27 January 2017

The 27th edition of the Armagh International Road Race takes place on Thursday 16th February in the world famous setting of Armagh’s historic 18th Century City Centre Mall.

This year also celebrates 50 years of athletic promotion for Armagh AC and continues a tradition of International Road Races that began in 1975 with the NACAI International Sport & Cultural Week. The Armagh Road Race started in 1990 continues a very long tradition of athletics in Armagh combining both elite athletics through the world renowned Brooks 5K for Men, the Intersport 3K for Women and the Linwoods Open 3K for Men and encouraging participation in athletics through the 8 supporting races for local schools and clubs.


The addition this year to the Armagh programme of the World Sprint Orienteering 3 Day event has extended things to almost a week of Elite sport in Armagh with many of the World’s best orienteers joining both the 5K and 3K races. Last year of course who can forget the almost winning performance of Yannick Michiels of Belgium who will be running again this year.


The indepth quality of both the Brooks 5K and Intersport 3K has long established the Armagh International Road Race series as arguably the best events of their kind in the world and 2017 will be no exception to this tradition.

If anything the organisers have raised the bar by a few more notches.  The Intersport Women’s 3K will bring together an unsurpassed array of talent that could well challenge the record of 9.07.9 set by Mary Cullen in 2013.

Among the high profile women who will line up on Thursday 16th we have athletes of the calibre of Laura Weightman currently coached by Steve Cram who has a 3000M best of 8.43 and now concentrating on 1500M where she has run 4.02.66. In addition Weightman has a wealth of experience have run in all the major world championships including European, World and Olympic Games.

Laura Whittle won here in Armagh in 2014 and last year ran 8.51.48 for 3000M while she herself regards her European U-23 5000M Championship gold as her best performance. It is worth noting she has run 15.08.58 for 5000.

There is an English National team competing selected after trials held late last year and of the 3 athletes selected Jessica Judd who has run 9.00.06 for 3000M looks best. However there are other great English athletes entered including Rosie Clarke who has run 9.10.99 and Sarah Inglis with a best of 9.04.

Scotland is well represented with Stephie Pennycook who has run 9.04. while Welsh hopes will be led by Melissa Courtney who has a best of 9.03.

There is more local interest too with Irish Olympian Kerry O’Flaherty leading the Northern Ireland selection. Kerry O’Flaherty who won here in 2009 and 2010 is better known these days as a 3000M Steeplchaser who represented Ireland in the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio.

The AAI Irish team includes Maria McCambridge who won the Armagh race in 2008 and she’ll be joined by Una Britton, Anne Marie McGlynn and Fiona Clinton.

Further afield we have Mariola Slusarczyk from Poland another 3000M Steeplechaser and from Hungary we have a world renowned orienteer Fanni Gyurko with a best 3000M time of 9.29.

There is a record 150 plus entered for this year’s Intersport 3K with perhaps the best yet indepth line-up.


A quick glance at the solid indepth talent entered for this year’s Brooks International 5K Men’s race suggests that the record of 13.54 held since away back in 2009 by USA athlete David Nightingale could well go. However as anyone who knows the unforgiving nature of the Armagh 1000M course there are no certainties in this race.

What we do know is that a field of almost 250 athletes are entered there at least 18 sub 14 minute runners and well over 100 who have run sub - 15 minutes for the distance.

Sometimes however a field like that with so many well matched athletes can result in a very tactical race with no one prepared to lay down the gauntlet and go for it.

There is once again a big International dimension with last years winner Charlie Hulson Sale Harriers England among the top contenders with a 5000M best of 13.43 among his achievments which also include winning the English Cross Country Championships in 2015.

Another top English contender will be Jonny Davies former European U-23 Cross Country Champion who quite recently recorded an excellent 13.23 for 5000M.

From Poland the former European team 3000M Steeplechase Champion Krystian Zalewski continues a long tradition of Polish participation in Armagh. His Steeplechase PB of 8.17 indicates that he could be a real contender this year and his previous visits to Armagh will have increased his knowledge of this very difficult course with around 19 ninety degree bends!

The USA has always featured strongly in Armagh thanks to the efforts of Athletic supremo Charlie Breagy who works hard to get some of the best USA athletes over each year notching up no less than 6 wins and the current record in the 12 years since their first appearance in 2005. This years USA quartet is led by Brandon Doughty who has a 5000M PB of 13.39. The team also includes Irish athlete Shane Quinn from Providence University who just missed selection on the Irish team with a PB of 13.48. Shane is a son of the Irish 3000M Steeplechase record holder Brendan Quinn who’ll be attending the race to encourage his son. The USA contingent is completed by Jonny Crain and Jordan Mann who have both run 13.53 for the 5K.

The AAI Irish team is led by Matt Bergin also running for his club Bedford County AC and he is another sub 14 runner with a best of 13.54. The team is completed by Mark Christie, Kevin Dooney and Thomas Hayes.

There is a strong Scottish team as well with Olympic 1500M runner Jake Wightman the best known – Jake has previously run in Armagh and regards the race as critical to his early season preparation for the track. In 2016 Jake recorded a superb 3.54.20 for the 1 Mile while his 1500M best of 3.35.49 puts him among the elites of the world. The team includes Grant Sheldon, Derek Hawkins and Ben Stevenson who all run low 14 minute times for the distance.

The addition of the World Sprint Orienteering 3 Day has brought a new dimension to the Armagh International programme with World Champion orienteers like Tim Robertson from New Zealand and Oystein Kvaal of Norway joining Yannick Michiels of Belgium on the line.

The orienteering dimension this year also ensures a full Finnish team on the line with Arttu Vattulainen a 13.53 runner and Henri Manninen better known for the marathon where he has run 2.16.43 joined by Finnish & world orienteer Topi Raitanen.

As usual there will be a strong Welsh contingent with a National selection and long standing participants Swansea AC led by Dewi Griffiths who has run 13.53 for the distance. Many of the Swansea runners have been coming here for years and strong links have developed over the years between Armagh AC and Swansea.

There are a couple of other English athletes worth looking out for on the night namely John Beattie from Newham & Essex Beagles AC with a 13.42.03 5000M best and Jake Shelley Shaftesbury Barnett AC with a 13.46 time.


In addition to the two International events there are no less than 9 other races including the Linwoods Open Men’s 3K with an entry of 200 plus representing athletes from all over Ireland, Britain and Europe including France and Norway.

However what most people will be interested in are the 8 juvenile races bringing together over 1000 young athletes representing both local schools and clubs from all over Ireland. These 8 races feature the future of the sport and many previous participants have graduated year on year to joining the ranks of the competitors in the 3K and 5K races.

These 8 races present a colourful and exciting opening to the elite senior races which follow on and are a credit to the schools and clubs who give up their time to coach and supervise the development of this up and coming pool of talent.


Without the support of Armagh, Banbridge  Craigavon Borough Council, Athletics NI plus Brooks, Intersport, Linwoods and countless Armagh businesses the event couldn’t take place.

Armagh AC is deeply indebted and appreciative of this valuable financial and in kind support so generously forthcoming each year.

The club is also appreciative of the support offered the race by Council personnel like Gerard Houlahan, Edel Ferson, Brian Johnston and Sara McGeary.

Finally Armagh Athletic Club is very appreciative of the efforts of Allan Bogle and Jackie Newton from the Orienteering Associations who have linked up with us this year to add a new dimension to the Armagh International Road Race.

On the ground the club also acknowledges the support given by the PSNI who turn out every year to ensure the safe conduct of the race and help make it one of safest races anywhere in the island of Ireland. The club is also indebted to the work of the Order of Malta plus the many volunteers from both Armagh AC and other clubs and their families without whom the race couldn’t take place.


Brian Vallely