Weekend Preview: Bangor 10k, NIMRA Championship finale, Omagh 5 and more…


Weekend Preview:  Local athletes gear up for Bangor Classic!

Last weekend proved to be both exciting and successful for the local running scene, with one more Commonwealth Games qualifying standard (Kevin Seaward – Marathon) and numerous exceptional performances by familiar faces both at home and further afield.  Now, the top quality action roles into this coming weekend, with the popular and well-organisaed Bangor Classic 10k road race taking centre stage.

Local mountain runners will also travel to the Mourne Mountains for the final race of this year’s Northern Ireland Mountain Running Association (NIMRA) Championships, the Commedagh Chase.  In the west of the province, there is also the Omagh 5 mile road race, which never fails to attract a quality field.  These races will form the basis of our weekend preview, but we’ll of course mention any other events taking place over the next few days.

Belfast City Airport Bangor Classic 10k Road Race:

Undoubtedly the main event of the weekend will be the Bangor Classic 10k road race, which will take place on Saturday 30th September 2017.  The well-organised event, hosted by North Down AC and sponsored by Belfast City Airport, is part of the Novosco 10k Grand Prix.

The race will attract in excess of one thousand athletes, a figure not seen on the start line since back in the 1980’s when it became the ‘classic’ encounter that it is today.  Organisers have worked tirelessly to bring together a strong elite field and this has proven successful, but there will be hundreds of athletes taking to the County Down town’s streets with their own hopes and expectations.  Although online entries are closed, a limited number of late entries will be available on the day.

The course takes competitors from Castle Park, down through the atmospheric Town Centre and onto the picturesque North Down coastline, where they will complete a flat but harsh promenade section before turning and making their way back towards the town and subsequently, the well-supported finish area in Ward Park.

At the competitive end of the field, Belfast City Half Marathon winner Gideon Kipsang (Derry Track Club) will lead the charge for top honours.  He was expected to go head to head with Stephen Scullion (Clonliffe Harriers), the man he saw off to win in the capital two weeks ago; however, Stephen will not feature as he is in Flagstaff, Arizona training.  

Gideon won the Belfast City Half Marathon in 1:04:36.  He has also shown his class over 5k recently with a 14:51 to win the Bobby Farren 5k – he ran 30:34 for 10k back in 2015 at Jimmy’s 10k.

Mark McKinstry (North Belfast Harriers), the third place finisher from 2016, will also return and will again play a part at the front.  Mark impressed recently with a win at the Laganside 10k.

In what is a classy line up, the aforementioned duo will face tough opposition in the form of Paddy Hamilton (Slieve Gullion Runners), John Black (North Belfast Harriers), Andrew Annett (North Belfast Harriers) and Chris Madden (City of Lisburn AC).

North Down AC athletes Francis Marsh, Dennis Scott, James Budde and Craig McMeechan will ensure that the host club is well represented, while Emmett McGinty (City of Derry AC), Marc Jennings (North Belfast Harriers) and Kent Swann (North Belfast Harriers) also add further depth.

In the ladies race, Mourne Runners star and current Bangor 10k Champion, Laura Graham, will return to defend her title.  Last week, the Kilkeel woman clocked a significant personal best of 2:37:05 at the Berlin Marathon last week, a time which puts her in the frame for selection for the European Athletics Championships in 2018.  Enthused by the highly competitive line-up and superb atmosphere in 2016, Laura was keen to return and will take to the start line alongside a plethora of talent.

Former World Masters 800m Champion Kelly Neely (City of Lisburn AC) will feature prominently, especially following her 38:55 at the Laganside 10k earlier this month; a time achieved despite focusing on the track all season.  The host club’s Jessica Craig (North Down AC) and Rachel Gibson (North Down AC) will almost certainly contest a podium place.  Like Kelly, both Jessica and Rachel have enjoyed an excellent track season – Jessica returned to the roads with a 36:59 finish for third place at the Laganside 10k, while Rachel has impressed over the same distance earlier this year at Jimmy’s 10k, where she ran 37:46 for a podium place.

The always impressive pairing of Sarahjane Guiney (Unattached) and Ann Terek (City of Lisburn AC) will provide excellent competition at the head of the pack, while Amanda Perry (Ballydrain Harriers) and Julie Murphy (Lagan Valley AC) should be there or there abouts.  Junior star and part of the NiRunning Team at the recent Rathlin Run, Rio Catney (North Down AC) will also place well.

Commedagh Chase Mountain Race:

On Saturday 30th September 2017, a host of Northern Ireland’s top mountain runners will reconvene for the final race of the Northern Ireland Mountain Running Association (NIMRA) Championships, and the penultimate race of the mountain running season, the Commedagh Chase; which will be held in our stunning Mourne Mountains.

The event, hosted by Mourne Runners, will cover a 13k course from Trassey Track to the Hare’s Gap – from here runners take in the ridge to the top of Commedagh which includes Slievenaglogh and Slieve Corragh.  At the top of Commedagh runners will retrace their steps along the ridge over Slieve Corragh and Slievenaglogh.  On the return route, the course does not return to the Hare’s Gap but takes the stile halfway down Slievenaglogh and from here it is a straight out downhill sprint to the finish at the bottom of the Trassey Track.

It is highly likely that three recent NIMRA Champions may compete against each other.  Winner of the Commedagh Chase in 2014, Jonny Steede (Glens Runners), should be accompanied by 2015 NIMRA Champion Seamus Lynch (Newcastle AC) and current holder of the (NIMRA) title, and 2016 Chase winner William McKee (Mourne Runners).

Jonny has shown great form over the summer on the roads, also competing well off road, with an impressive victory at the Lurig Run in August and then a good placing at the competitive Ben Nevis Fell Race earlier this month.  Although the mountain running fraternity expected Seamus Lynch to return to the hills at some point, his presence at the Seven Sevens may have been somewhat surprising (in at the deep end!), anyhow, Seamus took the win there in August.  On that occasion, the impressive David Hicks (Newcastle AC) continued a run of great form, taking a close second place, following a win at technical Spelga Skyline (in July).  With further mountain events planned, it’s likely that Seamus will test himself against this course and the competition on Saturday.

William McKee, the current leader of the Championship, was another local man who competed well at Ben Nevis a few weeks ago and is likely to compete here.   Already with wins at Glenariff, The Fallows, Annalong Horseshoe and Loughshannagh the Mourne Runners athlete cannot be discounted.  Irish International mountain runner, Zak Hanna (Newcastle AC) is another man who may decide to participate in the Championship finale, albeit, his presence won’t secure an overall place, given that he has only competed in one event throughout the Series.

Along with the aforementioned David Hicks, the likes of David McKee (Mourne Runners), Shane Donnelly (Acorns AC), Jonny Scott (Mourne Runners), Neil Andrews (East Down AC), Colm Campbell (Newcastle AC), Alex Brennan (Unattached), Sam Herron (Mourne Runners) and Gary Bailey (Mourne Runners) will all be considered as potential podium contenders, while Dale Mathers (Mourne Runners), Paul Holywood (Armagh AC), Pete Grant (Newcastle AC) and Ricky Hanna (Mourne Runners) should all perform to their usual high standard.

In the ladies race, current Championship leader and recent winner of the iconic Ben Nevis Fell Race, Diane Wilson (Dromore AC) and 2016 Commedagh Chase winner Shileen O’Kane (Lagan Valley AC) will contest top honours in the absence of up and coming star Megan Wilson (Dark Peak Fell Runners / East Down AC). That said, Esther Dickson (Newry AC) will be in the mix if she decides to compete.   The aforementioned quartet have dominated the Championship this season, although Moire O’Sullivan (Unattached) and Gillian Wasson (Ballymena Runners) have shown their ability and potential – all could well start here, as could Sam McNeilly (Newcastle AC) and Bethany Haugh (Mourne Runners).

Along with eight other ladies, Martsje Hell (North Belfast Harriers) requires one more race to complete the Championship Series.  Martsje, who has spent some time in the mountains this summer and showed good form only last weekend, taking victory in the 26 Extreme Causeway Coast Half Marathon in tough conditions.  Along with some of the previously mentioned ladies, Mary Quinn (Newry City Runners), Denise Mathers (Mourne Runners) and Mary Mackin (Dromore AC) will all be looking to push for the overall category prizes.

Omagh 5 mile Road Race:

Also on Saturday 30th September 2017, runners from across the province will descend on Healy Park, Gortin Road, Omagh for the 2nd annual ‘Omagh 5’ mile road race and 2 mile run!

Presented by Club Omagh, the events take place on the roads surrounding Healy Park, on a fast, flat, 5 mile route. An added attraction is the novel race finishing line, situated on the terracing overlooking the Healy Park pitch.

The chosen race charity this year is The John McGirr Fund, and has been generously supported by the four main sponsors: McBride’s Retail Group, Sally’s of Omagh, Donnelly Group and O’Neills Sportswear.

The current best times were set on year one with Paul Barbour of Derry Track Club (26:32) and Pauline McGurren of Sperrin Harriers (31:23) leading the field home. The fact that the first nine male runners broke the famous 30 minute barrier, along with the top five ladies going under 35 minutes proves that this is a course with genuine personal best potential!

Martin Cox (Unattached) is likely to be a leading contender, as will Stephen Duncan of Omagh Harriers should he race. Unattached athlete Vincent McAlister, a classy competitor, should also run, while Lawrence O’Hara (Unattached) and James Monaghan (St Peter’s AC) should also run.

As for the ladies field, last year’s winner Pauline McGurren (Sperrin Harriers) will again be the hot favourite. Her opposition is likely to come from 2016 runner up Paula Donnelly (Unattached) and fourth place finisher Sinead McCann (Omagh Triathlon Club) respectively.  Omagh Harriers’ Hayley Ballard could well be in the mix for a podium place also.

All of this along with the refreshments available afterwards makes the ‘Omagh 5’ an event not to be missed!

Entries are available on Athletics NI website, while registration evenings will take place in the Healy Park clubrooms on Wednesday 27th and Friday 29th September from 7-9pm.  For more information go to www.facebook.com/omagh5mile.

Other competitive events taking place in Northern Ireland this weekend:

Saturday 30th September 2017:

–       The School Run 10k & 5k – Mountjoy Castle, Brocagh – 11:30am (Entries AVAILABLE on race day!)

–       Annaghmore Running Festival (5k, 10k, Half Marathon & 18 mile Race) – Annaghmore GAC Club Rooms – 10am (Entries AVAILABLE on race day!)

Sunday 1st October 2017:

–       Marty’s 5k Run – Templemore Sports Complex, Derry/Londonderry – 11am (Entries AVAILABLE on race day!)

–       St John Bosco 10k & 5k – Newry Swimming Pool, Newry – 9am (Entries AVAILABLE on race day!)

–       Run Anon Lough View Run Crumlin – The Glen, Crumlin – 11:30am onwards (Entries AVAILABLE on race day!)

Events taking place outside Northern Ireland this weekend:

Scotland based Armagh AC athlete Fionnuala Ross will be in action at the Scottish Half Marathon Championships this coming weekend (Sunday 1st October 2017), which is part of the Great Scottish Run (Half Marathon) in Glasgow.

The Frankfurt Marathon bound star, who won the ladies race at the Isle of Mull Half Marathon, finishing in 2nd place overall, in a personal best of 1:15:47, will contest the National Championship gold.  Fionnuala has also clocked 33:57 for 10k this year.


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.