Weekend Preview:  Thousands set for Belfast City Half Marathon 2017 and more…


Weekend Preview:  Thousands set for Belfast City Half Marathon 2017!

This weekend brings the 5th annual Deep RiverRock Belfast City Half Marathon, which will attract approximately 3,500 participants.

Given the status of the event, it will of course soak up much of the media attention, but it’s not the only race taking place this weekend.  In-fact, it will quite litetally be a weekend of racing in the Mourne Mountains, with the long standing Mourne Mountain Marathon taking place this weekend.  Locally, there will also be the Memorial 5k road race in Derry/Londonderry and the O’Brien Challenge just outside Cookstown.

Outside of Northern Ireland, a number of well known local mountain-trail runners will be in action at the Skyrunner World Series events in Glencoe (Scotland), while a junior NIMRA team will compete at the Junior Home International Mountain Running Championships in Peebles, Scotland.


Gideon Kipsang won this week’s Bobby Farren Memorial 5k!


Last year’s Champion Freddy Sittuk (Raheny Shamrock AC) heads a 3,500 strong field ready for the 5th annual Deep RiverRock Belfast City Half Marathon this weekend (Sunday 17th September 2017).

Record numbers will take to the streets of Northern Ireland’s capital city for the increasingly popular event, which will start and finish at Ormeau Park.  The route will cover all parts of the city, from Victoria Park to Cornmarket, the Ravenhill Road to Botanic Avenue; a running tour of Belfast’s picturesque landscape.

Just two weeks ago, Freddy retained his Waterside Half Marathon title in 1:09:18 after a close battle with local Spartan Declan Reed (City of Derry AC) and he is likely to face tough opposition as he attempts to defend his Belfast crown.  Fellow Kenyan, Gideon Kipsang, representing Derry Track Club, and Northern Ireland’s Stephen Scullion (Clonliffe Harriers), will also start.

Freddy clocked 1:07:50 to see off Scott Rankin (Foyle Valley AC) here twelve months ago but the current Walled City Marathon Champion will need to reduce those figures if he wants to top the podium.  Gideon has posted a 1:03:08 over the half marathon distance, this was back in 2015 at the Cardiff Half Marathon – last year (2016), he recorded 1:03:56 at the Peterborough Half Marathon.  Last week, Stephen Scullion ran 1:05:52 over the 13.1 mile distance at the Great North Run.  It’s been an excellent year for the England based star, after he ran 28:58 for 10,000m (USA) and 2:17:59 for the marathon (London).

North Belfast Harriers’ John Black, winner of the Newry Half Marathon and more recently, last week’s Larne 10k, will also feature at the front.  Sperrin Harriers’ Pierce McCullagh, who ran a massive personal best of 1:12:56 at the Waterside Half Marathon, will again be out to impress.  Andrew Considine (North Belfast Harriers), Dennis Scott (North Down AC), Steven McAlary (Springwell Running Club), Ed Cooke (North Belfast Harriers), Tommy Simmons (North Belfast Harriers) and James Budde (North Down AC) should all finish well up the field.

Other men to look out for include Francis Marsh (North Down AC), Aidan O’Hagan (Acorns AC), Ben Caughers (North Down AC), Kyle Doherty (City of Derry AC), Joe Malone (North Belfast Harriers) and Barrie Atkinson (East Down AC).

Northern Ireland international’s Lauren Quee (Lagan Valley AC) and Amy Bulman (Willowfield Harriers) should lead the chase for honours in the ladies race.  Both have excelled within the cross country discipline over the last few years, culminating with international selection, but have also impressed on the tarmac.  Lauren won the Balloch to Clydebank Half Marathon in in 1:22:24, which is her best time on record for the distance.  Amy claimed a podium spot at this year’s Larne Half Marathon in 1:21:15, but arguably her best performance this term has been a podium place at the Great North 10k in England, where she claimed 3rd place in a high quality field.

International duathlete Judith Lonnen (City of Lisburn AC), winner of the Holywood Exchange Half Marathon (1:24:44) and in-form pair Sarahjane Guiney (Unattached) and Susan Smyth (Dromore AC), will also contest a podium place.  Ciara Toner (Springwell Running Club), winner of this week’s Bobby Farren 5k (18:15) and several other recent North West races, will feature prominently.  Niamh Kellett (East Down AC), Collette McCourt (Dub Runners), Joanne Foster (East Down AC), Leanne Sands (Acorns AC) and Bryony May (Enniskillen Running Club) will be aiming for a high placing.

Skyrunner World Series – Skyline Scotland Events (Scotland):

In Scotland, members of the Northern Ireland running community (and those living further afield) will take part in the Salomon Skyline Scotland Skyrunning events in Kinlochleven, just north of the Glencoe Mountain Range.

The event is also part of the Skyrunning UK National Series, which incorporates NiRunning’s Garmin Mourne Skyline Mountain-Trail Race.

Starting later today (Friday 15th September 2017), Shane Donnelly (Unattached), Owen O’Neill (Westerlands CCC) and Ryan Stewart (Shettleston Harriers) will take on the Salomon Mamores Vertical Kilometre.  Setting off at pre-scheduled intervals, the NI men will start in Kinlochleven and ascend the lung busting 1,000 metres to the Munro Summit (covering 5k in distance).

Early on Saturday morning (16th September 2017) Justin Maxwell (East Coast AC) and Dave Evans (BARF) will take part in the inaugural running of the Salomon Ben Nevis Ultra.  Starting at Fort Augustus, the 120k route, incorporating 4,000 metres of ascent, weaves through remote glens, crosses high mountain passes and takes in some of the best Scottish Highland scenery and wilderness.  At 90k, participants will encounter Ben Nevis Mountain itself, ascending the UK’s tallest mountain from the Carn Mor Dearg ridge before descending to Fortwilliam and continuing their journey along the West Highland Way to the Kinlochleven finish line.

Also on Saturday, Megan Wilson (Dark Peak Fell Runners), Elizabeth Wheeler (Glens Runners), Brian Linton (BARF), Owen O’Neill (Westerlands CCC) and Tim Lowry (Ballymena Runners) will take part in the Salomon Ring of Steall Skyrace.  Covering 29k in distance and 2,500 metres of accumulative ascent, the NI competitors will encounter plenty of steep climbing/descending and short stretches of what is considered as easy scrambling.

The weekend of racing will finish on Sunday (17th September 2017), with the Skyrunning Extreme event ‘Salomon Glencoe Skyline’, with what has been described as ‘the best’ mountain running field ever assembled in the UK, taking on the tough, technical and somewhat iconic route.

Junior Home Country Mountain Running Championships (Scotland):

On Saturday 16th September 2017, the tough slopes of Cademuir Hill above Peebles in Scotland, will play host to the Junior Home Country Mountain Running Championships.

A team of up and coming local mountain runners, representing the Northern Ireland Mountain Running Association (NIMRA), will take on teams from Scotland, England, Ireland and Wales in Under 17 and Under 20 age categories; all will be vying for the City of Edinburgh Trophy.

The courses for all races will follow the routes based on the Cademuir Rollercoaster races.  The NIMRA team is as follows:

Under 20 Male Team:  Oisin Brennan, Ethan Dunn, Tom Magee and Jonny Brattle.

Under 20 Female Team:  Molly Brennan and Leila Ponziani.

Under 17 Male Team:  Conall McClean, Jamie Anthony, Callum McCabe and Tony McCambridge.

Under 17 Male Individual:  Miceal McCaul

Mourne Mountain Marathon:

The weekend action will start (and finish) in the Mourne Mountains, with the Mourne Mountain Marathon taking place over Saturday 16th and Sunday 17th September 2017.  Hundreds of hardy mountain runners will take on the gruelling two day event, which this year, in response to demand we are running a one day Score Class race on the Saturday. The nature of the Score class means that it is suitable for beginners and top end athletes alike – See HERE  for details.

Interestingly, competitors (teams of two) only receive their event maps on starting the race; they then plot their course in a way that will allow them to cover all checkpoints in the quickest time possible.  In the two day event, are three distances on offer to participants; they are 55k (‘A’ Class), 45k (‘B’ Class) and 35k (‘C’ and ‘D’ Class).

Mourne Runners team Richard Hanna and William Marks will return in the Elite 55k ‘A’ class and will be keen to continue their form from 2015 and 2016 – however, they will face the likes of Paul Pruzina / Matthew Vokes and Laurence Quinn / Colm Moran.  Taryn McCoy and Jackie Toal will also go well.

In the ladies 45k ‘B’ class, the Fiona Peterson and Helen Pruzina pairing will perform well, while in the 35k ‘C’ class event top runner Martsje Hell will again team up with Lesley Young, while Barry Spence and Greg McComb will contest the men’s prize.  Des Woods / Sabine Woods and Richard Bell / John Bannerman will be worth watching in the 35k ‘D’ class.

In the new Score class one day race, the pairings of Shane Lynch / Neil Dobbs, Stephanie Pruzina / Joanne McCauley and Paulette Thomson / Eugene McCann will be worth watching.

Also this weekend…

Friday 15th September 2017:

  • The Memorial 5k Road Race – U3A Gransha Grounds, Derry/Londonderry – 7pm (Entries AVAILABLE on race day!)

Saturday 16th September 2017:

  • O’Brien Challenge inc Davagh Forest 10 mile Race – Davagh Forest Trail Head (close to Cookstown) – 12pm (Entries AVAILABLE on race day!)


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.