Mageean) 41, 3 POR 43               

NW Indoors – DECEMBER 28


                       ATHLONE INDOOR ARENA

                                                  DECEMBER 28th 2019

UNDER 12 Boys and Girls 60m, 60m Hurdles, 600m, 600m walk, shot, Long Jump, High Jump, 4 x 200m Relay

UNDER 14 Boys and Girls 60m, 60m Hurdles, 800m 1,000m walk shot, Long Jump, High Jump, 4 x 200m Relay

UNDER 16 boys and Girls 60m, 60m Hurdles, 400, 800m, 1,500m, 1,000m Walk, Long Jump, High Jump, 4x 200m Relay  

UNDER 18 Men and Women 60m, 60m Hurdles, 400m, 800m, 1,000m Walk, 1,500m, Shot, Long Jump, High jump, Triple Jump, 4 x 200m Relay

JUNIOR Men and Women 60m, 60m hurdles, 400, 800m, 1,000m Walk, 1,500m, shot, long jump, triple jump, 4 x 200m Relay

Senior Men and Women 60m, 60m hurdles, 400, 800m, 1,000m Walk, 1,500m, shot, long jump, triple jump, 4 x 200m Relay

Masters Men and Women 60m, 60m hurdles, 400, 800m, 1,000m Walk, 1,500m, shot, long jump, triple jump, 4 x 200m Relay

Entry Fees Juveniles €5 per event. Senior/Masters €8 per event. Relays €20 per team

Three athletes per club per event

ENTRIES ON AAI ON-LINE SYSTEM CLOSING AT MIDNIGHT ON DECEMBER 14Th 2019. Athletes may step up one age and compete in a maximum of three events plus a relay. Entry to the U/12 Sprint Events 60m and 60m Hurdles are confined to athletes from North West (Donegal Derry, Tyrone, Fermanagh, Sligo, Leitrim)

All track events are time trials, only three attempts allowed in Long and Triple Jumps and Shot.

All athletes must wear club singlets.

U/12 athletes MAY use starting blocks, all other athletes MUST use blocks. IAAF false start rules will apply

Electronic timing will be in operation for all track events.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT Bernie o’ Callaghan, 20 the Waterfront, Killybegs, Co Donegal.

MOBILE 087 2375899 OR At

Jason smyth delivers again

Jason Smyth

Cometh the hour, cometh the man and sprinter Jason Smyth delivered once again, winning the T13 100m at the World Para Athletics Championships in Dubai. It was Ireland’s only gold medal of the meeting and Smyth’s eighth world title since he came on the scene in 2006. His time of 10.54 (+0.6 wind reading) seconds was the best time ever run in the category at a World Para Championships.

The Derry Track Club athlete had stretched his legs in the morning with a comfortable win in his heats but looked nervous as he assumed his starting position for the eight-man final. Salah Khelaifia was first out of the blocks, but Smyth was level by 30 metres before the Algerian clutched his thigh and pulled up before the halfway distance. After that it was all Smyth as he pulled away to break the tape, well clear of Australia’s Chad Perris, whom many had thought would give the Irishman a run for his money.  

Earlier in the Championships, Smyth had watched Petrucio Ferreira erase his name from the record books when the Brazilian posted the two fastest times in a 100m race of a major Para athletics championships. The Brazilian made his intentions clear in the 100m T47 morning heats blazing to a world record time of 10.42, shading Smyth’s record of 10.46 seconds set at the London Paralympics in 2012.  Ten hours later, Ferreira was just two-hundredths of second outside that mark, but it was enough to seal the gold with ease and set up a remarkable cleansweep of all three medals by his countrymen.

It is always sad to witness end of an era as was the case yesterday as the previously undefeated Michael McKillop finished out of the medals in the T38 1500m at the World Para Athletics Championships in Dubai. Defending champion McKillop fought hard down the final straight but could not get into a podium place as newcomer Canadian Nate Riech turned in an impressive display of tactics and power to race away with the title in 4:02.04.

McKillop found a season’s best of 4:09.07 only good enough on this occasion for fourth. Up until yesterday McKillop had been the dominant athlete in the event but new classifications and merging of T37 and T38 categories contributed to the end of his reign for the 29-year-old Randalstown resident.

Michael McKillop

Anders Lagergren sprinted into the lead from the gun and led the field through the opening lap in a swift 64 seconds. McKillop looked smooth back in the chasing pack while Ireland’s other representative David Leavy struggled to maintain contact. The Dane then faded rapidly, ending up 11th, as the favourite Riech moved to the front with two laps to go and started to open up a gap on the field.

The Canadian had ten metres to the good as the bell sounded with only Algeria’s Abdelkrim Krai looking as though he posed any danger to Riech. McKillop, in fifth, was visibly struggling with the pace. The man from British Columbia continued his relentless pace at the front to come home the most impressive of winners some 30 metres ahead of Krai as McKillop mounted a late surge to snatch fourth from another Canadian Liam Stanley.

The first three finishers were all T38, a lesser form of disability to McKillop who is a T37, meaning the former North Belfast Harrier was the leading competitor in the latter category, setting a T37 championship record. David Leavy stuck manfully to his own pace throughout to register a personal best 4:23.86 in ninth. Ireland’s other competitor yesterday, Mary Fitzgerald, finished out of the medals in the F40 shot put.

Unfortunately, there was no medal for Kerry man Jordan Lee who went into the T47 high jump second-ranked but was beaten for the bronze medal on countback after clearing 1.87m at his third attempt. India’s Nishad Kumar was the winner of the event with a 1.94m clearance on his first effort to keep a clean sheet without a failure throughout the competition.

Conor McIlveen

DTC’s Conor McIlveen acquitted himself well in the heats of the T38 400m. With only four days to acclimatise and a severe classification to endure just 48 hours before his heat, McIlveen finished seventh in 58.86 seconds.