AES Larne Half Marathon 2018:
City of Derry AC duo Mark Long and Breege Connolly deservedly stole the headlines as a record number of close to 2,000 athletes took on the 26th annual Larne Half Marathon (Saturday 24th March 2018), an event hosted by Larne AC.
The race is part of the Pure Running Half Marathon Series.
Early on, it was Foyle Valley AC’s Keith Shiels who led, taking the field through the Town Centre and onto the famous Antrim Coast Road. Mark Long, who had flown in from England for the event, followed, with Neill Weir (Willowfield Harriers) and John Black (North Belfast Harriers) contesting third place.
In the ladies race, eventual winner Breege Connolly led from the start – behind, previous winner Fiona Stack (Raheny Shamrock AC) was battling with Karen Alexander (Unattached) for the runners up spot.
As the race went through half way, during which the athletes covered a tough in-land loop before returning to the Coast Road, Mark caught Keith at the head of the pack – Neill Weir looked to have cemented third place with John 16 seconds behind.
Despite his best efforts, pre-race favourite Keith was unable to catch Mark as the pair relentlessly covered the return journey along the sunny Coast Road and it was the Spartan athlete who dropped swiftly downhill onto the Promenade first.
Mark covered the final 850 metres with ease, breaking the tape in 1:09:22 (1st place); this was a significant personal best for the Newcastle-Upon-Tyne based athlete. Keith followed just over 30 seconds later in 1:09:57 (2nd place), before Neill, a podium finisher at the event in 2017, completed the top three in 1:11:49 (3rd place).
In the ladies race, Rio Olympic marathoner Breege continued to dominate into the second half, extending her lead as she made her way back towards the picturesque finish at Larne Leisure Centre. The Northern Ireland and Ireland international crossed the line in 1:17:52 (1st place) to secure her third victory at the Larne Half Marathon, following wins in 2015 and 2009. Fiona, winner in 2014, clocked 1:21:11 for 2nd place, before Karen claimed 3rd place in 1:22:01.
Provisional Results: AES Larne Half Marathon 2018 Results