Weekend Preview: Walled City Marathon attracts capacity crowd!

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Weekend Preview: Walled City Marathon attracts capacity crowd!

Sports fans in Northern Ireland will be looking forward to a weekend of top quality action, with last nights Ulster Rugby game, then tomorrow’s Northern Ireland football match and on Sunday, it’s the return of the Grand Fondo; a legacy event of the famous Giro d’italia.  However, we will put all of these events aside and look at the one which will attract the attention of the local running fraternity, the SSE Airtricity sponsored Walled City Marathon 2017 – it’s back!

The increasingly popular WCM will see 2,000 runners take to the streets of the maiden city of Derry/Londonderry as they cover the famous 26.2 mile distance.  The challenging course will take competitors from the Everglades Hotel to the historic Guildhall Square finish via the dynamic local neighbourhoods and old rural villages, where athletes will enjoy a fantastic reception, before they hit the banks of the River Foyle en-route to the spectator lined finishing straight.

Belfast City Marathon winner and current AAI National Marathon and Half Marathon Champion Laura Graham (Mourne Runners) will be the official starter of the event.

 

    Freddy Sittuk – WCM course record holder.

Two time winner of the WCM, Freddy Sittuk, returns after missing last year and Derry/Londonderry’s favourite Kenyan will face fellow countrymen, Dan Tanui, Emmanuel Kiprotich Melly and Hilary Chirchir, all representing Project Africa Athletics, in the battle for male podium places.

Freddy holds the course record of 2:22:34 and will therefore start as favourite.  Dan finished as runner up to Eric Koech here in 2016, with Eric winning in 2:23:47 and Dan running 2:23:50.  More recently, Dan impressed with a 2:17:40 finish for second place at the Belfast City Marathon, before going on to win several local events – just last week he won the Mayfair 10k in 30:33.

Emmanuel Kiprotich Melly ran 2:18:11 for third place in Belfast and also chased Dan right to the line in Ballyclare last weekend – he ran 30:37 for 10k there.  Hilary Chirchir, a 2:21:01 finisher in Belfast in May, will also be considered a contender.

Looking at the local challenge for honours, North Belfast Harriers’ Andrew Considine will be there or there abouts, while North West pair James Crampsey and Mark Mullan, both of City of Derry AC, will be aiming for a sub-2:45 finish.  Colum Gaile (Albertville Harriers), Michael Magge (Beechmount Harriers) and Dave Slater (Enniskillen RC) will also go well.

There are also two very welcome additions to the line up, Foyle Valley AC’s Adrian McGowan, who will return to competitive action after a serious injury and also Omagh Harriers’ Terry Canning, who made global headlines recently after assisting another athlete across the finish line at the Boston Marathon.

 

Local favourite – Catherine Whoriskey.

The ladies race will feature two Olympians, two time winner of this race Pauline Curley (Tullamore Harriers) and Catriona Jennings (Letterkenny AC).  Pauline, who holds the course record of 2:47:20, will be keen to make it three WCM wins in a row! However, if Catriona is in good shape, she will test every ounce of Pauline’s desire to achieve a famous hat-trick of wins; Catriona has a 26.2 mile personal best of 2:36:14 which makes her a real contender.

The 2014 winner, Anne Curley (Donore Harriers), will also feature, as will Kenyan Salome Kimutai (Project Africa Athletics), a third place finisher in the Belfast Marathon in 2:53:59.

A potential winner we haven’t mentioned is local favourite Catherine Whoriskey (City of Derry AC) – Catherine made her marathon debut earlier this year in Seville, where she ran a superb 2:48:41 for a top ten finish.  If the crowd get behind Catherine here, she will almost certainly take victory – recent stats prove that she is the most in-form athlete going into the race – a 58:00 10 miler and 1:16:52 half marathon are just two results from several impressive outings.

Beechmount Harriers’ Gerrie Short is a good outside bet for a podium place.  The Northern Ireland international is a strong consistent performer who has the potential to go well under sub-3 hours.  Grace Kennedy (Donore Harriers) and AAI National 24 hour Champion Louise Smart (County Antrim Harriers) will also be worth watching, while Paula Owens (Dub Runners), Stephanie Henry (Sperrin Harriers) and Elle Forrest-Reid (Ballymena Runners) will all finish well up the field.

The action kicks off at 8:30am from the Everglades Hotel on Prehen Road in Derry/Londonderry, with the winner expected to reach the Guildhall finish at approximately 10:45am.  Spectators are encouraged to come along and support the event – full details, including course maps etc can be found on the official race website HERE.

Although it is by far the most high profile race of the weekend, the WCM is not the only eye-catching local fixture. Albertville Harriers will host their annual…

Albertville Harriers 4 mile Road Race:

Later tonight, Friday 2nd June 2017, hundreds of athletes will descend on Duncrue Industrial Estate in Belfast for the annual Albertville Harriers 4 mile road race, a flat and fast race which never fails to attract an impressive line up. Infact, the event, which used to be a 5 miler has been won by double European XC Champion Fionnuala McCormack (Ireland) in the not too distant past (2014)!

Willowfield Harriers pair Neill Weir and Amy Bulman are likely candidates for the top prizes.  Neill is an almost certain starter and given his recent form, which includes a 32:10 10k back in April, it’s hard to look past him when considering potential challengers.  Acorns AC’s Aaron Meharg will also feature at the front, as will Barrie Atkinson (East Down AC), Chris Moren (Willowfield Harriers), Richard Craig (East Antrim Harriers) and Bryan Edgar (Springwell Running Club).

If Amy does decide to make use of the on the night entry system, she’ll be hoping to replicate the exceptional performance she put in to win the Runher Coastal 10k in fine fashion just seven days ago.  The Willowfield Harriers athlete could face the lady who took the runners up spot behind her at Runher, the always impressive Judith Lonnen (City of Lisburn AC).  Sarahjane Guiney (Unattached), Tracey Atkinson (Albertville Harriers), Denise Logue (Ballydrain Harriers), Debbie Matchett (Ballydrain Harriers) and Geraldine Quigley (Ballymena Runners) may also take to the start line.

Entries for the Albertville Harriers 4 mile road race are still AVAILABLE and you can enter on the night at the Portside Inn in Duncrue Industrial Estate, Belfast.  The race starts at 7.30pm.

Other events taking place in Northern Ireland this weekend:

Friday 2nd June 2017:

Tatts 5 mile road race – Tattyreagh GAC – 7pm (Entries AVAILABLE on race day!)

Saturday 3rd June 2017:

Fields for Life Stormont Race – Stormont Estate – 11am (Entries AVAILABLE on race day!)

Great Derrynoose Run 10k (and 5k) 2017 – Derrynoose – 6pm (Entries AVAILABLE on race day!)

Remembering Andy – O’Cahan Park GAA Club Dungiven – 11.30am (Entries AVAILABLE on race day!)

Sunday 4th June 2017:

Hazelbank 5 mile Race – Hazelbank Park, Newtownabbey – 11am (Entries AVAILABLE on race day!)

 

Parkrun:

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.