Weekend Preview:  Long distance running returns to Victoria Park!

Weekend Preview:  Long distance running returns to Victoria Park!

This weekend will see some of the World’s top distance runners return to Victoria Park in Belfast for the annual Energia 24-hour Race and associated events.  The 24-hour Race is also the AAI National Championships.

This weekend will also bring the 10th anniversary of the Dromore 10k & 5k road races in County Tyrone and the final race of the Newcastle AC Hill & Dale Series.

Two Northern Ireland based athletes will represent Ireland at the World Mountain Running Association (WMRA) Long-Distance Championships and there will be familiar faces in action in England, Wales and America.

These events will be the focus of our weekend preview, but as always, we’ll provide a list of the other races taking place this weekend.

Hill & Dale Series finale @ Drinahilly:

Later tonight (Friday 22nd June 2018), hundreds of athletes will descend on Donard Forest in Newcastle for Race 10 of Newcastle AC’s popular Hill & Dale Series.

The Drinahilly Race covers 4.75 miles in distance with approximately 1080ft of ascent. After the event, athletes will gather for the overall Series prie-giving.

A host of top stars are expected to compete, with Seamus Lynch (Newcastle AC), William McKee (Mourne Runners), Zak Hanna (Newcastle AC), Timothy Johnston (Mourne Runners) and David McKee (Mourne Runners) likely to be amongst the front runners on what is a fast course.

In the ladies race, Esther Dickson (Newry AC), Sarah Graham (Mourne Runners), Shileen O’Kane (Lagan Valley AC), Martsje Hell (North Belfast Harriers), Gillian Wasson (Ballymena Runners), Marie Troeng (Newcastle AC) and Karen Wilton (Jog Lisburn AC) will contest the podium places.

Energia 24-hour International:

Long distance running returns to Victoria Park, Belfast this weekend (Saturday 23rd and Sunday 24th June 2018) for the Energia24-hour International and National Championships.

It has already been an interesting and busy year for national champion and record holder Eoin Keith,49, who defends his title at Energia24.

In January, the Cork ultra-runner pulled out of the 268 mile (420kms) Montane Spine Race on safety grounds in the middle of a snow storm while leading. In April, he was invited to Tennessee to take part in the infamous Barkley Marathons and fell and broke his collarbone in a thunderstorm. There were no finishers. There have only been 15 finishers in its 33 year history. In May, the sun shone on him as he won the 190 miles (306kms) Northern Traverse with an hour to spare over the opposition.

Two weeks later he was back captaining the Irish team in Romania at the European 24-hr Championships and finishing 19th having covered nearly 145 miles (233kms).

It is a big ask to expect him to have recovered for Belfast but the Sportsworld athlete is not like other mortals and secretly he’ll be looking at that Irish record of 154.4 miles (248.4kms) that he set in Victoria Park last year at the World Championships.

Eoin will be joined in Belfast by fellow Irish team-mates in Romania Aidan Hogan,45, from Cork and  Madrid-based Eddie Gallen, 55, who loves to run in his home town and for whom this will be his 36th 24-hr race.

All three will need to keep a wary eye on Australian Barry Loveday, 40, who won the Canberra 24-hr race two years ago with 160 miles (258kms) – although he will have to get over the jet-lag coming from Queensland.  Norfolk’s Ian Thomas,59, only started running seriously when he reached the age of 50 but he is a three time finisher of the famous Spartatlon in Greece and finished 6th in his 24-hr debut in Barcelona. Welshman Jack Blackburn, 28, showed he is in good form running 2:37 at this year’s Virgin London marathon and Latvia’s Vilnis Pleite, 46, loves the Victoria Park course.

Among the ‘local’ runners to keep an eye on are Lifford’s Ed McGroarty, 41, Bangor’s Mark Walker, 48, and Newtownabbey’s Ian McAuley, 47. At the World Championships last year all three were inspired to big PBs ranging from 132-136 miles (213-219kms).

Given the ultra reputation of the Japanese runners, Mizuki Aotami, 44, will start favourite for the women’s race. The Tokyo athlete finished 15th at the World Championships (142 miles/228kms) and has since finished 5th at a big 24-hr race in Taiwan.

Co. Antrim Harrier Louise Smart, 39, from Newtownabbey leads the Irish challenge in the absence of Wicklow’s Amy Masner who didn’t feel she could recover from the European Championships in time (where she finished 10th) to defend her Irish title.  Irish international Louise ran very close to her PB in Romania (127 miles/205kms) – but there will be question marks over her recovery in such a short space of time.

Also challenging will be GB international Sam Amend, 39, who makes her first step up to the 24-hour. She won the 100k in Belfast 2 years ago and showed good form back in March winning the Anglo-Celt Home Countries 100K Plate (7:53) in a new course record and taking 16 mins off her personal best. And, many will be following closely the return of Galway’s Valerie Glavin, 43. The Athenry runner holds the Irish Indoor 24-hr record (218km/135 miles) set back in 2011 in Finland.

Just 2 athletes will have done all 9 Energia 24s: Eddie Gallen and Ballynahinch’s Iryna Kennedy who is back despite suffering a cardiac arrest last year. Since that, she has gone on to pass the 100 marathon mark.

And, there are two 69-year-old women in the field: Louth’s Collette O’Hagan and Epsom’s Ann Bath. Collette is one month older!. She has completed 551 marathons and Ann holds a plethora of records including the 65+ world age-group record at 116 miles (187 kms).

The 12-hr race sees the return of remarkable Cork woman Sinead Kane, 36. The visually impaired athlete and her guide finished a close-up second in this race in 2016 and last year the Youghal runner conquered the 7 Marathons on 7 Continents in 7 Days.

And, in the 100Km, there will be much interest in the return of Irish record holder Keith Whyte, 38. Persistent injury and 3 hip surgeries has kept the Ennis track athlete away from racing for nearly 2 years. But he’s back looking to better that record (7:02) and impress the Irish selectors ahead of the World Championships in Croatia in September.  Willowfield Harriers’ Tim Brownlie will also line-up in the 100k.

There are also a record 18 teams entered for the 24-hr relay. In all representatives from some 14 countries and 26 Irish counties will go to the line.

Belfast24 is sponsored by the leading independent gas and electricity provider Energia and has the backing of Belfast City Council’s Support for Sport initiative.

Dromore Road Races celebrate 10th Anniversary:

The Dromore Road Race in County Tyrone are celebrating 10 years of the cross- community event on Saturday 23rd June 2018 (12 noon). The successful fixture comprising of a 10K, 5K and 5K walk has gone from strength to strength and has welcomed thousands of participants over the last nine years.

McDermott’s Pharmacy have returned as title sponsors, supporting the event for the last 8 years while the charity partner is Aware NI, official depression charity in the province.

2018 has some exciting additions including having your name personalised on your race number (pre-entry only) as well as a tech t-shirt for all participants. Once again there will be chipped timing for the 10K and 5K run.

The event has raised a staggering £30,000 for charity since 2009 while also donating money to the local sports centre and community initiatives. In 2012, the town joined in the London 2012 Olympics as the Torch Relay came through Dromore in June while in 2014 the route was updated to include the Riverside walk.

There could be quite a battle at the front of the field if the top two from 2017 turn up.  Stephen Duncan (Omagh Harriers), who remains unbeaten over the course and Enniskillen’s Stephen Cassidy always provide an interesting dual while Conor Maguire and Paul Barbour could also fight for positions after recent performances in Strabane Half Marathon (1.17.32) and Ballygawley 10K (35.36) respectively. Former Olympic racewalker Colin Griffin (Ballinamore AC) may shake things up with a recent 2.29 performance in the Belfast Marathon.

Contenders in the female race should include 2017 winner and local triathlon athlete Sinead McCann (Omagh Tri Club) as well as second place finisher Anne McFarland (Dumfries Running Club).

Dromore Sports Centre will count down to the event with a free ‘5 weeks to 5k’ programme starting on Tuesday 22nd May. Group runs will take place every Tuesday (6pm) and Thursday (7pm) and all new faces and abilities are welcome.

St. Johns College in Dromore are huge supporters of the event and are entering over 20 pupils in the 5K race in 2018. The 5K Walk will see participation from the Dromore Walking and Keep Active groups.

Numbers and late entry will be available at Dromore Sports Centre on Friday 22nd (6:30-8pm) & Saturday 23rd  June (10:00 – 11.30am). Veteran prizes for the 10K race for male and female runners will be in the O35, O45, O55 & O65 categories.

Online Entry and full information on the race can be found at www.dromore10k.com

Other events taking place in Northern Ireland this weekend…

Friday 22nd June 2018:

  • Paul Murray Memorial 5k Grand Prix (Race 3): Eskra Community Centre – 7.30pm (Entries AVAILABLE on race day!)

Saturday 23rd June 2018:

  • Loup 5k & 5 mile Races: Loup Crossroads, Moneymore – 10.30am (Entries AVAILABLE on race day!)

Sunday 24th June 2018:

  • Let’s Go Hydro 5k: Let’s Go Hydro Water Park – 10am (Entries AVAILABLE on race day!)
  • St Mary’s Carland 5k: St Mary’s PS, Carland – 10am (Entries AVAILABLE on race day!)
  • AAI National League Track & Field Meeting: Mary Peters Track, Belfast – All Day Event (Individual Entries AVAILABLE on race day! NO team entries available on race day!)

Events taking place outside Northern Ireland this weekend…

Northern Ireland men Ian Bailey (Newcastle AC) and Eoin Lennon (Carnethy HRC) will be part of a strong Ireland team at this weekends World Mountain Running Association (WMRA) Long Distance Championships in Poland (Sunday 24th June 2018).

The talented pair, who are both regulars at the Garmin Mourne Skyline Mountain-Trail Race in Northern Ireland, will take on a plethora of the world’s top mountain runners over a 36.2k course which includes approximately 2,110m of ascent.

Respected trail and ultra-runner Nicki McPeak will take on the famous Western States 100 mile Trail Race in America this weekend.  The race, which includes a massive 18,000m of ascent takes place on Saturday 23rd June 2018.

Closer to home, there will be plenty of Northern Ireland interest at the BMC Loughborough GP in England on Saturday 23rd June 2018.

Danny Mooney (Letterkenny AC), Emma Mitchell (QUB AC), Conall Kirk (Annadale Striders), Fintan Stewart (City of Derry AC), Callum Crawford-Walker (Annadale Striders), Jonny Whan (City of Lisburn AC), Neil McCartan (East Down AC), Neil Johnston (Springwell RC) and Patrick McNiff (Newcastle AC) are some of the familiar faces who will be in action.  A full start list for the event is available HERE.

Mourne Runners athlete Laura Graham and North Belfast Harriers’ Gladys Ganiel O’Neill will join fellow Ireland international Claire McCarthy in a classy ladies field at this weekend’s Swansea Half Marathon in Wales (Sunday 24th June 2018).


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.