Larne Half Marathon

The Larne Half Marathon was foremost on the minds of a considerable number of OAC members this weekend. Seriously, the Larne Half Marathon must be one of the great half marathons of Europe, if not the World, and maybe we, the locals, take it a little too much for granted simply because it is on our door step. Stunningly beautiful scenery, great organisation and catering, enthusiastic support around the course, razzamatazz galore and, it seems, guaranteed sunshine, clear blue skies and hardly a breath of wind, make this one of the very best.

The start is on the sea front near the Chaine Memorial Tower. The route takes the runner on a tour of Larne town before heading north along the beautiful Antrim Coast Road through Drains Bay, Carnfunnock and Ballygalley. The views of the Maidens, the North Channel itself and, in the distance, the Mull of Kintyre, are not easily forgotten, At Ballygalley Castle Hotel, about six and a half miles in, the route strikes inland and mile 7 is almost entirely a fairly challenging incline to the picturesque village of Cairncastle, before dropping sharply again to Ballygalley for the run-in to the finish at the Larne Leisure Centre. Probably not the easiest half marathon you will ever do, but certainly one of the most scenic.

Orangegrove ladies were out in force. Lyndsey Pronger was quick off the mark. She threaded her way through the congested first mile with consummate ease and was amongst the front runners to head on to the Coast Road to Ballygalley. About one hour and twenty-nine minutes later (1:29:28 to be exact) she crossed the finishing line as 5th lady home. Great running from one of Orangegrove’s most accomplished ladies and possibly a Club record for the distance. Very well done indeed! Not far behind was Pauleen Bayliss who crossed the line on 1:39:18 wearing her trademark purple lensed Oakleys. Louise Lemon, who hasn’t been seen too much lately on either grass or tarmac due to injury, finished on 1:39:24. Louise Browne knocked a mere 15 minutes off her previous time to finish on 1:45:39. Yes, that was fifteen minutes, not fifteen seconds!

Trish Magill cruised in on 1:51:22 and both Verity Cornford (the Cheshire lass) and Linda Craig-Carson finished together on 1:54:48, both well below the two hour mark. This was Verity’s second half marathon in less than a week and her time today was testament to both her work ethic in training and her determination to improve. Catherine Fearon came in on 2:04:04 and Susan Anderson was on 2:08:25. Jackie Grant, attempting her first half marathon, smiled the whole way round and was still smiling as she arrived back in Larne, hardly a hair out of place, on 2:13:27. Sharon McFarland, who only a week earlier had all but counted herself out due to a serious ankle injury, finished on 2:20:55 and, amazingly, still had enough energy to embrace her running partner, Darren Marshall, with a surprising intensity. Not a dry eye in the house!

Garry Morrrow was the leading Orangegrove male. Running his second half marathon in less than a week, he settled quickly in one of the leading groups and finished the race on 1:18:53., yet another personal best. Superb running from a superb athlete whose strong work ethic in training is certainly paying off handsomely. Andy McIntyre ran extremely well to finish as second OAC male on 1:25:52, followed by Robin Montgomery on 1:34:32 and Chris Woods, the Club Captain, on 1:35:03, a personal best for him too and again proof that hard work in training does pay a dividend. Brian Todd was next on 1:36:08, followed by Stephen Anderson on 1:37:06, Darren Houston on 1:38:25 and the indomitable Michael O’Donoghue (1:39:08) who was ecstatic at finishing below 1:40 after years of trying. Michael then consumed his sandwiches in the sunshine, drank two glasses of my wine and headed for a pub in Belfast to watch the rugby!

Martin O’Brien was on 1:43:34, Ian Grant on 1:45:14 and Rodney Corrigan on 1:49:20. Fintan Hurl enjoyed his run, his personal best and the fact that he finished below two hours (1:59:58), just! Paul Gruhn crossed the line in 2:05:50, Paul Edgar in 2:07:40 and Darren Marshall, who escorted Sharon McFarland round the 13 mile course, was on 2:20:55. Eoin Woodman too finished the race and was not in the least subdued as he crossed the line to a loud cheer from both OAC members and a curious public.

The Larne Half Marathon was a memorable day out for Orangegrove Athletics Club. All of us who ran were particularly grateful for the support we received both on the start line and right round the course from both our friends and the general public. Particular thanks for the support given by Myrtle Woodman, Anne Devlin, Kathryn Morrow, Sharon Dickenson (and her Waggy racer), Paul McGovern, Chris Downey (who distributed jelly beans at Cairncastle), Thomas and Liz Leitch and many others. We are particularly indebted to Kathryn Morrow for her sense of humour and her impromptu catering and in particular for the post race hot chocolates, or whatever they were, which will be long remembered by those who sipped them.

Some 290 turned out for Victoria Park parkrun on Saturday 21st March, 2015, although there was a sparsity of personal bests amongst members. Those who did buck the trend were JM 11-14 Aaron McCord (22:16), Mairead Napier (28:12), Diana Porter (30:53), Elaine McAllister (32:04), and Deborah Killen (39:28). Very well done indeed. Des Fahy set a new personal best at Ormeau parkrun on Saturday morning (19:05) to finish in 4th place. Great running, Des. Remember it’s not a race, it’s a timed run… and if you believe that you will believe anything. However, one thing is set in stone… no volunteers, no parkrun! So, get volunteering!

Grateful thanks, as always, to NiRunning, John T Glover, Lewis McAdam, David O’Brien and Kathryn Morrow for any photographs used.