Armagh International Road Race Coming Up Next Month
10 January 2018
James Vallely, the new Director of the Armagh International Road Race now in its 28th year, speaking at the race launch last month spoke of the development of the race over the past years to its current status as the top road race event in the world.
Paying tribute to Brian Vallely who had been race Director for the last 28 years he said ‘the race was the brainchild of Brian Vallely since it was established in 1990 and helped by his wife Eithne and club members Dermot & Angela Kerr as well as the late Tony Hunter. He has nurtured the event over the years leaving a template of instructional documents and databases which will carry the race into the future’
Continuing James Vallely said ‘the race is now enjoying the highest profile in its existence with the men’s 5K setting a world record this year for the greatest number of athletes ever to complete a 5K in under 15 Minutes and the winner recording the 2nd fastest time in the history of the race a fraction of a second outside the record set by David Nightingale of the USA in 2009.’
Olympic and World 1500M finalist Laura Weightman established a staggering new record for the Women’s International 3K with a time of 8.59. Laura Weightman is already registered to run in 2018.
The Armagh Brooks 5K this year was won in a time of 13.55 which comparres well with the winning time in the USA 5K Road Championship on the streets of New York this year won a full two seconds slower in 13.57. The winner in New York received $12,000 and the winner in Armagh received £150.
These statistics tell us something or at least ask the question ‘why would world class athletes travel to Armagh in the middle of winter to compete in a race with a top prize of £150?’
The answer lies in the quality of the race – ‘a true race’ - is the expression most often used by athletes to describe the Armagh experience. There are no big money prizes, no appearance money and definitely no hares. Armagh provides that rare experience in this day and age of a genuinely competitive race and the top athletes have made it their own.
Of course the two International world class races are not the whole story of the Armagh Road Race. A programme with 12 events run with clockwork precision year in and year out tells its own story of dedicated volunteers and professional back-up from many sources not least the PSNI whose overview of the race has made it one of the safest races in the world. Then there is the dedicated support of the Armagh, Banbridge & Craigavon Council and the previous Armagh City & District Council who have supported the race since its inception in 1990. Also for the last few years the race has been generously supported by Athletics Northern Ireland.
The race has attracted great supporters from the private sector also with businesses such as Brooks, Intersport, Linwoods, Fane Valley and Simply Fruit providing invaluable financial and in-kind assistance. In addition the huge programme of juvenile races are supported by sponsors like Francis Haughey Construction, Deluxe Bespoke Joinery, GCS Solicitors, Specsavers of Portadown, FK Lowry Piling, SFM Engineering, WHR Accountants, Homecare, C K Rafferty Solicitors, Tyross Foot Clinic and the Mulberry Restaurant. The race is also indebted to the Armagh City Hotel and Charlemont Arms Hotel who look after the athletes so well each year and the many restaurants and cafes visited by the athletes during their stay.
It is this huge community back-up from both the public and private sector that makes the Armagh International Road Race the great event it is.
The Lord Mayor of Armagh, Banbridge & Craigavon Borough Council Alderman Gareth Wilson spoke of the high regard in which the race was held worldwide and reiterated his and his Council’s support for the success of the event into the future. He said ‘the Armagh International Road Race is the major sporting event in the Armagh Sports Calendar attracting participants and spectators not only from these islands but from right around the globe. He wished the organisers and athletes every good wish for the 2018 event’.
While entries are still coming in and will continue to come in right up to the closing date in February there have been a few notable elite entrants so far. As well as Laura Weightman the Women’s 3K line-up includes Jodie Simpson Commonwealth Games Triathlon Champion in 2014 who finished second in the World Championships in Abu Dhabi this year, Rachael Burns of Liverpool Harriers, Naomi Taschimowitz of Salisbury Barnet Harriers, the Polish 3K Steeplechase champion and Olympian Matylda Kowak and Sarah Inglis of Lothian AC now training in Vancouver, Canada but determined to race in Armagh.
So far the Men’s 5K has runners like Julian Oakley of New Zealand seasons best of 13.45, Shane Quinn Ireland 13.48, Yannick Michiels of Belgium 13.58, Dewi Griffiths of Wales 13.58 and Sean Hehir twice winner of the Dublin City Marathon.
This is only the start and indications are that 2018 will be one of the best events so far.