Weekend Preview:  IAAF World Indoor Championships and more…

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Weekend Preview:  IAAF World Indoor Championships and more…

Between the #BeastFromTheEast and Storm Emma, the weekend fixture list has been decimated!

The local highlight, the SSE Airtricity 10 mile Road Race has fallen victim to the extreme weather conditions, while the opening fixture of the Northern Ireland Mountain Running Association (NIMRA) season, the Slieve Gullion Mountain Race, has also been postponed.

Further afield, the AAI National Masters Indoor Track & Field Championships have also been postponed.

Numerous parkrun events have also been cancelled – it’s worth checking with your local parkrun before travelling this weekend.

It’s not all doom and gloom though, there are still some tasty treats coming up over the next few days.  Four local athletes will be in action at the IAAF World Indoor Track & Field Championships in Birmingham (England), which we’ll have an extended ‘special feature preview’ for.

Locally, the Carmen 10k and Run Kirkistown Half Marathon, 10k and 5k races are still taking place as planned.

Special Feature Preview… IAAF World Indoor Track & Field Championships (Birmingham):

Northern Ireland quartet Amy Foster (City of Lisburn AC), Megan Marrs (City of Lisburn AC), Ciara Mageean (UCD AC) and Ben Reynolds (North Down AC) will all line up at the prestigious IAAF World Indoor Championships in Birmingham this weekend (Thursday 1st March 2018 – Sunday 4th March 2018).

City of Lisburn AC duo Amy and Megan have been in sensational form recently and will therefore go into the Championships with confidence.

Amy will compete over 60m, just two weeks after she clocked a new Irish 60m indoor record and NI indoor best of 7.27secs at the AAI National Senior Indoor Championships.   Two weeks prior to that, Amy had equalled Anna Boyle’s long standing Irish National 60m indoor record with a 7.30secs clocking at the Lee Valley Stadium in England.

The David Reid coached athlete, who will represent Ireland, also set a new Irish Universities Athletic Association (IUAA) 60m record of 7.33secs this year.

Meanwhile, Megan has kicked off 2018 in fine fashion, slashing 0.44secs off her 60m hurdles personal best – this culminated in the rising star securing gold over the 60m hurdles (8.16secs) at the British Athletics Senior Indoor Championships; ultimately, this performance gained Megan the ticket for the Championships.

Megan will relish her debut for Great Britain & Northern Ireland – three decades after her mother bestrode the international stage.

There have been huge strides forward this winter for the Loughborough-based prospect who came through the ranks at City of Lisburn AC before heading to UK Athletics performance base.

But it’s all been following in the footsteps of her Mum Debbie McDowell who was one of the country’s top high jumpers during her illustrious career.

“I found out the other day that the last (Northern Irish) woman to make a British team was my Mum,” Megan told Athletics NI.

“She was the last one to make a European indoor team. She was British champion 30 years ago in 1988 so to carry on and be the next one is quite nice. To be able to carry on in the family tradition is great.

“I was that child in the buggy being wheeled around. I’ve grown up on the track. But my parents never really pushed me into athletics until I chose to do it until the age of 14. They were unbelievably supportive. The whole family is flying over to Birmingham and it’s going to make it a big family event.”

Megan will use the global stage as a platform for the years ahead after figuring out the changes needed to push herself upwards.

“It’s just been my attitude I think,” she said. “It’s been about turning up for every session – giving it 110 per cent – making a lot more sacrifices this year. Last year was first year at university. I had to get all of that out of my system. This year I’ve really been able to sit down and concentrate.

“This makes me want to work harder. I never considered myself an indoor runner until now. So now if I can be selected for a world indoors, hopefully I can come out and do that again at the Europeans.”

The semi-finals and final in Birmingham are on Saturday night. The latter is Megan’s goal. But she said: “My main target is to really enjoy the experience and learn. I’ll be surrounded by amazing athletes, so if I can watch them and learn, hopefully it will be good for the future.”

Multiple Northern Ireland record holder Ciara Mageean will compete over 1500m and the 2016 European 1500 metres bronze medallist believes her tough decision to move from Dublin to Stockport will help her impress this weekend.

The 25-year-old, who will be part of Northern Ireland’s team on the Gold Coast in April, has settled into life on the other side of the Irish Sea since linking up with new coach Steve Vernon’s training group last year.

She will arrive at ArenaBirmingham off a rest spell that followed her eighth place at last month’s New Balance Grand Prix in Boston.

But Ciara, who is part of the five-strong Ireland team which includes fellow NI athletes Amy Foster and Ben Reynolds, for the BBC-televised showpiece, revealed house-sharing – and training – with leading athletes including Elinor Kirk, Ross Millington and Ben Connor has re-shaped her approach.

“That’s been fantastic for my mentality,” she said. “We’re supporting each other every step of the way. It makes things a little easier and for an athlete, it’s all the little things in my life that make things easier when it comes to the tough parts. You don’t use up energy.

“So a few of us will go to the gym together. We’ll go to the track together. Even chilling, we’ll take it in turns to make dinner. We’ll be in the front room foam-rolling. In Dublin I lived in my own in a house with the landlord and a flat-mate. It’s different to an athlete life.

“People thought I moved because I didn’t have the support – but the backing I had in Dublin was great. The Institute of Sport there put everything I needed on tap, like physio and S&C and sports psychology.

“I had a fantastic coach in Jerry Kiernan. But the move was to put me in a place where I could feel like a professional athlete and be able to take on the world. I’ve only been doing it a matter of months but it’s already working well.”

The Portaferry woman is ready for the challenge of taking on home favourite Laura Muir in the 1500m.

“She’s in flying form,” said the Northern Ireland 1500m record holder.  She added, “there are a load of girls who are running 1500 and her and Eilish McColgan are doubling up in the 3000m. But I see them as any other competitor once I get on the line. You have to race the race.”

Like Amy and Ciara, Ben Reynolds will represent Ireland at the event.  The North Down AC man will run his heats on Saturday and plans to use his second world indoors appearance to gear up for the Commonwealths.

“We’ve tried to step up from indoors to get ready for Commonwealths and this is about getting my starts really fast,” the 27-year-old from Holywood said. “And then I’ll focus on the Gold Coast to build my pace all the way through.

“My key here is to get to the semi-final at least. That would make such a difference to getting back on funding if I can do that at a major championships. That would take some pressure off. Athletics Northern Ireland have been really helpful with travel but that would give me extra help.”

The schedule for the four local athletes is as follows:

Amy Foster (60 metres – heats – Friday 10.35am)
Megan Marrs (60m hurdles – semi-final – Friday 6.05pm)
Ciara Mageean (1500m – heats – Friday 7.48pm)
Ben Reynolds (60m hurdles – heats – Saturday 6.30pm)

 

Carmen 10k Road Race:

On Saturday 3rd March 2018, in Carrickmore, close to Omagh, Carmen Runners will welcome athletes to the 9th annual running of their well-organised Carmen 10k road race.

The race has grown in popularity and stature each year and former winners include Stephen Duncan (Omagh Harriers) and Gary O’Hanlon (Clonliffe Harriers), and Breege Connolly (North Belfast Harriers) in the ladies category.

In 2017, Mark McKinstry (North Belfast Harriers) and Julie Butler (Omagh Harriers) took top honours.

It is unclear whether any of the aforementioned talent will travel to the County Tyrone spectacle, however, Foyle Valley AC’s Keith Shiels and Acorns AC’s Eoin Hughes, winner of the recent Sperrin Harriers Winter League Trail Series, should head the men’s field alongside Carmen Runners pair Martin Cox and Michael Kerr.

In the ladies race, current NI & Ulster 10,000m Champion Marina Murphy should race and will join talented duo Ann-Marie McGlynn (Letterkenny AC) and Pauline McGurren (Sperrin Harriers) on the start line.

 

Other events taking place in Northern Ireland this weekend…

 

Sunday 4th March 2018:

  • Kirkistown Half Marathon, 10k & 5k – Kirkistown Race Track – 2pm (Entries AVAILABLE on race day!)
  • Race to Recovery 10k – Ormeau Park, Belfast – 10am (Entries AVAILABLE on race day!) ** Postponed to 10/3/2018

Parkrun:

A number of Northern Ireland’s twenty five parkrun events have cancelled their events due to the weather conditions.  We would advise anyone who is intending to travel to a parkrun this weekend to check with organisers to see if it on.

For more information on parkrun or to locate your nearest event, please visit our dedicated ‘parkrun’ section within our fixtures page.

Note:  Photo of Amy Foster used above by BELFAST TELEGRAPH SPORT.