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THE INDEPTH STRENGTH OF THE ARMAGH INTERNATIONAL

09 February 2016

There is an old oft used cliché - ‘Going from strength to strength’ – but with regard to the 26th Armagh International Road Race the cliché is very apt.

Last year the Men’s 5K produced the staggering total of no less than 56 Sub 15 minute times led home by a pair of runners dipping under 14 minutes.

A quick glance through the race statistics of runners going to the line in the Brook’s Men’s International reveals no less than 72 athletes who have broken 15 minutes with 12 of those with sub 14 minutes to their credit.

Scotland’s Andrew Butchard leads the field with a personal best 5000M time of 13.29.

This year’s Intersport Women’s International 3K more than matches the men’s with no less than 34 athletes who can run under 10 minutes and 4 who have bettered 9 minutes to make the 2016th edition the strongest line-up to date in the race.

It is virtually impossible to predict how this race will go. The race record of 9.07 set a few years ago by Mary Cullen is an extremely hard target for them all. An inform Charlene Thomas who ran 4.03 for 1500M last year could be the athlete to look out for.

However the Armagh course around the picturesque 18th Century Mall is an unforgiving challenge with four almost right-angled bends to negotiate after straight runs of around 400M on either side of the 1000M plus lap.

WOMEN’S ARMAGH INTERSPORT INTERNATIONAL 3K

With at least 6 runners in the Women’s 3K line-up who have run under the course record time of 9.07 this race is extremely difficult to predict. Add a further 28 who have bettered 10 minutes what is emerging is possibly the greatest ever in-depth women’s 3K run in Ireland and possibly further afield.

Depending on current form the top 6 athletes to look out for with any one of them a potential winner and given the right conditions on the night capable of producing a record breaking run are as follows. Laura Whittle representing Scotland is a previous winner in Armagh and has a recorded personal best time of 8.50 for 3K backed up by an impressive 15.20 for 5K. Among others in serious contention would be Katrina Wootton of Coventry AC who has a recorded best also of 8.50 followed by Beth Potter of Scotland who has a best of 8.58 for the distance. Then there’s Ireland’s Deirdre Byrne who has a personal best of 8.58 but nowadays better known as a regular member of Ireland’s elite women’s cross country squad. Sinead Haughey from the USA but with Armagh roots through her father Jim Haughey a former junior star before moving to take up a University scholarship and going on to dominate the NCAA scene for years in his adopted country. No doubt Sinead’s extended Lurgan family will be in Armagh to cheer her on.  Sinead’s favourite distances are a bit longer with her best PB just now at 10K where she has recorded 33.52.

From the nominated English selection best is Faye Fullerton with a time of 9.07.52. Justina Heslop who’ll be flying in from Ethiopia also has a personal best of 9.07 and should be in good racing form after her altitude experience.

Charlene Thomas of Wakefield could be the runner to upset all predictions as apart from her 3K best of 9.01 she recently ran 4.03 for 1500M close to her best of 4.01 so has a fair turn of speed to rely on. Poland has a full team with their best contender Urszula Necka on 9.12 for the distance. Then we have Scotland’s Sarah Inglis who has recorded 9.22 followed by regular participants in Armagh Gemma Hillier-Moses 3rd in 2015 in 9.24 and Racheal Bamford who has a best of 9.15. Mary Ann O’Sullivan one of the nominated Irish team also has good sub 10 minute credentials.

ARMAGH AC STARS

It is hoped that Armagh AC’s top female athletes both now living in Glasgow and Newcastle respectively will be returning to perform before the home crowd. Fionnuala Ross won last year’s Scottish 10K Championship while Danielle won the Northern Ireland 10K Championship. Fionnuala has been shaking up the athletic establishment in Scotland where she runs as a second claim runner with Shettleston Harriers taking Area League titles while Danielle recently had a great run in the British Universities Cross Country Championships finishing 11th overall. Last year she achieved a double All Ireland Cross Country Championship by winning both the All Ireland Novice and Intermediate titles. 

The International team placings will be decided between favourites Scotland, Ireland, England and Poland not forgetting that there is also an FSGT France national selection entered. Belgium with just two athletes doesn’t have a team.

THE MEN’S ARMAGH BROOKS INTERNATIONAL 5K WIDE OPEN

With so many quality athletes to choose between it is going to be almost impossible to predict how the 26th ARMAGH BROOKS INTERNATIONAL 5K will turn out as the athletes cross the finish line.

On paper the runner with the best times and in best current form is Andrew Butchard who will lead the Scottish team in a bid to win both individual and team honours. Butchard with a PB of 13.29 leads a star studded field and it is hard to see anyone getting the better of him. However in athletics you’re only as good as your last race and Andrew will face serious opposition from runners of the calibre of the Swansea Harriers star Dewi Griffiths who recently featured in a titanic televised battle with some of the best cross country runners in the world at the Edinburgh International Cross Country. Dewi has a 5K best of 13.53. However he faces Ireland’s Mark Kenneally who has a best from a few years ago of 13.36 as well as fellow Welsh athlete from Cardiff Ieuan Thomas who has a 13.59 to his athletic CV.

Belgian Yannick Michiels with a PB of 13.47 is another unknown quantity who could put it up to everyone.  Another from the strong Scottish squad is Jake Wightman former European Junior 1500M Champion who has recorded 13.57 for the distance and was 18th last year.

POLAND fields some athletes with quite impressive credentials led by current Polish Champion Krzysztof Zebrowski who ran 13.51 last year. The current European Steeplechase Champion and World Championship finalist with a personal best at his distance of 8.16.20 will be joined  in the team by Bartosz Nowicki who has run 7.57.99 for 3K flat to make up a very formidable challenge for team honours.

A couple more sub 14 minute runners going to be in the shake up for individual honours on the night are Richard Peters from Bristol West with a best of 13.46 and Liverpool’s Daniel Cliffe who has recorded 13.59.

AAI Ireland has nominated a very strong squad led by Thomas Fitzpatrick who has run 13.58.75 for the distance. Then we have Kevin Mulcaire who last year established a new Irish Junior record of 14.02 a more than outside contender given his current reputed form.

KENYA & ERITREA

Both Kenya and Eritrea will be strongly represented by Kenya’s Gideon Kimosop who has dominate half marathon races in Ireland in recent years and Scottish domiciled Eritreans Tewodle Mengisteab a Scottish 5K champion and Kamil Sieracki a 30.17 10K runner both representing Scottish club Shettleston Harriers.

FINLAND

Finland after an absence of some years will be represented by Janne Ukonmaanaho a regular member of the Finnish national squad and who has represented his country in Steeplechase at both the Barcelona 2010 and Zurich 2014 European team Championships. His Steeplechase best is 8.27.08 which indicates the potential for a low 14 minute performance

Finally two other athletes from the wealth of talent entered this year and both runners worth keeping an eye out for in the very tactical race we’re likely to see on Thursday 18th  are Alex Bruce Littlewood from Blackheath & Bromley who has a PB of 14.03 while Josh Grace of Real Runners noted for his tenacious running comes with a PB of 14.09. He would like a good performance for his team captain Kevin Quinn a regular participant but currently hospitalised and who we wish all the best for a full recovery.

LINWOOD’S OPEN MEN’S 3K

Armagh AC is delighted to have Linwood’s support for the Open Men’s 3K this year. This is the most ‘open’ race on the night and this year has attracted runners from all over Ireland, England, Scotland, Wales and France. It’s impossible to predict anything. Armagh AC’s best finisher last year was Gary Henderson and this year he is running even better so we expect to see him featuring once again in the top 10.

There are about 200 entered in this race which has developed year on year to provide a fitting athletic spectacle to close off a great night of athletics staged on the best and most spectacular setting in Europe Armagh’s historic 18th Century Mall.

OPENING SPECTACLE OF THE JUNIOR RACES

Starting at 6.30pm on Thursday 18th February the evening of athletics starts off with 9 underage races and about 1200 young athletes representing all the local schools and athletic clubs.

These races run off like clockwork provide an unequalled spectacle of youthful enthusiasm that rivals the big international races to follow. Prepare for an un-paralleled spectacle by making sure to be in place by 6.30pm on the night.

ARMAGH, BANBRIDGE & CRAIGAVON BOROUGH COUNCIL continue the long running support started in 1990 by the old Armagh City & District Council.  However support by Armagh City & District Council goes right back to the Council’s formation in the 1970’s when they supported the original Armagh International Cross Country events right up to the inaugural Armagh International Road Race in 1990. The Race simply could not take place without their financial and logistic support from everyone in the Council from the Lord Mayor Darren Causby right through the council officers and work staff.

The PSNI have developed their support of the race over the years so that now the Armagh International night of athletics is the safest and best supervised race in the country. The dedicated cover provided by the Order of Malta ensures prompt and expert medical attention for all the participants.

The support of the entire community reflected in the numerous advertisements and endorsements in the programme is really crucial to the efforts of Armagh AC to sustain such an ambitious and unique athletic programme year on year.

Simply Fruit with their donation of 1500 fruit packs reinforces the club’s promotion of healthy living and eating for health.

The co-operation of local Hotels Armagh City and Charlemont Arms ensures that we can accommodate the huge influx of athletes from outside Armagh. The welcome opening of Armagh City Hostel has also greatly expanded our capacity to accommodate the ever increasing numbers of visiting athletes.