A capacity field of over four hundred athletes will take on this weekend’s Rathlin Run, a Bank Holiday special which celebrates its 18th running on Saturday 24th August 2019.
The unique race, which is sponsored by Rathlin Island Ferry Company, Clif Bar and Rejuvenate Massage Therapy, offers competitors the option of a tough, undulating and incredibly scenic 10 mile course as well as a scenic and less hilly 5k; all of this after a pleasant ferry crossing from Ballycastle.
A host of Northern Ireland based club travel to the event en-mass, enjoying a club day out – Jog Lisburn Running Club, Ballycastle Runners AC, Glenlough Running Club, Glens Runners and East Coast AC are just a few of the Athletics NI affiliated clubs who will bring significant numbers to the island.
The 10 mile course takes competitors from Church Bay, the hub of the island, inland in the direction of the East Light House before they negotiate a steep downhill and uphill section and join the main road towards the popular RSPB Seabird Centre and the West Lighthouse. After turning at the RSPB Seabird Centre, the field will make their way back towards the atmospheric finish area in Church Bay.
Current men’s Champion Neill Weir (Willowfield Harriers) will return to defend his title. Last year, Neill saw off course record holder Philip Goss (North Belfast Harriers) to win in 58:59 – the question is, will he go for Philip’s record of 57:57 having now experienced the tough undulating route.
Chasing the Willowfield Harriers man at the front will be international star Jonny Steede (Glens Runners), a man who is well used to courses similar to Rathlin, given his extensive mountain and trail experience. Earlier this month, Jonny secured victory at the famous Lurig Challenge Mountain Race.
Jonny Graham (Ballymena Runners), Stephen Montgomery (Glenlough Running Club), Fabrice Scoupe (Belfast Running Club) and Michael Magee (Beechmount Harriers) should all be amongst the contenders for the final podium place.
Ballycastle Runners AC’s Gemma McDonald, a two-time winner and course record holder of the Rathlin Run 5k (under her maiden name) will take on the 10 mile route and will be considered as pre-race favourite.
In 2018, the exceptionally talented athlete had to settle for the runners up spot as Dub Runners’ Claire Tonry stole the headlines with a new female course record of 1:08:07 for the win.
Gemma clocked 1:12:33 for 2nd place and twelve months down the line, and following some notable performances, including a victory at the Lurig Challenge, she’ll be hopeful of bettering that; but more importantly, topping the podium.
Could Gemma beat this and be the first person ever to hold both the 5k and 10 mile course records at the same time?
In pursuit of the pre-race favourite will be several talented and respected athletes, including podium finisher from 2017, Helen F Weir (North Belfast Harriers), 2018 5k winner Erica Calder (DSD AC) and the always impressive Helen Byers (North Down AC). Unattached athlete Megan Dowds, Albertville Harriers’ Beverley Mitchell and Glens Runners ladies Catherine McLaughlin and Anna Steede will also be worth watching.
In the associated Rathlin Run 5k, athletes will make their way from Church Bay towards Rue Point, over a hilly outward section. After turning, the field will enjoy a predominantly flat and downhill second half which offers stunning coastline views as they race back towards Church Bay and the finish line.
Previous winner Peter Fleming (Ballymena Runners) will return and could be a front runner in the men’s event alongside Will Colvin of Springwell Running Club.
In the ladies race, Kirsten Montgomery (Glenlough Running Club) and Ruth Maltman (East Coast AC) will finish well up the field and should be considered as potential podium finishers.
Full information about the event is available on the official race website at www.rathlinrun.co.uk