Weekend Preview:  Local runners look ahead to a busy weekend…


Weekend Preview:  Local runners look ahead to a busy weekend…

The local running fraternity will have plenty of choice this coming weekend, with no less than nine fixtures taking place over three days – of these, the highlights will be Springwell Running Club’s LacPatrick Milk Run 5 mile road race, Dub Runners’ Gaints Trail Race, North Belfast Harriers’ Afternoon of 5,000m Personal Bests and of course, the next round of the Pure Running Half Marathon Series, the Cookstown Half Marathon.

These races will form the basis of weekend preview and we’ll list details of the other events taking place over the coming days, which will include Round 2 of the AAI National League, taking place at MPT.  Familiar faces will also be in action in Ireland, Italy, Denmark and Switzerland.


Giants Trail Race (6 miles):

The weekend action will kick off later tonight, Friday 28th July 2017, when Dub Runners host their 3rd annual Giants Trail Race in Belfast.  The event has reached capacity for the third consecutive year.

The race will start at 7pm from the Dub Playing Fields and competitors will enjoy a challenging 6 mile course on a combination of forest trails, pastures and the Lagan Towpath; all of which will provide views of the River Lagan, before climbing through the woodlands of Minnowburn, passing the sculptures and natural art along the way.  Runners will then pass through the ancient environs of the Neolithic monument at the Giant’s Ring and returning via Edenderry village and Gilchrist Bridge to Shaw’s bridge, finishing at the Dub Playing Fields.

Reigning men’s champion Zak Hanna (Newcastle AC) will not return as he will be representing Ireland in Italy (more on that later in the preview!), so a new champion will be crowned.  The hot favourite for the title will be North Belfast Harriers’ Mark McKinstry – recently Mark recorded 15:13 over 5k in Dublin.  He also won the Fairhill 5 in 25:02!

Mark’s club mates, Martin Rea (North Belfast Harriers) and Simon Reeve (North Belfast Harriers) will also be amongst the top finishers, as will Thomas Leitch (Victoria Park & Connswater AC) and Ballydrain Harriers’ Gareth Owens.  Other athletes to look out for include Dale Mathers (Mourne Runners), Lee Maginnis (Newry AC), Chris Collins (East Antrim Harriers), David Proctor (Willowfield Harriers) and David Noble (Larne AC).

It is unlikely that the ladies winner from 2016, Martsje Hell (North Belfast Harriers), will return – so like the men’s event, there should be a strong race for the top prize.  In-form Sarahjane Guiney (Unattached) will be considered as pre-race favourite, but she’ll face opposition from some experienced trail runners, such as Niamh O’Connell (Murlough AC) and Susan Lambe (BARF).  East Down AC’s Joanne Foster is also a strong contender for a podium place, as are Albertville Harriers pair Tracey Atkinson and Beverley Mitchell.


LacPatrick Milk Run 5 mile Road Race:

Also tonight (Friday 28th July 2017), Springwell Running Club will welcome athletes from around the province to their annual ‘Milk Run’, a popular and well-organised 5 mile road race which starts and finishes at the Joey Dunlop Leisure Centre in Ballymoney.

Former winners of the event, Neil Johnston (Springwell Running Club) and Jonny Steede (Glens Runners) may go head to head in what should be an excellent race.  The pair will claim the top two places, in what order is the big question – that will leave one podium place remaining.  City of Derry AC’s Allan Bogle, Springwell Running Club’s Luke Dinsmore and Ballymena Runners’ Connor Reid could well be the three who contest it.

Ciara Toner (Springwell Running Club) should toe the line and the local lady will prove hard to beat, following several recent podium places – a 1:02:05 finish at the Jude Gallagher 10 was superb for Ciara!  Cathy McCourt (Unattached), Gillian Wasson (Ballymena Runners) and Geraldine Quigley (Ballymena Runners) may all make use of the on the night entry system, and will go well if they do.


North Belfast Harriers’ Afternoon of 5,000m Personal Bests:

On Saturday 29th July 2017, North Belfast Harriers will host their Afternoon of 5,000m Personal Bests at the Boys Model Track in Belfast.  There will be 9 races available which will cater for a range of expected completion times.

The emphasis of the event is to break your personal best. To facilitate this, much like our own NiRunning Mile, races will be organised to contain those of similar ability in the same race. Pacers will also be made available if sufficient volunteers are present catering for the races with the most entrants as a priority.

Here is a breakdown of the races being held;

Race 1: 3:00pm (Kids 1 mile)

Race 2: 3:15pm (Sub 17mins)

Race 3: 3:40pm (17 – 18mins)

Race 4: 4:05pm (19 – 20mins)

Race 5: 4:30pm (21 – 22mins)

Race 6: 5:00pm (23 – 24mins)

Race 7: 5:35pm (25 –  26mins)

Race 8: 6:10pm (27 – 29mins)

Race 9: 6:50pm (30mins plus)

In terms of high profile entries and the potential fastest male and female athletes of the day – North Belfast Harriers’ own Conor Curran and Eddie Cooke will be there or there abouts, while Gladys Ganiel O’Neill will more than likely top the ladies fastest time standings.  Entries will NOT be available on the day.  More information about the event is available HERE.


Cookstown Half Marathon:

On Sunday 30th July 2017, hundreds of athletes will bring the County Tyrone town of Cookstown to a standstill as they take on the Cookstown Half Marathon.

The event, which is the next instalment of the Pure Running Half Marathon Series, will be run over the same course that has proved so popular with competitors over the last two years – it’s the same course that the World Police & Fire Games participants took on when the Games came to Northern Ireland in 2013.

Don Travers (Newry City Runners) and Andrew McIntyre (Orangegrove AC), two men who are sitting well up the overall Half Marathon Series, may well be chasing podium places here.  Don ran a 1:13:58 half marathon earlier this year in Carlingford and more recently recorded 1:17:05 at the Lisburn Half Marathon, which included the NI & Ulster HM Championships.

Andrew has consistently run 1:19’s throughout the Series, with his best 13.1 mile time coming at Larne Half Marathon, where he recorded 1:19:23.  Based on his performances towards the back end of last year and into 2017, Andrew is capable of going well into the 1:18’s… and this could be the place to do it!  Mark Walker (Unattached) will also be in or around the top ten, while Joe Malone (Unattached) and David Noble (Larne AC) should finish well up the field; David is also scheduled to run at the Giants Trail Race 24 hours earlier.

Louise Smith (North Belfast Harriers) will be keen to continue her good run of form in the Series – the NBH lady is a podium regular and won the Dervock HM in 1:24:10 last weekend.  Catherine Roberts (North Down AC), Diane Watson (City of Lisburn AC) and Gillian Logan (Orangegrove AC) should also start, which will make for a close ladies race.

Other events taking place in Northern Ireland this weekend…

Saturday 29th July 2017:

Crossgar 10k – The Square, Crossgar – 1pm (Entries AVAILABLE on the day)

Eoin Farrell & James Miskelly Memorial 5k – Seabright, Shore Road, Rostrevor – 6pm (Entries AVAILABLE on the day!)

Sunday 30th July 2017:

AAI National League Round 2 – Mary Peters Track, Belfast – 11.30am (Timetable available HERE)

East Coast AC Sunrise Run 5k – Dixon Hall, Drainsbay – 7am (Entries AVAILABLE on the day!)

Divis 10k – Divis Car Park, Belfast – 11am (Entries AVAILABLE on the day!)

Events taking place outside Northern Ireland this weekend…

Zak Hanna (Newcastle AC), Esther Dickson (Newry AC), Andrew Annett (North Belfast Harriers) and Oisin Brennan (Springwell RC) will all represent Ireland on the international mountain running stage.  The NIMRA athletes will take part in the World Mountain Running Championships (Up & Down) in Premana, Italy (Sunday 30th July 2017).

Kelly Neely (City of Lisburn AC), Cathal McLaughlin (Derry Track Club) and Eoghan Fury (City of Derry AC) are just three of a number of familiar faces from both North and South of the border who will be taking part in the European Masters Athletics Championships in Denmark over the next ten days (Thursday 27th July – Sunday 6th August 2017).

Lagan Valley AC ladies Anne Sandford and Hazel McLaughlin, accompanied by Newcastle AC’s Paulette Thomson, will take on the 10k Log Na Coille Mountain Race in County Wicklow, Ireland (Saturday 29th July 2017) – with an ascent/descent of 718 metres, this will prove a good test for the NI international trio.

NiRunning’s Justin Maxwell (East Coast AC) will be in action at the Swiss Alpine K78 Ultra in Switzerland, which covers 78 kilometres and includes 2,800m of accumulative ascent.


As always, Northern Ireland’s twenty four 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.