Weekend Preview:  A busy weekend of road, track, cross country and trail running ahead!

Weekend Preview:  A busy weekend of road, track, cross country and trail running ahead!

Last weekend brought a plethora of impressive performances by local athletes, both at home and also outside of Northern Ireland.  If the official Athletics NI fixture list for this coming weekend is anything to go by, it’s going to be another busy one!

There’s an excellent choice of events, covering road, track, trail and cross country – the DUNE Half Marathon will kick off the Pure Running Half Marathon Series 2018.  The cross-border event is just one tempting treat and will be joined by The Mathieson Cup XC, North Down AC’s Festival of XC and Sperrin Harriers’ Parkanaur 10 mile Trail Race, amongst other races locally.

Outside of Northern Ireland, a sizeable contingent of familiar faces are expected to travel to the AAI National Intermediate & Masters XC Championships in Galway and also the Irish Universities Athletics Association (IUAA) Indoor Track & Field Championships in Athlone.

DUNE Half Marathon (Round 1 – Pure Running HM Series 2018):

The popular Pure Running Half Marathon Series 2018 will kick off this coming weekend with the DUNE Half Marathon (Sunday 11th February 2018).  The cross-border event, which will run from The Quays Shopping Centre in Newry and finish in Market Square in Dundalk.

Approximately 800 athletes will take to the start line, with several highly placed finishers from 2017 set to return.  The most notable will be in the ladies race, with Mourne Runners’ AAI National Marathon Champion Laura Graham (Mourne Runners) due to start.

Twelve months ago, the Northern Ireland international led the ladies field home in 1:18:22, taking 7th place overall.  This time around, Laura will the likes of the always impressive Ann Terek (City of Lisburn AC), accomplished marathoner Collette McCourt (Dub Runners) and podium finisher from last year, Patricia McKibbin (Newcastle AC) on her tail.  All three athletes have the potential to secure a podium place, but given the quality throughout the field, they may have to dip well under the ninety-minute mark if they wish to do so.

The aforementioned quality comes from Natasha Henderson (County Antrim Harriers), Niamh Kellett (East Down AC), Maria Morris (Beechmount Harriers), Sarah Steer (Orangegrove AC) and potential late entrants Diane Watson (City of Lisburn AC) and Susan Smyth (Dromore AC).

The men’s race will be a close encounter, with Don Travers (Newry City Runners) and Joe McKevitt (Slieve Gullion Runners) more than likely to edge it in the absence of previous winners Paddy Hamilton (Slieve Gullion Runners) and Brian McCluskey (North East Runners).

Last year, Don took 3rd place in 1:14:32, with Joe following just over thirty seconds later (4th place – 1:15:03), which makes for a good race.  Then, if you add a host of emerging endurance talent such as Steven McAlary (Springwell RC), Gordy Graham (Unattached), Matthew Hewitt (East Coast AC) and Aaron Woodman (PACE Running Club) to the mix, it adds further interest and spice.  On their day and in the right conditions, any of the men mentioned could secure the title!

Interestingly, Angus McCready, a man who has completed all 78 races since the Pure Running Half Marathon Series began back in 2009, will also start; Angus will be keen to complete the Series once again.

North Down AC Festival of Cross Country:

Preceding the DUNE Half Marathon, 24 hours earlier, will be North Down AC’s Festival of XC (Saturday 10th February 2018) in Bangor, with Race HQ at the Bangor Aurora Complex.

The extensive programme of races will include individual events for Junior athletes, before the Under 20, Senior and Masters competitors take to the field for their relay races.  The host club will be well represented, with Northern Ireland international cross country runners Jodi Smith and Rio Catney likely to lead their charge for honours.

However, the North Down AC athletes will not have it all their own way, even on home turf.  Orangegrove AC and City of Lisburn AC will field decent teams as they try to claim victory – Declan Morgan and Dave Lonnen are just two of the City of Lisburn AC athletes to look out for, while Andrew McIntyre and Andrew Tees will spearhead the Orangegrove AC attack.

Entries are AVAILABLE on race day and the race programme is available below:

  • 12pm:  P6 & P7 Boys & Girls 1,000m Race
  • 12.20pm:  Under 13 Boys & Girls 1,600m Race
  • 12.45pm:  Under 15 Boys & Girls 2,400m Race
  • 1.15pm:  Ladies Relay Race: U20, Seniors & Masters (O35) 7.8km – 2 x 1300m lap per athlete
  • 2.15pm:  Mens Relay Race: U20*, Seniors & Masters (O40) 10.4km – 2 x 1300m lap per athlete

Sperrin Harriers Winter League Trail Series 2018 – Parkanaur Forest 10 mile Trail Race:

Also on Saturday 10th February 2018, Sperrin Harriers will welcome athletes to the final race of their popular Winter League Trail Series, the Parkanaur Forest 10 mile Trail Race.

The Parkanaur Forest course comprises of three laps of the trail around the forest, taking athletes past the stately Parkanaur House and its gardens and along the Torrent River.

Ballymena Runners’ Jason Wilson and Mid Ulster AC’s Grace Carson have been the outstanding athletes of the Series so far, with Eoin Hughes (Acorns AC) and Gillian Wasson (Ballymena Runners) also impressing.

Jason and Eoin should take part, but Gillian won’t as she will be racing in Scotland (see Carnethy 5 preview).  Grace, may sit this one out given the distance – not that she’s not capable of competing over 10 miles, but the young athlete picked up a gold medal over 1500m at the NI & Ulster Age Group Indoor Championships last weekend; this would suggest her priorities lie in the shorter distances unless she treats it as a ‘long run’.

In the men’s race, Jason and Eoin should be joined by Shane Donnelly (Unattached), Conor Maguire (Omagh Harriers), Vincent McAlister (Acorns AC) and Paul McAnespie (Armagh AC).

Gillian and possibly Grace, may come up against the always impressive Ciara Toner (Springwell Running Club) and Gemma McDonald (Ballycastle Runners), as well as Karen McLaughlin (Springwell Running Club), Olivia Mullin (Greencastle AC), Laura Mitchell (Sperrin Harriers) and Lisa Coyle (1Zero1 Athletes).

Mallusk Harriers present The Mathieson Cup XC:

On Sunday 11th February 2018, Newtownabbey based Mallusk Harriers will host the Mathieson Cup XC, an event named after well-known and highly respected local volunteer Mags Mathieson, at the famous Mallusk Playing Fields.

You may wonder why the Mallusk Playing Fields are famous in terms of running? They used to play host to some major cross country events, which attracted world famous athletes such as Steve Ovett, Steve Cram, Brendan Foster and Paula Radcliffe, amongst others.

Those names may no longer compete, but some of Northern Ireland’s finest will be there.  Mark McKinstry (North Belfast Harriers) and Jessica Craig (North Down AC), winners of the Stormont XC last weekend, are both due to compete.

The talented pairing, who have both represented Northern Ireland at senior level at the Antrim International XC, will play a major part in their respective races.  In the men’s race, Mark will come up against Pius McIntyre (Foyle Valley AC), David McNeilly (Newcastle AC) and two athletes from Paul Pollock’s #DreamRunDublin17 programme, David Conliffe (PACE Running Club) and Paul Gorman (Albertville Harriers).

Meanwhile, Jessica will have Northern Ireland masters cross country international Tracey Atkinson (Albertville Harriers) for company in the ladies race.

The programme of events are as follows:

  • 11am: U11 Boys & Girls 1 mile Race
  • 11.20am: U13 & U15 Boys & Girls 2 mile Race
  • 11.50am: U17 Boys & Girls 3 mile Race
  • 12.30pm: Senior Ladies & Vets 3 mile Race
  • 1.15pm: Senior Men’s 4 mile Race

Other races taking place in Northern Ireland this weekend…

Saturday 10th February 2018:

  • The School Run, St Comgall’s PS, Antrim – Antrim Castle Gardens, Antrim – 11am (Entries AVAILABLE on race day!)

Sunday 11th February 2018:

  • The O’Cahan’s Trail Race – Roe Valley Country Park, Limavady – 10am (Entries AVAILABLE on race day!)

Events taking place outside Northern Ireland this weekend…

Today, Friday 9th February 2018, a large contingent of local students are expected be in action at the Irish Universities Athletics Association (IUAA) Indoor Track & Field Championships, which will be held at the AIT International Arena in Athlone, Ireland.

The one day event should see athletes from Queen’s University in Belfast and the University of Ulster compete against some of the best up and coming athletes from all over Ireland.

The event will be streamed live via the Irish Universities Athletics Association (IUAA) facebook page.  Full details of the event are available HERE.

Also in Ireland, Northern Ireland will be well represented at the Irish Life AAI National Intermediate & Masters XC Championships, which will take place in Galway, Ireland (Sunday 11th February 2018).

John Black, Philip Goss, Joe Malone, Andrew Considine and James Trainor will represent North Belfast Harriers in the Intermediate Men’s event and will be joined on the County Antrim team by Michael Magee and Lorcan Magee of Beechmount Harriers and John Craig from Victoria Park & Connswater AC.

North Belfast Harriers will also be well represented in the Masters event, with Eamon White, Neil Carty, Nat Glenn, David Clarke, Matt Shields and Laurence Johnston all due to compete.  Provisional entry lists for the event are available HERE.

In Spain, Irish Olympian Paul Pollock (Annadale Striders) will be competing against top opposition at the Barcelona Half Marathon (Sunday 11th February 2018).

On Saturday 10th February 2018, at least twelve runners from Northern Ireland will travel to Scotland for the tough and somewhat iconic Carnethy 5 Mountain Race, close to Edinburgh, an event hosted by highly respected Scottish club Carnethy Hill Running Club.

Northern Ireland man Emmet McAlister (Glens Runners) will return to the mountains and is expected to lead the local athletes over the five major Pentland peaks, covering 6 miles in distance and 2,500ft in ascent.

Ballymena Runners have always shown a big interest in what has been a popular race for Northern Ireland Mountain enthusiasts. In 2018, Mark Alexander, Tim Lowry, Ruth Aiken, Gillian Wasson, Jack McKenna and Alastair Hill will all represent the County Antrim Club. Eugene McCann (Newcastle AC) and Ann Sandford (Lagan Valley AC) will return, possibly with the impressive Paulette Thomson (Newcastle AC). Paulette had been side-lined with injury, but may make the trip as part of her comeback.

Ciara Largey (Lochaber AC) always steps onto a start line in good form, we expect the experienced Northern Ireland native to run well here. Peter Bell (Unattached) is also expected to run, if he does, the evergreen Vet60 athlete will compete well in his category. Interestingly, female course record holder (2002 – 54:20) and a lady who is well known to the NI mountain community, Angela Mudge (Carnethy HRC) will take part. Angela will face former Carnethy 5 Champion and Garmin Mourne Skyline GTR winner Sarah McCormick (Ambleside AC). Well known Irish athlete and Garmin Mourne Skyline MTR competitor and Irish international Paul Tierney (Ambleside AC) will also race.


As always, Northern Ireland’s twenty-five parkrun events will take place this weekend, for more information on these, or to locate your nearest event, please visit our dedicated ‘parkrun’ section within our fixtures page.

Note:  A weather warning is in force for Friday 9th February 2018, so please keep an eye out for important notifications from event organisers in relation to upcoming weekend events.