Weekend Preview:  London is calling!  Virgin Money London Marathon… and more!

Weekend Preview:  London is calling!  Virgin Money London Marathon… and more!

This coming weekend will see a mass exodus of runners from Northern Ireland, as potentially thousands of local athletes make their way to the 38th annual running of the (Virgin Money) London Marathon.

The iconic event is one of the world’s top races and 40,000 plus competitors will take to the Greenwich start line and make their way towards the famous Mall finish line.

Given its prominence and despite the fact that is outside Northern Ireland, the London Marathon will be the focus of our weekend preview – we’ll look at the local runners who will be hoping to finish well up the field whilst gathering qualification standards and give a mention to those who we know will be taking to the start line.

Closer to home, local clubs should be well represented at the Irish Life AAI National Road Relay Championships in Dublin (Ireland), while in Northern Ireland, the Ballynahinch 10k, a well-known warm-up for the Belfast City Marathon, should attract a strong field.

The Run Armagh 10k and Gortin 10k & 5k should also tempt decent numbers.

Virgin Money London Marathon – Stephen Scullion to lead local contingent in London:

Stephen Scullion (Clonliffe Harriers) will lead hundreds, if not thousands, of local runners into battle at this weekend’s Virgin Money London Marathon (Sunday 22nd April 2018).

Athletes are expected to face soaring temperatures as they negotiate the famous 26.2 mile course.  A planned DLR strike has been cancelled, which is good news for those travelling to the event.

Stephen, who won the recent Omagh Half Marathon (1:07:01) and Titanic 10k (30:29) on consecutive days, lines up in a talent laden field, which includes reigning London Marathon Champion Daniel Wanjiru (Kenya) and Great Britain’s double Olympic Champion Mo Farah.

In 2017, Stephen recorded his marathon personal best, an excellent 2:17:59, in London.  This saw the Northern Ireland and Ireland international fall just short of his 2:17:00 target, which would have put him in contention for a place on the Ireland team for the IAAF World Championships.

However, he goes into this year’s race off a strong year of training and racing, and will have his eyes on the Athletics Ireland’s European Championships marathon standard of 2:17:00.

Based on his previous attempt in London and his more recent 1:03:16 over half marathon distance in Houston (USA), it is well within his reach.

Young Newcastle AC athlete and current NI & Ulster 10,000m Champion Eoghan Totten is an exciting prospect over marathon distance – he takes a 1:06:14 half marathon time (from Barcelona 2018) into his 26.2 mile debut.

Commonwealth Games 2014 competitor Gladys Ganiel O’Neill (North Belfast Harriers) was an entrant but will now not compete at the event.

Former AAI National 24 hour Champion Susan McCartney (BARF), who ran a IAU World 100k Championships qualifying standard of 8:33:50 in Crawley (England) at the start of this month will start in London.

In the elite ladies race, Kenyan Mary Keitany, who boasts a personal best of 2:17:01, has made it clear that she is aiming for Paula Radcliffe’s 2:15:25 World Record.

Neill Weir (Willowfield Harriers), David Noble (Larne AC), Thomas Leitch (Victoria Park & Connswater AC), Patricia Blair (Larne AC), Bernard Brady (Ballymena & Antrim AC), David Proctor (Willowfield Harriers), Greg McClure (North Belfast Harriers), Gillian Logan (Orangegrove AC), Lesley Robinson (East Coast AC) and Helen Byers (North Down AC) are just a few other local athletes to look out for.

Junior athletes from across the Province will also be involved in the associated Virgin Money London Mini-Marathon.

The Virgin Money London Marathon will be shown live on BBC1 on Sunday 22nd April 2018 from 08:30am.

Ballynahinch Lions & Saintfield Striders 10k:

On Saturday 21st April 2018, the Ballynahinch Lions Club and Saintfield Striders will welcome athletes from across the province to their annual Ballynahinch 10k.

The long standing and popular event has always attracted athletes preparing for Spring marathons but like last year, its date falls on the weekend of London Marathon, which could affect numbers.

However, with 2 weeks until Belfast Marathon, it will again provide an excellent opportunity for those wanting a final tune-up race to have a go at the recently revised, flatter course (without the steps); the new route has impressed the masses over the last couple of years and there should therefore be a sizeable turnout.

At the head of the pack, Stephen O’Gorman (Dromore AC) will take some recent quality track performances into this race and that will make him hard to beat.  However, Newcastle AC pair David O’Flaherty and David McNeilly may provide strong opposition if they choose to make use of the on the day entry.

Mark McFeeters (Unattached), Andrew McIntyre (Orangegrove AC) and Nigel Grier (Dromore AC) will all place well.

In the ladies race, it’s difficult to look past Jessica Craig (North Down AC) as a pre-race favourite.  The versatile athlete claimed a bronze medal at the NI & Ulster Senior XC Championships back in February, and around the same time, clocked 10:06 over 3k at the Armagh International.

In-form Dromore AC lady Susan Smyth will also make the podium, while Jennifer Black (Victoria Park & Connswater AC) and Zara Baird (St Peter’s AC) should finished in high positions.

Other events in Northern Ireland this weekend…

Saturday 21st April 2018:

  • The Cormac Run: Eglish GAA Grounds – Eglish – 10am (Entries AVAILABLE on race day!)
  • Gortin 10k & 5k: Main Street, Gortin – 12pm (Entries AVAILABLE on race day!)

Sunday 22nd April 2018:

  • Run DC 10k: Tobermore Road, Draperstown – 11am (Entries AVAILABLE on race day!)
  • Run Armagh 10k: College Hill, Armagh – 2pm (Entries AVAILABLE on race day!)
  • East Antrim Marathon Series ‘Not the London Marathon’ Events – Greenisland Golf Club, Greenisland – 8:30am (Entries NOT available on race day!)

Events taking place outside Northern Ireland this weekend…

Irish Life AAI National Road Relay Championships:

Northern Ireland and Ulster clubs are expected to be well represented at the Irish Life AAI National Road Relay Championships, which will be hosted by Raheny Shamrock’s AC in Dublin (Sunday 22nd April 2018).

In 2017, teams from QUB AC, North Down AC and City of Derry AC all performed well at the event.

A provisional entry list for the event is available HERE.  A timetable for the event is available HERE.


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.