Weekend Preview: Pure Running HM Series and Novosco 10k GP take centre stage…


Weekend Preview:  Pure Running Half Marathon Series and Novosco 10k Grand Prix take centre stage as busy Summer season continues!

As we look forward to another weekend of action, the popular Pure Running Half Marathon Series and Novosco 10k Grand Prix, both co-ordinated by ChampionChip Ireland, continue.  The Dambusters Half Marathon will be the final race of this years Pure Running HM Series (apart from the new wildcard race, the Belfast City Half Marathon), while the Tandragee 10k will be the tenth race of fifteen in the Novosco GP.  The Northern Ireland Mountain Running Association (NIMRA) Championship also rolls on, with the Slieve Bearnagh Mountain Race taking place.

These three races will form the basis of our weekend preview, but we will of course keep you up to date with what is happening elsewhere – with ten races on the official Athletics NI calendar, it’s sure to be a busy one!  Outside Northern Ireland, at least one local athlete will be competing at the World University Games in Taipei, Taiwan.


Dambusters Half Marathon & 10k:

On Saturday 19th August 2017, over six hundred runners will descend on Silent Valley Country Park in the heart of the Mourne Mountains for the 6th annual Dambusters Half Marathon & 10k races – there is also a 5k run.  The event is hosted by local event management company Born 2 Run Events.

In 2016, Danny McLaughlin (St Malachy’s AC) and Laura Graham (Mourne Runners) were emphatic winners of the event, not only winning their respective categories, but taking first and second place overall as well.  Danny is unlikely to return, which will leave the door open for a new men’s champion – in the ladies race, Laura will toe the line.

In the absence of Danny, last years men’s runner up and third place finisher overall, David Noble (Larne AC), should be there or there abouts.  However, should the ever improving Larne man want to take top honours, he’ll have to fend off Rathfriland 10k podium finisher Gordy Graham (Unattached).  David McKee (Mourne Runners) may enter on the day and will feature prominently at the front if he does.  Norman Smyth (Newcastle AC) will be hoping to follow on from his excellent outing at the Groomsport HM last weekend.

In truth, it’s hard to look past Laura Graham in the ladies race.  Despite taking on this tough course as part of a planned training session, the Belfast City Marathon winner will prove hard to beat.  Although, there are a few in-form ladies in the line up, including Amanda Perry (Ballydrain Harriers) and Eileen Stevenson (St Peter’s AC).  This pair, alongside Dromore AC’s Andrea Heslip, should contest the remaining podium places.

In the 10k race, there will be an interesting battle between Willowfield Harriers’ Garry Morrow and Larne AC’s John Neill.  Both men are always close to the podium places and this could be the day they race for top spot.  Diane Johnston (Mourne Runners), Zara Baird (St Peter’s AC) and Niamh O’Connell (Murlough AC) will be amongst the top ladies in the 10k.


Slieve Bearnagh Mountain Race:

Also in the Mourne Mountains on Saturday 19th August 2017, mountain runners from all over Northern Ireland will be taking on the latest round of the NIMRA Championship, the Slieve Bearnagh Mountain Race.  Interestingly, Slieve Bearnagh is in the backdrop of the Dambusters finish area.

The Slieve Bearnagh race covers 3.9 miles in distance and incorporates 2,680ft of ascent – it’s classed as a ‘short’ race for the Championship.  The classic mountain race takes in Slieve Meelbeg, Slieve Bearnagh and Slieve Meelmore, in that order.  The start and finish is in Happy Valley (top of the Trassey Road).

There will also be a junior race, which will cover a marked course to the top of Slieve Meelbeg and back.  This will be used as a selection race for the Home International teams who are competing in Scotland on the 16th September 2017.  Teams:  U20 Men and Women (born 1998, 1999, 2000) and U17 boys and girls (born 2001 and 2002).  The first two finishers in each category will gain automatic selection.

In terms of potential winners for the senior event – there is no sign of current NIMRA Championship leader William McKee (Mourne Runners) on the entry list, although he could enter on the day.  He will play a major part if he does, as will the pre-entered pair of Zak Hanna (Newcastle AC) and David Hicks (Newcastle AC).  Zak has been in terrific form this season and has established himself well on the international scene, while David has battled his way to second place on the NIMRA Championship table; this is just reward for some excellent performances.  Other men to look out for will include Pete Grant (Newcastle AC), Connor Reid (Ballymena Runners) and Dale Mathers (Mourne Runners).

Two of the current top three ladies in the ongoing Championship will definitely race – Diane Wilson (Dromore AC) and Shileen O’Kane (Lagan Valley AC) will again go head-to-head.  The always impressive international team mates both enjoyed wins last weekend, with Diane winning the Seven Sevens and Shileen winning the Lurig Mountain Race.  They will be joined by Northern Ireland international team mates Gillian Wasson (Ballymena Runners), Paulette Thomson (Newcastle AC) and Martsje Hell (North Belfast Harriers).

In the junior race, there is a plethora of up and coming talent in the line up, including:  Miceal McCaul, Tony Mc Cambridge, Conall McClean, Jamie Anthony, Callum McCabe, Molly Brennan, Oisin Brennan and Ethan Dunn.


Tandragee 10k:

On Sunday 20th August 2017, a large number of athletes are expected to turn out for the increasingly popular Tandragee 10k road race.  The event is the tenth race in the Novosco 10k Grand Prix 2017.

NI & Ulster 10,000m silver medallist David O’Flaherty (Newcastle AC) could be one of several well known athletes to take to the start line of the event.  David has been in excellent form of late, recently securing two wins in one day at the Crossgar 10k and Rostrevor 5k at the end of July.  Stephen O’Gorman (Dromore AC) could well start, as could last year’s winner Francis Marsh (North Down AC).  Mark Cornett of St Peter’s AC will place well should he decide to compete.

In the ladies race, North Belfast Harriers’ Louise Smith should lead the way.  Louise recorded 39:02 for victory here twelve months ago and is more than capable of a similar time.  Susan Smyth (Dromore AC) could provide strong opposition based on her recent good run of form.  Other ladies who may race include Ciara Coffey (Unattached), Julie Murphy (Lagan Valley AC) and Suzanne Higgins (Lagan Valley AC).


Other races taking place in Northern Ireland this weekend…

Friday 18th August 2017:

  • 5MT 5 mile Race – Fivemiletown Youth Annexe – 7pm (Entries AVAILABLE on the night!)

Saturday 19th August 2017:

  • Last One Standing – Florence Court – 12pm (Entries are NOT available on the day!)

Sunday 20th August 2017:

  • Centra Pairs Run – Lakeland Forum, Enniskillen – 10am (Entries are AVAILABLE on the day!)
  • Benburb 5 mile Road Race – 247 Derryfubble Road – 11am (Entries are AVAILABLE on the day!)
  • Southern Area Hospice 10k – Aylesford, Newry Road – 11am (Entries are AVAILABLE on the day!)
  • Connswater 10k & 5k – CS Lewis Square, Belfast – 10am – (Entries will NOT be available on the day!)


Events taking place outside Northern Ireland this weekend…

Meanwhile, at least one runner from Northern Ireland will be part of the Ireland team travelling to Taipei in Taiwan for the World University Games (19th – 30thAugust 2017) this weekend.  

QUB AC’s Emma Mitchell will race over both 5,000m and 10,000m.  Emma’s 10,000m race will take place on Wednesday 23rd August 2017, while her 5,000m heat is scheduled for Friday 25th August 2017.


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.