Special Preview: Local athletes look forward to Christmas Classics…


Special Preview:  Local athletes look forward to Christmas Classics…

Some people take it easy over the Christmas holidays… some don’t, but one thing is for sure – there are plenty of tempting festive treats in terms of local races over the coming days.  Whether you’re a ‘mountain goat’ or a ‘tarmac licker’, there’s something for everyone!

Events like the Greencastle 5 mile road race and BARF’s Turkey Trot will attract the most numbers – these two traditional Christmas classics will form the basis of our ‘Special Christmas Preview’, but as always, we’ll provide a list of what is happening around Northern Ireland in the coming days.

Greencastle 5 mile Road Race:

The 32nd annual Greencastle 5 mile road race will take place on Boxing Day (Tuesday 26th December 2017) and like previous years, there will be a plethora of talent taking to the start line. Race Director Oliver McCullagh and his team work hard over the Christmas holidays to ensure that the race continues to build on its outstanding reputation and it’s just reward that such a good field turn out year after year for what is a fast race; even with that infamous ‘big hill’ in the latter stages.

Over the last few years, especially in 2015, athletes have had to battle some tough weather conditions – this year, it looks like it will be wet, with rain and cold temperatures forecasted.

Reigning Champion Paul Pollock (Annadale Striders) may return to defend his title – twelve months ago, the Olympic marathoner clocked an impressive 24:52 in blustery conditions.  Paul could be joined on the start line by training partner and friend Kevin Seaward (St Malachy’s AC), who is also back home in Northern Ireland for the holidays.  Podium finishers from 2016, Paddy Hamilton (Slieve Gullion Runners) and Conan McCaughey (Derry Track Club), are likely starters, while Scott Rankin (Foyle Valley AC) and John McQuade (Omagh Harriers) will race and should be considered as potential front-runners.  Andrew Annett (North Belfast Harriers), Pierce McCullagh (Sperrin Harriers), Stephen Duncan (Omagh Harriers) and Aaron Meharg (Acorns AC) may also toe the line.

In the ladies race, Northern Ireland 10k, 10,000m (Track) and 5,000m record holder Emma Mitchell (QUB AC) will be the one to beat.  Hard working and humble athlete Emma will add to the long list of high profile ladies who have who have supported this race and should take top honours.  The Commonwealth Games bound athlete could face former Champion Heather Foley (Unattached), as well as Olympian Catriona Jennings (Letterkenny AC).  Sinead Sweeney (QUB AC), Pauline McGurren (Sperrin Harriers), Cathy McCourt (Unattached) and Natalie Hall (Acorns AC) will also be considered as podium contenders should they race.

Important:  Online entry for the Greencastle 5 mile Road Race is still AVAILABLE until 23:59hrs on Christmas Eve (Sunday 24th December 2017).  Check HERE for online entry.

BARF Turkey Trot Mountain Race:

The Boxing Day (Tuesday 26th December 2017) ‘Turkey Trot’, hosted by (BARF) annually attracts competitors from all corners of the United Kingdom.  This year will be no different, with Northern Ireland based runners returning home for the festive period, or indeed being dragged to the emerald isle by their partners.

Due to the increasing participation and a credit to this well organised event, the Race HQ and race start will move to Tollymore Mountain Centre because of the increased parking facilities.  The new route will be approximately 2 miles longer, starting and finishing at Parnell’s Bridge in the scenic Tollymore Forest Park.  The rest of the popular course will remain the same, with plenty of long ascents to the Cols between Slieve Bearnagh/Slieve Meelmore and Slieve Meelmore/Slieve Meelbeg and fast, but at times tricky, descending at Happy Valley.

Looking at the likely starters, it’s fair to say that most of the podium finishers from 2016 and 2015 should return for another attempt at success.  Paul Prizina (Ballydrain Harriers), should start and will again be in contention.  Paul’s progress through the junior ranks and then into the senior events has been impressive, with his ability to climb, along with his speed, he’ll again be a podium favourite.  Newcastle AC trio Seamus Lynch, David Hicks and Zak Hanna will all enjoy this route and have proven success in the past, with David taking a step up in quality throughout 2017 he’ll compete well with this club-mates.  International Orienteer star Jack Millar, who took second place in 2016, may return in 2017 and along with the likes of Carnethy HRC pair Eoin Lennon and Iain Whiteside, should add talent to the pack, should the make the trip home and decide to compete.  Likewise, local men Shane Donnelly (Unattached), Colm Murtagh (Newcastle AC), Ricky Hanna (Mourne Runners) and Neil Andrews (East Down AC) will all be suited to this course.

In the ladies race, familiar names such as Diane Wilson (Dromore AC), adventurer Moire O’Sullivan (Unattached), Megan Wilson (Dark Peak FR) and Bethany Haugh (Mourne Runners) have dominated the podium in previous years and with all of them likely to compete again in 2017, the Turkey Trot will be another interesting event in the thriving ladies mountain running calendar.  With the likes of Martsje Hell (North Belfast Harriers), Garmin Mourne Skyline MTR Champion Shileen O’Kane (Lagan Valley AC), Newry AC’s talented Esther Dickson, Edinburgh based Aisling Allum (Carnethy HRC) and Mourne Runners Charlene Haugh and Sarah Graham showing form in recent months, competition again looks good for Boxing Day, should all the ladies decide to make use of the on the day entry system.

Other events taking place in Northern Ireland between Friday 22nd December 2017 and Wednesday 27th December 2017:

Friday 22nd December 2017:

–       East Antrim Marathon Series ‘Black Eyed Friday’ Event – Loughshore Park, Newtownabbey – 8am

Sunday 24th December 2017:

–       Hazelbank Christmas Run – Hazelbank Park, Newtownabbey – 11am

Tuesday 26th December 2017:

–       Burren Townlands Run – Burren Heritage Centre, Burren – 10:30am

–       Brocagh Bay Boxing Day Run – Castlebay Community Centre, Brocagh – 10:15am

Wednesday 27th December 2017:

–       Eglinton Trail Run – Muff Glen Forest, Eglinton – 11:30am


Some of Northern Ireland’s twenty five parkrun events will be running on Christmas morning (Monday 25th December 2017).  We would recommend that you check with your local parkrun to confirm local arrangements.  For more information on parkrun, or to locate your nearest event, please visit our dedicated ‘parkrun’ section within our fixtures page.