Weekend Preview:  The #Legenderry Walled City Marathon returns this weekend…

Weekend Preview:  Walled City Marathon and more…

One of Northern Ireland’s best sporting events, the SSE Airtricity Walled City Marathon returns this weekend and once again a capacity crowd will take to the streets of the Maiden City for the event.

Last year, Catherine Whoriskey deservedly stole the headlines when the home town girl won the ladies race in epic fashion.  One year on, the local running fraternity is waiting to see if any new hero’s will come to the fore in what should be an excellent race.

There are of course several other events taking place over the next few days, with the local highlights being the Derry Track Club hosted Bobby Farren 5k and North Belfast Harriers’ DMC Trail Races.

In England, a team from the Northern Ireland Mountain Running Association (NIMRA) will compete in the Home Countries International Mountain Running Championships.

Our weekend preview will focus on these events, but we will also provide you with details of what is happening around Northern Ireland this weekend.

SSE Airtricity Walled City Marathon 2018:

Its all systems go for the 6th annual SSE Airtricity Walled City Marathon (Sunday 3rd June 2018) according to Race Director Noel McMonagle.

Speaking this week, Noel said: “We are all set to welcome 1400 marathon runners and another 200 participants in the associated Mini Marathon for 7 to 17 year olds, and look forward to another brilliant day as the runners take in the roads and Greenways along the banks of the river Foyle.”

He continued, “Our volunteer marshalls, feed and water Station staff and the first aid and medical personnel are terrific assets to the event, and with a huge spectator input always guaranteed we are confident of yet again showcasing the City and District.”

The Marathon starts at 8.30am at the Everglades Hotel on the Prehen Road and the Mini-Marathon at 9.45am from adjacent to the Gasyard Centre. Both events will share the iconic finish in Guildhall Square, the Mini Marathon runners coming in around 10am and the Marathon runners finishing from around 10.50am.

Spectators should get out and about early with the usual hot spots like both ends of the Peace Bridge, Fahan Street, the Diamond and of course the finish in Guildhall Square all expected to draw big numbers.

Who will win?

What about the race itself?   A trio of Kenyan men look set to contest the podium places – all have won here before, so know the course well; should they make a race of it, the course record could be threatened.

Dan Tanui (Project Africa) won last year, Eric Koech (Project Africa) in 2016 and Freddy Sittuk (Raheny Shamrock AC) took both the 2014 and 2015 honours.

Freddy’s 2:22:34 is the men’s course record from 2015, while Eric posted 2:23:47 in 2016 to pip Dan Tanui by a mere 3 seconds.

Eric beat Dan in the recent Belfast Marathon and claimed victory at last week’s Buncrana 5k in style.  At the Belfast Marathon, Eric won in 2:18:19, with Dan finishing in 2:20:19 – meanwhile, local favourite Freddy has been relatively quiet, but cannot be ruled out.

The Walled City Marathon course would be considered slightly tougher than Belfast, but both are similar in many ways, so a sub 2:20 finish time and new course record are very strong possibilities when considering Eric and Dan’s performances in last month and the fact that Freddy has also clocked 2:18:30 in the capital.

Beechmount Harriers man Niall Farquharson, a fourth placed finisher at this event in 2017, will also return and should lead the challenge for the first local athlete home.  Enniskillen Running Club’s Dave Slater will also go well, as will Foyle Valley AC men Johnny Canning and Adrian McGowan.

City of Derry Spartans trio Mark Mullan, Paul McCafferty and James Crampsie will also be amongst the top finishers.

RISE athlete John Fisher, who finished well under eighty minutes at the Larne HM back in March, could also be worth watching as we look towards the top ten finishers.

Irish ultra-runner Don Hannon (Cork), Michael Broadhead (Orangegrove AC) and David Noble (Larne AC) will all finish well up the field.  Another entry of note is Terry Canning (Omagh Harriers), the marathon runner and firefighter who famously helped a distressed athlete to the finish line at the Boston Marathon in 2017.

The ladies…

It’s very much a case of ‘do you want to hear the good news or bad news first’ in the ladies race – we’ll get the bad news out of the way before discussing what will be a very closely contested event.

Reigning Champion and local hero Catherine Whoriskey will not start, so we are assured a new Champion.

Double female winner Pauline Curley of Tullamore Harriers, who won in 2015 and 2016 breaking 2hrs 48m on both occasions is another absentee – it was hoped that Pauline would be chasing her third WCM title, but the Olympic marathoner is a late withdrawal.

Now the good news! This leaves two quality athletes, both of very similar ability and current form, to go head-to-head in a battle for top honours – hence it should be a superb race for the gathered spectators.

2014 winner Anne Curley, from Dublin, will come up against top local veteran Louise Smith of North Belfast Harriers.

When Anne last topped the Guildhall Square podium it was after clocking a then course record of 2:57:50. Interestingly, Louise ran 2:57:36 at the recent Belfast City Marathon.  These statistics along let us see that the talented pairing will provide an excellent battle.

Former #DreamRunDublin17 team member Tara Malone (1Zero1) and City of Lisburn AC’s Eimear McCracken will feature at the front, as will North West based ladies Sandra McKeever, Gemma Mc Ginty and Denise Ward, all from Foyle Valley AC.

Beverly Mitchell (Albertville Harriers), Catherine Pinkerton (Springwell RC) and Athanasia Sevastaki (Belfast Running Club) could claim top ten finishes.

Fiona Prue (Ward Park Runners) and Catherine Miskelly (Ballydrain Harriers), who recently picked up her medal having completed all of the World Marathon Majors, both have the potential to place well should they race the event.

Noel McMonagle has a final word, “Hopefully the weather will be good for both runners and spectators, it looks like temperatures will not be as high as recent days – that will benefit the runners and we will have measures in place for adequate hydration throughout the course.  Dry and a bit of cloud will help and spectator support is also so important for the runners ”

He concluded, “All the hard training has been done so go out on Sunday, good luck and enjoy yourselves, and that goes for everybody, runners, officials and spectators.”

Bobby Farren 5k:

The annual Bobby Farren 5k will kick off the weekend proceedings tonight (Friday 1st June 2018).  The Derry Track Club hosted event has proved popular with local athletes because of its fast course and excellent organisation.

In-form Foyle Valley AC athlete Keith Shiels is a definite starter and following recent podium places at the Buncrana 5k (2nd place – 14:59) and the Killyclogher 10k (1st place – 32:21) he should start as favourite.

Chris McGuinness (Foyle Valley AC), who finished behind Keith at the hilly (and windy) Killyclogher event, will also toe the line here, as will former Irish marathon Champion Gary Crossan (Letterkenny AC) and Bobby Farren Jnr, who in his day was a 13:47 5,000m runner.

Possibly the most eye catching pre-entry is that of Irish Olympian Maria McCambridge (DSD AC).  Maria, who has more recently been headlining with performances over 26.2 miles, clocked 15:57 for 5,000m at the Olympic Games in Greece (2004); however, the well known athlete has a personal best of 15:05 for the distance.

Entries for the well-organised event are AVAILABLE on race day.

Run DMC Trail Races:

On Sunday 3rd June 2018, North Belfast Harriers will welcome nearly 200 athletes to Divis and Black Mountain for the Run DMC Trail Races.

The event, which used to be the ‘Belfast Hills’ race, now offers competitors three choices of distance. They are:

Ridge Run: 5 miles

Ridge Run & Summit: 7.5 miles.

Ridge Run & Summit & Heath: 9.5 miles

North Belfast Harriers’ own Joe Malone will continue his comeback from injury as he takes on the 5 mile Ridge Run and alongside Elizabeth Leitch (Victoria Park & Connswater AC) in the accompanying ladies race, the pair look to be the strongest contenders for the top prizes.

City of Lisburn AC endurance specialist Diane Watson is the stand-out athlete in the 7 mile Ridge Run & Summit Race, while in the 9.5 mile Ridge Run, Summit & Heath event, it’s again NBH athletes, who should prevail, with Simon Reeve and Martsje Hell both set to compete.

Other events taking place in Northern Ireland this weekend…

Friday 1st June 2018:

  • Taking the Tower: Kiltonga Industrial Estate – 7pm (Entries AVAILABLE on race day!)
  • Tatts 5 mile & 5k: Tattyreagh GAC – 7pm (Entries AVAILABLE on race day!)

Saturday 2nd June 2018:

  • Lough Neagh Rescue Charity 5 mile & 10k Races: Loughshore, Antrim – 11am (Entries AVAILABLE on race day!)
  • Great Derrynoose Run: Derrynoose – 6pm (Entries AVAILABLE on race day!)

Sunday 3rd June 2018:

  • Portglenone Trail Run: Portglenone Forest – 9.30am (Entries AVAILABLE on race day!)

Events taking place outside Northern Ireland this weekend…

Home Countries International Mountain Running Championships:

On Saturday 2nd June 2018, Northern Ireland will be well represented at the British Athletics Home International Mountain Running Championships, which takes place in Sedbergh, Cumbria (England).

The course covers the Southern Howgill Fells above Sedbergh and incorporates the British Athletics World Mountain Running Championships trials, which will mean a highly competitive field.

Teams have been invited from Northern Ireland, England, Scotland and Wales and only those selected by their national federation will be eligible for the purposes of scoring and prizes.

The Northern Ireland team is as follows:

David Hicks (Newcastle AC) – Team Captain
Ryan Stewart (Shettleston Harriers)
Gavin Mulholland (Calder Valley FR)
Zak Hanna (Newcastle AC) – U23
John McKee (Springwell RC) – U23

Reserve: Alex Brennan (Springwell RC)


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.