Athletes Chase NI and Ulster Honours at Lisburn Half Marathon
20 June 2017
Thousands of athletes will take to the streets of Lisburn tomorrow evening (Wednesday 21st June 2017) for the annual Lisburn Half Marathon, which will incorporate the NI & Ulster Half Marathon Championships.
North Belfast Harriers duo Mark McKinstry and Gladys Ganiel O’Neill will be amongst nearly 2,000 athletes taking on the flat and fast 13.1 mile route.
Ahead of the NI & Ulster Half Marathon Championships, Chairman of Lisburn & Castlereagh City Council’s Leisure & Community Development Committee, Councillor Tim Morrow said:
“On behalf of Lisburn & Castlereagh City Council I am extremely proud that for the first time, the Lisburn Coca-Cola HBC Half Marathon has been designated the Northern Ireland and Ulster Half Marathon Championship. This prestigious accolade has strengthened the status of this race, with participation rates at a record level, and the calibre of runners higher than ever before. I would like to wish all competitors every success in the forthcoming race.”
Reigning NI & Ulster Half Marathon Champion Mark McKinstry goes into the event off the back of an excellent win at the Fairhill 5 mile road race in Ballymena two weeks ago, where he recorded 25:02 for the win. Given his 13.1 mile personal best of 1:10:20, set whilst winning the Newtownards Half Marathon in 2016, it’s hard to look past the Glenwherry man as pre-race favourite.
However, he will face tough opposition in the form of equally in-form club mate John Black – the pair were a clear first and second at the Larne Half Marathon earlier this year, with Mark running 1:11:32 and John 1:11:56. John went on to better that with a 1:11:18 to win the Newry Half Marathon last month.
Chasing the Stags will be Willowfield Harriers’ Neill Weir, who interestingly finished in third behind the pair in Larne. That day, Neill recorded 1:12:16 but his recent form over shorter distances, which includes a 21:31 for victory at the Albertville 4 mile road race, would suggest that a personal best could well be on the cards.
Eddie Cooke, Philip Goss and Kent Swann will bolster the North Belfast Harriers side as they aim to retain their team title, but recently formed Victoria Park & Connswater AC will be worth watching with a team who will pack well – this includes John Craig, Stephen Wylie, Keith Purdy and Joe Craney.
Gladys Ganiel O’Neill headlines the ladies field and the Commonwealth Games athlete will go into the race hoping to replicate her first place finish at the Carlingford Half Marathon, where she claimed victory in 1:18:24. Northern Ireland and Ireland international Gladys also claimed a podium place over the 13.1 mile distance in Larne back in March; a strong 1:19:12 finish secured the runners up spot behind National half marathon champion Laura Graham.
Chasing Gladys will be the ever-improving Amy Bulman of Willowfield Harriers. In 2016, Amy took fifth place at this race, running just outside ninety minutes – since then, Amy has improved her half marathon time considerably, with a 1:21:15 for third place at the Larne Half Marathon her current best; the Northern Ireland cross country runner could well dip under the eighty minutes here.
2016 NI & Ulster Half Marathon silver medallist Karen Alexander (Acorns AC) will also contest a podium place. The long distance specialist clocked 1:21:54 for the runners up spot at the Omagh Half Marathon this season. Other ladies to look out for include ever consistent Diane Watson (City of Lisburn AC) and Karen McLaughlin (Springwell Running Club).
In the battle for ladies team honours, the Amy Bulman led Willowfield Harriers will be hoping to get the better of North Belfast Harriers and Springwell Running Club.
The associated 10k race will bring a further 2,000 athletes to the start line and 2016 winner Chris Madden (City of Lisburn AC) will be the man to beat. Chris has run 31:07 (Craic 10k), 31:47 (Jimmys 10k) and 31:49 (Titanic 10k) for the distance so far this year – in all three races he was forced to settle for second place; he’ll be keen to go one better here.
Foyle Valley AC’s Keith Shiels will also play a prominent part in proceedings and after recording 15:15 at the recent Buncrana 5k, he cannot be ruled out. Andrew Annett (North Belfast Harriers) should also be there or there abouts.
Fairhill 5 mile road race runner up Denise Logue (Ballydrain Harriers) should head the ladies field, but will again have to fend off club mate Debbie Matchett, as was the case in Ballymena (at the Fairhill 5) two weeks ago when Debbie secured third place. Denise ran 30:53 that night and has clocked 38:04 for 10k this year, while Debbie ran 32:07 in Ballymena and went just over the forty minutes with a 40:21 for fourth at the Comber 10k last week. Mountain running international Mari Troeng (Newcastle AC), Sarahjane Guiney (Unattached), Niamh Kellett (East Down AC) and Ciara Coffey (Unattached) will also make the top ten.