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
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.
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.
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.
“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.