Weekend Preview:  We love the World Championships, but the mountains are calling…


Weekend Preview:  Lurig Mountain Race, Seven Sevens, Groomsport HM & 10k, AAI HM Championships and more!

It’s been an excellent week of athletics, with the IAAF World Athletics Championships taking centre stage.  As the prestigious Championships role on into the weekend, our own local action will join the party – and the events coming up will most definitely add something!

The racing kicks off tonight with the popular Mallusk Harriers 5 mile road race and then attention turns to two massive mountain running events, the Lurig Mountain Race and the Seven Sevens.  This weekend will also see a number of local athletes head to Dublin (Ireland) for the AAI National Half Marathon Championships.

There will be other events, including the Groomsport Half Marathon and the Feile 10k.  All of these will get a mention in our preview and, as always, we’ll give a mention to all of the other races on the official Athletics NI calendar – just so that you do not miss anything!

Mallusk Harriers 5 mile Road Race:

The weekend action kicks off later tonight in Newtownabbey, when Mallusk Harriers host their annual Mallusk 5 mile road race.  The event itself has increased in popularity, more than likely because of the slick organisation and excellent hospitality by the relatively new club.  The course itself also attracts attention, with the now infamous long gradual hill being quickly forgotten as competitors power back downhill towards the finish.

In 2016, North Belfast Harriers duo Conal McCambridge and Mary Margaret Meade took top honours in 27:37 and 31:15 respectively.  It is unlikely that either will return, which means new champions will be crowned.  A number of well-known names will be chasing the title, including East Down AC’s all impressive Barrie Atkinson.  Barrie, an accomplished marathoner, could well be gearing up towards an autumn 26.2 miler and will therefore be looking for a good run out.  PACE Running Club’s Oliver Cook is another of the pre-entered athletes who should place well, as will Thomas Leitch (Victoria Park & Connswater AC) and Ian Cleland (Seapark AC).

Amy Bulman (Willowfield Harriers), winner of this week’s Nissan 5 mile Classic road race in Coleraine, will lead the charge for victory in the ladies race.  Amy recorded 29:25 over the 5 miles in Coleraine and will run somewhere around 36-37 minutes over this course, which will be hard to beat.  Cathy McCourt (Unattached), the runner up from twelve months ago, could return and will almost certainly claim a podium place if she does.  Lyndsey Tyro (Orangegrove AC), Beverley Mitchell (Albertville Harriers) and Paula Worthington (Ballymena Runners) will all perform well.

Lurig Mountain Race:

On Saturday 12th August 2017, approximately four hundred runners will descend on the seaside village of Cushendall, in the Heart of the Glens, for the annual Lurig Mountain Race, hosted by local club Glens Runners. The event was featured on the BBC’s One Show this week, which included some footage of previous years and an interview with reigning ladies Champion Gilliam Wasson (Ballymena Runners).

The event, which is approximately 3.5 miles in distance, incorporating 375 metres of ascent, is part of a week-long festival in the area and will see a mix of mountain, road and fun runners convene for a classic ‘to the top and back’ competition.  Participants will start in the centre of the atmospheric village, making their way up the steps and onto a gradually ascending ‘stony’ lane, before reaching the open mountain.  Once onto the grassy slopes, runners will climb the steep north face of Lurigethan, before descending from the summit and making their way back to the packed village finish line.

In recent years Jonny Steede (Glens Runners), Allan Bogle (City of Derry) and Tommy Simmons (North Belfast Harriers), as well as the likes of Joe McAlister (St Malachy’s AC) have dominated at the front of the pack.  Looking at entries on the new updated online system, only Jonny (Steede) and Tommy (Simmons) will toe the line in 2017.  That said, should the current title holder Allan (Bogle) arrive on the day, he may be in a good position to negotiate entry.

Jonny has returned to competitive action recently with a win at the Arniston Crag Fell Race (England) and podium positions at the Ballymena Runners Fairhill 5 mile Road Race and LacPatrick Milk Run (also over 5 miles) in Ballymoney.  That pace and his ability to climb and descend will again put him in a good position going into a race that he enjoys!  Tommy has come close here twice, taking second place behind the aforementioned Joe McAllister and Allan Bogle.  Tommy has went onto the open Mountain section with the front runners and then led them off it – if he can hold that pace on the Stony Lane, he’ll be in with a chance this weekend.

Kevin O’Boyle (Unattached) should take home the coveted ‘first local’ prize – based on his recent performances on the road, Kevin should also place well overall, as will experienced mountain runner Shane Donnelly (Unattached) who has also impressed on the roads over the last year.   East Coast Athletic Club’s Justin Maxwell, Connor Reid (Ballymena Runners), Thomas Leitch (Orangegrove AC), David Turtle (East Antrim Harriers), Emmet McAlister (Unattached) and John Neill (Larne AC) will all finish well up the field.

The ladies race may come down to a battle between two Northern Ireland international mountain runners, Gillian Wasson (Ballymena Runners) and Shileen O’Kane (Lagan Valley AC). Gillian won the race in 2016, but the evergreen Shileen, who finished as runner up on that occasion, has been in good form of late, having made the top three in all of her five NIMRA Championship races, against a growing field of competitive ladies.  That said, local Lady Elizabeth Wheeler has made the podium here before and has been running well in recent months.  City of Lisburn AC athlete, Judith Lonnen has good road speed and will compete well over this distance if she can negotiate the steeper sections effectively. Lagan Valley AC lady Hazel McLaughlin and Ballymena Runners’ Paula Arthur may also be ones to watch.

NIMRA Championship Seven Sevens Fell Race:

Also on Saturday 12th August 2017, Belfast Association of Rock Climbers and Fell Runners (BARF) will host the seventh race of this year’s Northern Ireland Mountain Running Association (NIMRA) Championship, the Seven Sevens Mountain Race.

The route, classed as a long race in terms of the Northern Ireland Mountain Running Association (NIMRA) Championship and takes in the seven highest peaks in the scenic Mourne Mountains.  At 19 miles in distance, with over 8,700 feet of climbing, the race will cover Slieve Donard and Slieve Commedagh first, followed by Slieve Berangh, Slieve Meelmore, Slieve Meelbeg, then descending to Ben Crom Dam, before the final ascents of Slieve Binnian and Slieve Lamagan.  The start and finish will be at the Pavilion in Donard Park, Newcastle.

Last year, Newcastle AC man Ian Bailey and the popular Diane Wilson (Dromore AC) made the headlines, having both broke the (Clockwise) Course Records.  This year, it’s unlikely that Ian will race, having competed well for Ireland in the WMRA Long Distance Championships last weekend.  If Mourne Runners’ William McKee decides to compete in another ‘Long’ race, having finished as runner up at the tough and technical Spelga Skyline race last month, he will go into the event as favourite; William has been in superb form throughout this season.

Newcastle AC’s Northern Ireland international captain David Hicks took the unexpected victory at the aforementioned Spelga Skyline race and along with David McKee (Mourne Runners) will be the main opposition for the win here. Clive and Gary Bailey (both of Mourne Runners) know this route well and tend to excel over the technical courses, with Gary having shown recent form in taking the win at Flagstaff to Carlingford in June, both men should be considered as podium contenders.  Other Mourne Runners, such as Dale Mathers, Ricky Hanna and Garth McGimpsey have also shown good form over long tough courses and will run well.  Paul Pruzina (Ballydrain Harriers) took a surprise 2nd place in last year’s event, should Paul decide to compete again in 2017, he’ll be one to watch.  Other men who will play a prominent part in proceedings could include Pete Grant (Newcastle AC), Billy Reed (East Antrim Harriers) Cathal McGreevy (Newry AC) and Simon Reeve (North Belfast Harriers).

Diane Wilson (Dromore AC) will continue her pursuit of the NIMRA Championship title when she takes on this event.  In recent years Diane has impressed over the longer courses and the former Garmin Mourne Skyline MTR Champion will prove hard to beat.  Diane finished third overall in her 2016 record breaking win and has the potential to replicate that kind of position this weekend.

As always though, there will be a host of talent which Diane will need to fend off to seal victory, amongst these could be newcomer and Northern Ireland and Ireland international athlete Esther Dickson (Newry AC), who ran well in the World Mountain Running Championship (Italy) two weeks ago.  Megan Wilson (Dark Peak Fell Runners) ran the Clockwise route in 4:33 last year, for second place and along with Esther, Megan could play a prominent role in what could be a fantastic ladies race, especially if you throw in names such as Ciara Largey (Omagh Tri Club) and Jackie Toal (BARF).  Caira won the LugNaCoille Mountain Race in Wicklow last weekend and Jackie, although having competed well in the Tromso Skyrace on 6th August, may see this as a good day out in the mountains and has the strength and endurance to perform well.   Paulette Thomson (Newcastle AC), a podium finisher at several IMRA races this season, as well as Mari Troeng (Newcastle AC), Sam McNeilly (Newcastle AC) and Anne Sandford (Lagan Valley AC) will also place well if they decide to race.

Run Groomsport Half Marathon:

Also on Saturday 12th August 2017, hundreds of athletes from across Northern Ireland will take on the penultimate race of the Pure Running-ChampionChip Ireland Half Marathon Series (excluding Belfast City Half Marathon, which is a wildcard), the Groomsport Half Marathon; the race programme will also include a 10k race.

Both races will start in Groomsport and make their way into rural parts of the coastal village before finishing just off the scenic coastal path close to the Groomsport Marina.

Newry City Runners athlete and previous winner of the event, Don Travers, may start.  Don is leading the way in his category of the Pure Running Half Marathon Series and a win and/or good time would further cement his claim for top honours.  Neill Weir (Willowfield Harriers) may also toe the line, and will play a major part in proceedings if he does.  Other athletes to look out for include David Noble (Larne AC), Andrew McIntyre (Orangegrove AC) and Mark Walker (Unattached).

In the ladies race, Louise Smith (North Belfast Harriers), could feature.  Louise is a strong and consistent athlete and a podium regular.  She also leads her category in the Half Marathon Series, so will be keen to impress.  Catherine Roberts (North Down AC), Gillian Logan (Orangegrove AC), Andrea Heslip (Dromore AC) and Julie McKimm (Orangegrove AC) should all finish well up the field.

GymCo Feile 10k Road Race:

On Sunday 13th August 2017, nearly five hundred athletes are expected to take to the streets of Belfast for the Feile Festival 10k road race, an event organised by events management company Aisling Events.

The race will attract a mixture of regular runners as-well-as fitness enthusiasts. At last year’s event, first over the line was Philip Goss of the North Belfast Harriers who completed the challenging course in 35:36, ahead of his club mate Brendan Grew (North Belfast Harriers).  Both men could well take to the start line again this year.

The first lady home in 2016 was Sharon Duffy (Unattached), who ran 44:20, just ahead of Lyndsey Tyro (Orangegrove AC).  Sharon could return, but Lyndsey will more than likely concentrate on the Mallusk 5 mile road race, which is later today (Friday 11th August 2017).

Rock & Roll Half Marathon incorporating AAI National Half Marathon Championships (Ireland):

In Dublin on Sunday 13th August 2017, a large number of athletes from Northern Ireland will take part in the atmospheric and well-supported Rock & Roll Half Marathon, which for the third consecutive year will also play host to the Irish Life AAI National Half Marathon Championships.

North Belfast Harriers pair John Black and Gladys Ganiel O’Neill could head the Northern Ireland charge for honours.  John has impressed over a variety of distances this season, most recently over 5k, but his most relevant performance of this kind of distance would be the 1:11:18 he recorded to win the Newry Half Marathon back in May (2017).

Club mate Gladys has recorded an exceptional 1:15:08 at this event previously and will prove hard to beat in the ladies race if she does run – this year, Gladys best time over 13.1 miles was 1:18:24 at the Carlingford Half Marathon back in March; the Northern Ireland and Ireland international is capable of beating that based on her impressive outing at the Fingal 10k two weeks ago, where she ran 35:33.

Other events taking place in Northern Ireland this weekend:

Saturday 12th August 2017:

  • Slieve Croob 10k Challenge – Dromara GAC – 10am
  • Lecale Way 10k – Cable Bar, Ballyhornan – 7pm

Sunday 13th August 2017:

  • Reach Running Club 10k & 5k – Gransha Grounds, Derry/L’Derry – 3pm
  • Moneyglass 5k – Moneyglass Community Centre – 11am


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.