This week was Patriots’ Day in Massachusetts. For athletics followers, Patriots’ Day is synonymous with the Boston Marathon but unfortunately the event did not go ahead on its usual date for the second consecutive year.

The first Boston took place in 1897 and was inspired by the marathon race in the previous year’s Summer Olympics in Greece. Its course goes from Hopkinton in southern Middlesex County to Copley Square in Boston and had run without interruption until the cancellation of the 2020 event.

That inaugural event only attracted 15 starters, but more recent editions have seen around 30,000 registered participants each year. The Centennial Boston Marathon in 1996 established a record as the world’s largest marathon with 38,708 entrants, 36,748 starters, and 35,868 finishers. Apart from the active participants, the event attracts 500,000 spectators each year as well as a worldwide television viewership.

Winner of the first race was Irish-American John J. McDermott who covered the 24.5 mile course in 2:55:10. The event was scheduled for the then recently established holiday of Patriots’ Day, linking the race with the Athenian and American struggles for liberty. The race, which became known as the Boston Marathon, has been held every year since then, even during the World War years & the Great Depression, until 2020.

In 1924, the starting line was moved from Metcalf’s Mill in Ashland to Hopkinton Green and the course was lengthened to 26 miles 385 yards (42.195 km) to conform to the standard set by the 1908 Summer Olympics and codified by the IAAF in 1921.

Probably the most unfortunate Boston Marathon was in 2013 which was still in progress when two homemade bombs were set off about 180 metres yards apart on Boylston Street, in approximately the last 200m of the course. The race was halted, preventing many from finishing, but not before three spectators were killed and an estimated 264 were injured.

The last Ireland-born athlete* to win Boston was Niall Cusack. The Limerick man entered the 1974 race as an unknown entity with New Yorker Tom Fleming the favourite. His university East Tennessee paid his way to the race but Cusack, on an impulse, decided to pin a shamrock to his fishnet vest. Little did he know how important an element that shamrock was to play in his win.

Niall Cusack winning the 1972 NCAA Cross Country

Cusack started conservatively, he did not hit the front until 10km and was never headed thereafter. At the halfway mark he was one minute ahead of Fleming. And cruised home 46 seconds ahead of the tearful American in a time of 2:13.39, the second fastest winning effort up to that point. Finishing well down the field was an up and coming Bill Rogers, who subsequently became synonymous with Boston and New York.

He started the race not quite an unknown, despite having won the NCAA cross country two years earlier but crossed the finish line as an international star. “I didn’t realise how big this event was until I crossed the line,” said the former St. Munchin’s College student. “It was bedlam. The Irish in Boston went mad – they were stuffing ten and twenty dollar bills into my bag. I was the toast of Boston.”

Cusack had represented Ireland at the 1972 Olympics in the 10,000m and went on to a second Games in Montreal 1976, finishing 55th in the marathon. He later won the 1981 Dublin City Marathon but never managed to scale the heights of his triumph in Boston 47 years ago this week.

  • *Contrary to popular belief Niall Cusack is not the only Irishman to win Boston. Jimmy Duffy (born Sligo 1 May 1890 – 23 April 1915) was the winner of the 1914 Boston. Two years earlier, representing Canada he was fifth in the Olympic Marathon won by Co. Antrim’s Ken McArthur representing South Africa –


20/21 February 2021 – Malcolm McCausland

Derry Track Club runners were finally able to avail of some competitive action, albeit virtual in a 6 x 5K relay against our friends at Tafelta AC. The times could be recorded at any time over the weekend with the six fastest from each club counting in the contest.

After a close run affair, the Magherafelt men eventually ran out winners by a margin of just over a minute. All the DTC runners expressed themselves happy with the outing and keen for a re-match against the County Derry men.

Adrian Boyle was fastest overall with his 16:11 timing.

Adrian Boyle was fastest for DTC, and indeed of all the participants, with a 16 :11 mark. Ben Mellon showed he has wintered well with a 17:35 but may have been outshone by his father David Mellon who recorded a personal best of 18:57.

David Mellon impressed with a personal best at the virtual relay against Tafelta AC

It was good to see Pete Tuohey (19:54) and Robert Bigger (20:31) back after injury and illness respectively. And like there would be no show without Punch, no occasion would be complete without Conor (Big Dawg) McIlveen contributing. In this case the Dawg chipped in a very useful 21:22 timing.

Just outside the top six, David Stewart recorded a more than adequate backup time of 22:43. Mikey Dineen also was on the mark with a 27:02 timing.

Tafelta were comfortable winners of the women’s relay but the DTC squad has time on its side with the three ages of the girls totalling only 40 years.

Thanks to Tafelta coach Francis Purvis and everyone who took part fully observing current regulations.

Noel Coleman19:22David Mellon18:57
SeanBrady19:38Conor McIlveen21:22
Details of teams and times
MaireadQuinn19.37Kacey Dineen27,10
An easy win for the Magherafelt women.

Virtual action resumes the weekend of 6/7 March when the club offers a prize of £25 to the athlete who improves the most on his time over 5K. All marks, where possible, should be recorded on the Greenway. PLEASE NOTE THAT COVID-19 REGULATIONS STILL APPLY – NO MEETING IN GROUPS UNLESS ITS A FAMILY. YOU CAN MEET WITH ONE OTHER INDIVIDUAL.

mile maestro – J P clarke

The outstanding Ulster middle-distance runner of the 1920s was undoubtedly J.P. Clarke. Not only was he Irish champion over 880yds/ 1 Mile in 1923, he also successfully defended his mile title the following year. For most of the 1920s, the County Antrim Harrier was Ulster or Northern Ireland champion over 440yds/880yds/1 mile and at least in one year he also added the 1000yds to his collection of titles.

In open sports meeting Clarke could compete successfully at distances from 100 yards right through to two miles as well as the high and long jumps. His appearances over cross country appear to be rare and did not compare with his prowess on the track where he preferred a cinder surface to grass.

Clarke first came to national prominence when he was a surprise winner of the 880yds title at Croke Park on 30 June 1923. Clonliffe Harrier Norman McEachern was the two lap doyen of the time and started hot favourite for gold, but the Belfast policeman turned in a scintillating final straight to win in 1:59.8.

He franked that form the following day, taking the mile, again by eight yards, in 4:37.4. Almost 100 years later these times would still put him top of the CAH rankings. Clarke returned to Croke Park in 1924 but McEachern got the better of him in the 880yds run in heavy rain. Undeterred, Clarke turned out on the Sunday to retain his mile crown in 4:39.6.

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That earned Clarke the honour of representing Ireland at the annual match v England v Scotland which in 1923 took place at Stoke although it was felt a better venue could have been chosen. It was central enough, but the track was not considered to be good enough for the standard of international competition.

Clarke and J.U. Stuart wore the shamrock vests in the 880yds where they faced Douglas Lowe and Edgar Mountain of England, and the Scots Duncan McPhee and C.S. Brown. Mountain had represented Great Britain at both the Antwerp (1920) Olympics, where he finished fourth, and again in Paris four years later when Lowe had taken the gold medal in 1:52.4.

The race in Stoke was said to be run in “uncommon fashion” with Clarke going off hard and quickly building up a lead of 3-4 yards. This had increased to six at the bell and a serious attempt was made to catch him with 300 yards to run which they did quite quickly. At the furlong mark, Lowe piled on the pace with Mountain and McPhee in chase.

However, Clarke stormed back to take third spot 13 yards behind Lowe who broke the tape in 1:57.2. Clarke’s time at a conservative estimate would have been around the 1:59 mark. One contemporary report had the County Antrim Harrier finished second six yards behind Lowe.  

He turned out later that afternoon in the mile but finished outside the podium positions. The race was won by England’s Henry Stallard, who would pick up a bronze medal in the 1500m in Paris following year as well as finishing fourth in the 800m.  Highlight of the meeting was a fantastic treble (100/220/440) treble by Chariots of Fire hero Eric Liddell who led Scotland to team victory.     

Clarke’s prowess in the middle-distances almost the centre of a tug-of-war the following year. He and two other Ulster athletes, Ulsterville Harrier Alec Gilmore and Cecil Ogle of Duncairn Nomads, when their names were brought up at a meeting of the British Olympic Committee. All three by this stage had been included in the Irish squad selected for special training in advance of the Paris Olympics. Their eligibility to compete for Ireland was queried by Harry J. Barclay.

General Kentish who was a member of the International Olympic Committee was unequivocal in his reply. For the purposes of the Olympic Games, Ireland could not compete as one, but the Free State must enter as the Free State and Ulster must come in with Great Britain. Consequently, as all three athletes were not born in the 26 counties, they could not represent the Free State.  

Clarke was also one of a number of athletes who fell victim of what appeared to be over-zealous officialdom in 1924. Clarke who was a Special Constable in the RUC was reported for “not trying” at a Celtic Sports and suspended until 1 June 1925. He was said to have been in conversation with a bookie prior to the start of the race in question. He rejected the accusation and repudiated the charges made against him in a letter to the Irish Independent.

He explained that the race in question referred to a heat of the 880yds in which he had qualified for the final in second place. He also said that his time of 2:01.5 was one of the fastest of his career. His appeal against the suspension was heard by the Central Council of the NACA who rejected Clarke’s arguments. He also pointed out that nowhere was there an obligation to run flat out in a heat and cited examples of athletes finishing second in their heat at the 1924 Olympics but winning the final.

He also cited instances where other athletes had been reported that season for “not trying” and explained the extenuating circumstances. He highlighted that it was the same set of judges who had been behind each and every instance. He said he had contacted an eminent (athletics) judge about the matter and in his opinion was that it was “absurd”.  

Unfortunately, his representations fell on deaf ears and he was suspended until the following June. He was phlegmatic about the suspension in that it only covered the cross country season in which he had not intended to take part. The lay-off from competition did not seem to do him any harm and he returned in top form the following year.

The suspension may also have been a blessing in disguise in that he was prevented from being involved in the problematic Celtic Sports on Easter Monday 1925 that, directly or indirectly, led to the formation of a separate athletics body (NIAAC & CCA) in Northern Ireland.

Clarke was said, in the contemporary press, to be well in advance of his time in terms of training and lifestyle. He did not have a local trainer but was coached by correspondence from Alec Nelson, the Cambridge University trainer at the time. He had a basic gymnasium of his own at home comprising punch ball, skipping rope, gloves, dumbbells, and other paraphernalia. At home each evening he went through a series of “Nelson” exercises.

J P Clarke (left) wins the 440 yards at Killough Sports 1926

His diet was a little unusual in that he was reported to be satisfied with half a potato a day, preferring bananas and cream for nutrition. He did not smoke nor drink alcohol and eschewed cinemas and theatres. He also wisely avoided training in the smog of 1920s Belfast, going out to the country “to get the air about him.”

There was speculation that Clarke would remain with the NACA after the split in 1925 but this proved unfounded as he stayed with his club, County Antrim Harriers, who opted to form part of the new Northern association. He won the Ulster 880yds and mile titles in 1925 and 1926 but there is no evidence of him continuing active in the sport after that. He is probably remembered for being the recipient of the first medals struck by the new Northern body after winning the 880yds and mile championships in 1925.


Trinity Harriers were formed in 1894 and operated out of the premises of the Holy Trinity Church of Ireland on the corner of Ballysillan Road and Cliftonville Roads. At the time clubs organised weekly runs (paper chases) for its members usually on a Saturday. Trinity’s first outing was to Hollywood when 63 runners turned out.

The club was quick to embrace the competitive side of the sport and on the 27 December 1894 was involved in a triangular match with Dublin club Elysian Harriers and County Down Harriers at the Oval in Ballymacarrett. According to the Freeman’s Journal a good crowd of spectators gathered to witness what was described as a six mile steeplechase.

It was a tough baptism for the green and whites with their first runner Boyd taking 9th as J Archer led Elysian (36) to a comfortable victory over County Down with Trinity, only having two finishers, unable to complete a team. Archer would take 5th in the Irish Senior Cross Country Championships a few months later with Elysian taking silver medals in the team competition behind Belfast Harriers.

Undaunted the club entered the Irish Junior Championship in early 1895 and finished a very credible sixth of the ten competing clubs. Clonliffe Harriers (92) scored a narrow one point win over Belfast Harriers. Other northern clubs were Cliftonville Harriers (4th) and County Down who failed to complete a scoring six. The club soon consolidated its position as one of the leading clubs in the Northern Branch, continuing weekly training runs. Taking advantage of public transport, the club travelled to a variety of venues. One such was Craigavad which the club visited in November 1895.

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The Irish News and Belfast Morning News described that “the Saturday evening was all that it could be desired, as far as favourable weather is concerned, for harriers’ outings.” The club travelled to fulfil an invitation from Mr. H McCormick. The Harriers arrived on the 3:35 train and “lost no time in divesting themselves of clothing and donning the togs”.

The hares, James Boyd and James Stoupe, laid out a trail across the County Down countryside and were back in 45 minutes. The fast pack were said to be in “full cry, to the no small delight of the country folk.” Mr McCormick laid on refreshments for the 59 harriers in his home after the outing, the second time he had done so. Trinity also met frequently for Saturday runs with other clubs such as Newtownards Harriers, County Antrim Harriers and Belfast Harriers, whom they described in reports as their “friends”. 

There was further improvement in the Irish Junior the following year, moving up to sixth spot behind a crack Cork Harriers squad who won with the incredibly low score of 37 points. Belfast Harriers slipped to third but again had W Finlay in the top six while Trinity yet again did not have a finisher in the top 10.

That was rectified in 1897 when Trinity’s J Lockhart (9th) and J Alexander (10th) broke new ground for the Ballysillan men. The club did not seem to contest the 1898 championship and in review of the clubs at the time, Leveret in the Sport observed: “I cannot see what is up with Trinity. There seems a want of enthusiasm and a new Reverend R Carr required before the club can dream of success.”

Trinity returned to the fray in 1899 when no less than three Northern clubs made their way south to Dolphin’s Barn in Dublin.  The course was beside the canal, alongside the Crumlin Road and adjacent the tramline terminus. Special trams were laid on for the benefit of spectators.

The area was known as the Slob Lands and the going was generally regarded as heavy. The race marked the emergence on the national stage of the great John F Joyce from Ballinasloe Harriers who carried off all four (Junior and Senior) national titles that year. Ulsterville and County Antrim tied on 204 points for joint fourth with Trinity in sixth spot, again not providing a top ten placer.

In the first Northern Branch Championship in 1899 they lifted silver team medals behind County Antrim Harriers. Better was to follow in 1900 with William Miller taking the individual title and leading Trinity to a convincing team victory.

The Green and Whites slipped to fifth (of five) the following year as County Antrim regained their team title and Ulsterville’s J W Jefferson took the individual crown. Trinity were again out of the medals in 1902 as County Antrim successfully defended the top spot in the North and also supplied the individual winner in J McAuley.

James Ferguson

The Premiers, as they called themselves, were strengthened by the recruitment of James Ferguson from North Belfast Harriers probably later that year. The first mention found for Ferguson in the press of the day was in June 1900 when he finished second in the Mile Flat race at Downpatrick Sports in the grounds of Down Cricket Club. S Minnis of Ulsterville was the winner in 4 minutes 37 and 2/5ths seconds with

Ferguson at the time running in the colours of North Belfast Harriers. The weather was said to be “inclement” and there were numerous falls in the cycling events without anyone being injured.

In the 1901 census, he is shown as living at 6 Bray Street in the Shankill Ward of Belfast City. He shares the home with his mother Elizabeth, two sisters and a brother.  James is the youngest of the family at 23 years. Nothing much is seen of him on the track that year but he more than makes up for it in 1902 when he seems to race fairly frequently at the many local meetings.

The following year he made the switch from North Belfast Harriers to Trinity. The reasons for this switch are not known but certainly Trinity appeared to be a much more ambitious club at the time than North Belfast or maybe being of the Church of Ireland faith, he felt more at home among his own denomination.

Either way he quickly profited from the transfer by leading Trinity to the Northern Branch Cross Country Championship at Belvoir Park in March 1903. After a close battle Trinity easily prevailed over the defending champions County Antrim 33-90 with West Belfast on the 114 mark.

Contemporary newspapers report Ferguson leading at the end of the first lap of the six mile trip from County Antrim duo J. Thompson and J McAuley with another Trinity man, H Connor, and St. Gall’s H O’Neill heading up the main field.

Thompson, the defending champion, was said to have got ahead in “splendid style”, leaving McAuley far behind while Ferguson and Connor “maintained a good steady pace” to finish second and third respectively. The attendance was said to be very good despite an inter-league soccer match (League of Ireland 1 – 0 Scottish League) being held at the same time in Grosvenor Park.

Some weeks later the green and whites, as they were known, made their way south to contest the Irish Junior for the first time. It was dry but windy at Elm Park in Dublin and, on a day of controversy, both the winner of the race P J McCafferty and the winning team Cork Harriers were disqualified, Trinity failed to click and finished back in seventh place in the team listings. The race was awarded to Cavan native Hugh Muldoon who took Clonliffe Harriers to the team title as well.

However, Trinity made no mistake the following year taking home silver medals in the Irish Junior behind a strong Galway City Harriers combination. On a cold day with a blustery wind and frequent heavy showers Hugh Connor (8th), Ferguson (9th) and William Millar (10th) gave Trinity a solid start. Such were the conditions one-third of the field failed to finish including the crack Haddington Harriers who had been favourites for the team title.

West Belfast’s Sammy Lee won the individual gold and made it a double a few weeks later by adding the Northern Branch Senior title. Trinity repeated their victory of 1903, defeating Hibernian Harriers by just two points with Connor (3rd) and Ferguson (5th) their leading men.  Trinity came back to take second in 1905, tying on 114 points with Willowfield, well behind County Antrim (89) led by individual winner T McCullough.

A third spot in 1906 marked the end of a golden spell for the Ballysillan outfit and one they were never to repeat. In September of the following year a small group of Ballyclare-based runners who were members of Trinity Harriers decided to form their own club in the town. They met in a barn at the back of Baird’s public house on Main Street and chose the name East Antrim Harriers. Little did they know that from these humble beginnings they were forming what was to become one of the most successful running clubs in Northern Ireland athletics history.

There is no evidence of James Ferguson competing after 1904. He married in 1923 and, with his wife and young son, emigrated to the USA in 1925. Lisa Morse never met her grandfather as he died before she was born but she has every reason to be proud of him and his feats in our sport. We are grateful to LIsa for initiating this interesting story and for the use of her photographs.



20 December 2020

Conor Duffy wins in Greencastle at the third attempt.

Conor Duffy and Grace Carson were the winners of the Greencastle 5 Miles Road Race in Tyrone. The race was brought forward from its traditional St. Stephen’s Day date and the field limited to 120 runners to comply with current guidelines.

Despite the changes, the 35th edition of the race lacked none of its character as Duffy made it third time lucky after placing second and third in recent years. The Glaslough Harrier was always in control and led a group of four through the three mile mark in 14 minutes and 41 seconds. Moving away on the notorious final long climb, the Castleblayney postman was able to breast the tape with a comfortable advantage in 24:35.

NI & Ulster Senior cross country champion Neil Johnston was next home, some four seconds in arrears with Ethiopia-born Eskander Turki grabbing third spot with a 24:43 timing. Mountain specialist Zac Hanna (24:49), Conán McCaughey (25:04) and Matthew Neill (25:22) made up the top half dozen. Tommy Hughes showed no signs of fatigue from a track 10,000m the previous day as he claimed the over-60 prize in 27:55.

Grace Carson out on her own.

Grace Carson was a class apart in the women’s competition, taking advantage of the mild conditions, the Mid-Ulster athlete impressed with a 28:22 winning time. Rachel Gibson was the next women with a 30:36 timing while Pauline McGurren, in third overall with a 32:10 mark, was the leading female Master.

Full results:

The Great Running SwizzLE

When you pay over your entry fee to a race, do you ever wonder where your money goes? Did it go where you were led to believe it would?

The Omagh Half Marathon is one of many races that people return to year after year because runners are happy with what they get for their entry fee.

Most runners at some point of the year pay over good money to enter a race. Many people go to races as often as once a week, maybe even more in the summer. Only a small percentage will get that money back in the form of prize money. That means that for most of us it is one way traffic in terms of the movement of money.

None of us mind that when we know it is going to a genuine cause. That does not necessarily mean a registered charity, many clubs rely on events that they promote for their very existence. Mostly everyone is happy with either of these situations.

Other races are organised by event companies and no-one really minds as long as the organisers are open and transparent and make this clear. Runners then enter a different scenario and, if satisfied with the product i.e. value for money, they offer no complaint.

What annoys people is when they are led to believe their money is bound for a charity or cause when in fact it is not.

“The Belfast City Marathon first launched in 1982 with 3021 taking part in a marathon only event.  The marathon course started at the old Maysfield Leisure Centre and Greg Hannon was the winner in a time of two hours, 20 minutes and 25 seconds.  Sue Boreham was the first woman across the line in a time of 3 hours, 11 minutes and 26 seconds.  The event would take place on May Day Bank Holiday Monday each year.
1989 – the Team Relay event was introduced for teams of 2-5 runners, generating over £1.1M annually for local charities
1997 – the 8 Mile Walk and Fun Run events were introduced making the event the largest mass sport participatory event in Northern Ireland
2013 – the Half Marathon September event was launched” –

Initially the Belfast City Marathon was run by a company whose directors came evenly from Belfast City Council and Athletics NI. However in recent years the BCC role seems to have reduced to such an extent that it is almost wholly ANI-controlled despite the council contributing £27,000 (was £42,000) annually as well as providing other services.

It is not difficult to see that both companies share a lot in common – officers, accountants and bankers. The fact that both companies are seen as one enterprise was confirmed after separate Freedom of Information requests were sent independently for each of the two companies. The response from John Allen was surprising in that his reply covered both companies. That may suggest in his mind they were one and indivisible. But, if so, why are accounts never presented to members of ANI? Who is entitled to attend the AGM of the Belfast City Marathon? What external scrutiny is there of the income and expenditure of the company? Are the dealings of the Belfast City Marathon open and transparent? Definitely not!

Response from John Allen to separate FoI requests to ANI and Belfast City Marathon

The assertion that the FoI requests were refused following The “comprehensive legal advice” also seems fatuous when informed legal professionals assure that any organisation in receipt of funds from the public purse are required to comply with requests for Freedom of Information. It is common sense that the public has the right to know how its monies are spent.


Earlier this year the Belfast City Marathon advertised that the 2020 race would be “virtual” in response to the regulations imposed during the ongoing pandemic.

BCM promo material: “As such a virtual event has been organised in an attempt to keep people motivated and raise some much needed funds for our official nominated charity, Cancer Focus Northern Ireland.   There is an option to donate when registering and you can also donate to Cancer Focus NI via their JustGiving page”

Over 3500 people entered this at a cost of £15 each. If they wished to support the nominated charity as well a link was provided. The BCM received over £50,000 with many believing that the money was going to charity. With the event being virtual, outgoings were minimal – the tee-shirts were donated by the charity , if you wanted a race tee-shirt, you had to pay extra.

When the event was completed, BCM trumpeted that £40K had been handed over to charity. The impression taken by many was that this came from the BCM but, despite being challenged, it refused to confirm that any of this came from the entry. In the circumstances, the only conclusion to be drawn is that the £40K came from the voluntary contributions of the entrants.

In correspondence, BCM have tried to maintain this myth that they donated the money by a clever use of words. The company has also refused to make this information under a FoI request.


Apologies for the delay but can I ask that the following information to be provided. I think the transparency will help the whole running community and offer the opportunity to present BCM in a most favourable light :

  1. How much of the £15 entry fee for the 3500 entrants (£52500) was donated to Cancer Focus NI for the 2020 Virtual race?
  2. What costs were incurred to hold a virtual race?
  3. What companies if any were used to provide the event management/consultancy and how much did this cost?
  4. How are nominated charity selected?

I look forward to a positive response to the above

The BCM has for years claimed to be raising huge monies for charity but an investigation by this website suggests the contrary. In fact, charities may have been paying BCM substantial amounts each year to garner the coveted “nominated charity” endorsement. We have seen no evidence of any BCM income ever being handed over to charity.

This is the response received to the latest request for information:

Thank you for your email and patience. Following the Board meeting I can update you on the below;

  • Over £40,000 was donated to Cancer Focus NI through the Virtual Event which was staged in May/June. The charity were overwhelmed with the support at a very uncertain time for everyone. Press release attached.
  • The running costs included purchase of medals and t-shirts, design, advertising and promotional costs, office and management costs and technical costs including health and safety plans etc
  • Like any of our events we work with a number of external partners such as Belfast City Council, Department of Infrastructure, PSNI, Grahams Traffic Management, the list is endless. I must add they are excellent and have provided much needed support to our organisation for the past 30 years.
  • To select a charity, there is an official application process. Interested parties contact the office (normally January time) and will complete an application form which is later assessed using a matrix and weighting system.
  • I hope the above answers any queries which you had and look forward to your participation and support in the events over the coming few years.

The above was followed up with a request (see below) for clarification of the £40K donation but no reponse was received – in fact BCM said that they would no longer engage in correspondence about the matter:

Thank you for the response and the press release. Your email doesn’t quite answer any of the specific questions I have raised so if I could list again below this time for a detailed response it would be appreciated.

The event entry system was held with the ability to contribute directly to charity as well as the separate entry fee for the event. So if we can please differentiate between actual individual donations and the separate BCM contribution from the entrance fees.

We can therefore from this understand how much was donated by BCM via the entrance fee and not via the donations. My questions then that remain are as follows

  1. How much of the £15 entry fee for the 3500 entrants (£52500) was donated to Cancer Focus NI for the 2020 Virtual race?
  2. What costs were incurred to hold the virtual race? Can you please provide listing of major cost centres for the virtual race (which if 40k was donated to nominated charity should equate to 12.5k)
  3. What companies if any were used to provide the event management/consultancy and how much did this cost? Again this should specifically be for the virtual event (where input from those listed in your email below would not have been needed for a virtual event) and again should be within the 12.5k figure.

We would be really grateful for the detail on this as it is causing a lot of apprehension/misgiving in the running community that hopefully you can put to rest quickly and ensure that the BCM retains the current participation and support levels from the running community.



As we face an indeterminate period when there will be no organised sport, it is worth looking back 100 years to 1920 when sportsmen and women were getting back into competition after a hiatus of six years due to the First World War, writes Malcolm McCausland. Of the 60 million soldiers who fought in the Great War, over 9 million were killed, or to put it another way, 14% of the combat troops or 6,000 dead soldiers per day.

Anton Hegarty who was Northern champion 100 years ago – he is to be the subject of a biography to be published later this year

Over 200,000 men from Ireland fought in the war, both in Gallipoli and the Western Front. About 30,000 serving in Irish regiments died but including those Irish men in British regiments, the total fatalities from this island approached 50,000. Spanish ‘Flu which struck the men in the trenches harder than the ordinary population on account of the conditions in which they were living, poor hygiene and no sanitation. This contributed significantly to the total particularly in 1918, the final year of the war.

Many well-known sportsmen died during the hostilities. Notable among these was Ramelton-born Dave Gallaher, captain of the All-Blacks during their tour of the British Isles in 1905, who succumbed to a head wound at the Battle of Passchendaele in 1917. Rugby seemed to suffer more than most with nine Irish internationals also never returning to their native land.

Irish League side Derry Celtic lost its David Beckham of the day. Barney Donaghey was the star attraction of the team based at Celtic Park, then a soccer ground. Barney Donaghey had played for Manchester United, Burnley, and a host of Irish clubs, and he made one appearance for the Irish international team, before returning to his home town club.

He quickly settled back into the Celtic team and, despite standing only 5ft 4in (1.63m) and weighing just 10 stone (63kgs), was a tricky player whom opponents found hard to tackle. He joined up in 1914 at the start of the Great War despite having a wife and four young children. He lost his life in the mud and chaos of the Somme on July 1, 1916. His body was never found

Diamond War Memorial
Barney Donaghey’s name is on the Diamond War Memorial but is almost forgotten in his home town

In athletics France’s Jean Bouin, a silver medallist over 5000m in the 1912 Stockholm Olympics, his duel with Finland’s Hannes Kolehmainen is still regarded as one of the classics in athletics history, died as a consequence of what would nowadays be called friendly fire.

Germany’s Hanns Braun, a medallist in both 1908 and 1912 Games, was a fighter pilot and died when shot down over France. He could well have been the German pilot who was depicted in the recent film 1917. He and Bouin were just two of seven athletics Olympics medallists who never came home, much less pulled on a spiked shoe.

In the absence of a large percentage of the male population, even in Ireland where there was no conscription, and at a time when there was no significant participation in sport by females, most athletics clubs struggled to maintain any level of normality.  The Irish championships, both track and field as well as cross country had been suspended from 1914; what clubs who struggled on could only organise a Saturday afternoon pack run when numbers permitted.

It was like a new dawn when hostilities finally came to a conclusion in November 1918 but it was not until early 1920 that the athletics authorities managed to restore organised competitions. The Northern Cross Country Championship in Belvoir Park at the end of February, 1920 marked the end of a six year gap and attracted a huge entry and a good crowd of spectators.

Anton Hegarty was the convincing of the race, the 27-year-old Derry man simply running away from the opposition. He had only taken up running whilst serving with the Inniskilling Fusiliers in India but found he was a natural, leading the Skins 1st battalion to success in inter-regiment competitions in 1913 and 1914. Albertville Harriers filled the next three places in Belvoir Park through Martin, Topping and Gowdy.

In a tight team race Albertville (2,3,4,11,13,25=58) narrowly defeated North Belfast Harriers (5,6,10,12,14,15=62) with Willowfield a distant third on 146 points. Duncairn, City of Derry, County Antrim, Ulsterville B and 9th Old Boys all completed teams reflecting the strength of the sport despite the lay-off. A War Memorial trophy was presented for competition by Juniors with Willowfield being the first club to put its name on its base.


“A really splendid race for the northern cross country championship took place in Belvoir Park on Saturday afternoon, and it was favoured with the very best of weather conditions. The venue proved quite an attraction in itself, for it would be difficult, if not, indeed, altogether impossible, to find a better within the whole limits of Ulster. With characteristic thoughtfulness and consideration, the park – which is beautifully undulating, and adorned in many parts by clumps of giant trees – was kindly placed at the disposal of the committee by the right honourable Sir James Johnston J.P., The present occupant, who, attending with some friends, manifested a deep interest in the contest. Trams, motor waggons, and cars carried a large crowd of spectators to the scene, and this was another distinctly encouraging feature on the side of success. No doubt was left in the mind of anyone who saw the arrangements, the admirable manner they were carried out, and the workmanlike way all went about their duties, that the officials from top to bottom of the list were sportsmen of the first water……..

“Derry club travelled specially to participate in the race, and had every reason to be gratified over their reception. A. Hegarty who created a sensation at Glasgow Gaelic sports by his work in the mile, belonged to this team, and the fine record he again established in the Northern championships at Belvoir Park made him an outstanding figure. He led all the way, improving the distance every lap, and finished magnificently. It was at once recognised that he and Crowe who had won in the junior race at Bloomfield a fortnight ago, would make fine assets for Ireland in an international contest, and it is almost certain that before long both will have their chances in this respect. Martin and Kerr, ex champions: Magill, winner of the victory inter-team shield; and McBride, the Ulster four mile champion, were also in the field…….

“Hegarty made a splendid finish, coming in strongly a good way in front of Martin. Topping romped in 100 yards behind the latter, and then followed at shorter or longer intervals – Gowdy, Crothers, McCann and Jackson, of Willowfield, and McBride, North Belfast.  The time was 34 minutes 53 seconds. This proved a new record, Hegarty improving on the former time for a somewhat shorter course, by a minute”.


They are already up and running in Donegal this new year with over 200 turning up for the opening race in the Lifford-Strabane 5K Series held in unseasonably mild conditions. Finn Valley’s Gerard Gallagher was pleased to put recent injury behind him as he moved away from the main field early on to score an easy win in 15:31. Charlie O’Donnell made the long journey from the Rosses to take second in 16:04 with Gary Gallagher edging Peter Tuohey for third with a 16:19 clocking. Ben Mellon was the leading Junior, taking 11th overall in 17:56.

The host club’s Claire McGuigan was equally impressive leading home the women in what she described as “a shock to the system” but recording a credible 17:48. Leoni Mullen was also quick out of the blocks to occupy the runner-up spot in 18:19 while Elaine Connor was well clear of the main field, in third, with a 19:08 mark.  The second race in the series is in Raphoe on January 26 with 10:30am start and concludes in Lifford on February 9.


Action from last year’s international in Dundonald.

Usually at this time of the year we are looking forward to the Belfast International Cross Country but after 42 years our local cross country classic has been gently laid to rest. Once the highlight of the winter season, it is no longer with us. And like the parrot in the Montyn Python sketch, they tell us it is merely resting but we know better. It is dead! It is no more! It has ceased to be! It is said to be the victim of a clash of dates with its more famous sibling in Scotland, the Great Edinburgh Cross Country, but one questions whether another date could not be found.  

The cross country classic was first hosted in 1977 and has gone under a variety of guises. For the 2000 and 2001 races, it was known as the Fila International Cross Country, for the 1995-1999 meetings as the Coca Cola International Cross Country; for the 1994 race, it went under the banner of the Ulster Milk Games International; for the 1992-1993 races, it became the Reebok International Cross Country; for the 1989 race, it was titled as the Brooks International Cross Country; for the 1990-1991 and 1977-1988 races, it became the Mallusk Cross Country. Many names and a few locations but consistently an opportunity to see world class performers on our own doorstep.  

The fixture has seen some of the world’s best runners compete. Waterford man Gerry Deegan was the winner of the first race with Olympic gold medallist Steve Ovett taking the laurels the following year.  The Brighton athlete returned in 1984 to lift the title for a second time but in the meantime Ireland’s two-time world champion John Treacy had prevailed over a strong field in 1982. It was shortly afterwards that the east Africans claimed ownership of the race with American Dathan Ritzenhein, in 2005, being the last non-African to cross the finish line in first place.

The women’s race was added in 1986 with Susan Tooby, now Wightman, from Wales the first winner. Running legends like Liz McColgan (1987/1988) and Paula Radcliffe (1994/1996/2000/2001) claimed multiple wins while Irish athletes have held their own in the women’s event, with Roisin Smyth (1990), Catherina McKiernan (1992/1993), Mary Cullen (2010) and Fionnuala McCormick (2012/2013) all claiming wins.

Norwegian Blue Parrot

It could be seen as purely a sop to the local followers of the sport when the Bobby Rea Memorial in November was rebranded an international. A few runners from across the water do not make an international. Many felt they were being offered a slug as a replacement for a Norwegian Blue parrot!

More than an Athletics Club