Weekend Report – March 20th

Spring may have sprung and recent high pressure and blue skies might suggest that St. Patrick has turned the stone…but don’t get too excited! It is my turn to write again. Hopefully, I will remember how! It is a fairly busy time of the year with at least one substantial St. Patrick’s Day event and, of course, one of the biggest events of the year, Saturday’s AES Larne Half Marathon. Sunday will see the inaugural JogBelfast 5k run in Ormeau Park.

Spar Craic 10K

In the last couple of years St. Patrick’s Day has become synonymous with the Spar Craic 10k which begins at Belfast City Hall and takes the runner on a tour of West Belfast before a traverse of the Lagan on the new pedestrian bridge to East Belfast and the Titanic slipways and the finishing mats. There are a number of main promoters and competitors are urged to seek sponsorship to help the deterMIND charity which is leading the campaign against Motor Neurone Disease. This is being billed as a cross community event and a portion of each entry fee of £25 will be donated to the named charity.

The former Lord Mayor of Belfast Máirtin O’Muilleoir, himself a runner, is one of those behind the initiative. The action begins at Belfast City Hall at 9am. I am aware of a number of OAC entrants for this year’s race, at least two of them in very fancy dress, or so the rumours would suggest. Well over 1000 entries have been received and amongst them will be Thomas Leitch, Anne Moore, Catherine Fearon, Mairead Conlon, Graeme Bennett, Lisa Rodham, Ian Reid, Mairead Napier, Shona Pryde, Michael O’Donoghue and possibly others. So, if you are not interested in either the Schools’ Cup Final at the Kingspan or the MacRory Cup Final in Armagh or even the gee gees at Down Royal, head into Belfast city centre for a bit of running craic, either as a competitor or as a spectator. You will not be disappointed! The following are the Orangegrove Athletic Club times for the Spar Craic 10k:-

Thomas Leitch 37.34 (24th/1131)
Michael O’Donoghue 41.59 PB
Graeme Bennett 42.04
Anne Moore 44.14
Catherine Fearon 55.46
Mairead Conlon 57.17
Lisa Rodham 1.09.01
Mairead Napier 1.09.01
Shona Pryde 1.09.01
Ian Reid 1.14.56

Very well done indeed to Thomas Leitch on a great run and to Michael O’Donoghue on a personal best for this distance. The St. Patrick’s Day Craic Spar 10k was won by Andrew Annett in 32.56. Theresa Duffy was first lady in 38.44.

Larne Half Marathon

Some of us are inclined to think that we have to travel far and wide to find a decent marathon or half marathon. Yet, within our own shores, indeed just up the road a bit, we have what must be one of the great half marathons of Europe, if not the World. Larne Athletic Club’s AES Larne Half Marathon has just about everything; a little bit of urban, a slice of leafy suburb, a very big chunk of stunning coastal scenery, some beautiful rural vistas, a challenging hill, a spooky castle, a picture postcard village, loads of razzmatazz, great organisation, great local support along the route and post-race hospitality that is second to none. In the last few years this half marathon has expanded enormously and it definitely has an international feel to it and this is borne out by some of the names in the entry list which stands at nearly 2000 in number.

The route is spectacular. Race headquarters is at the magnificent Larne Leisure Centre at the sea front. The race itself begins by the lapping waters of Larne Lough close to the Chaine Monument to a local dignitary and not too far removed from the memorial to the 133 victims of the Princess Victoria disaster in 1953. The first part of the route is through the centre of Larne itself before the runner doubles back towards the Antrim Coast Road for the magnificent section through the Black Arch, Drains Bay, Carnfunnock, Ballygally Head and the village of Ballygally itself. At the spooky castle the runner bears left and shortly afterwards begins the fairly challenging climb of about a mile or less up to Cairncastle village. After that it is fast downhill to the coast again before the journey back to the Leisure Centre, this time the final section by the coastal path rather than through the town itself. It is a truly magnificent event and one in which it is a pleasure to run….as long as the weather is on your side, as it has been in the last few years. However, strong winds and rain could make it all very difficult indeed!

Thankfully, the weather forecast for Saturday is good, so hopefully all will be well. Traditionally, there is a very big Orangegrove turnout for this one, and Saturday will see many of us there again!

And conditions were perfect on the day, cool, dry and no wind. The organisation too was superb. Great marshalling and enough water around the course to float an Esso supertanker. The following are the chip times for Orangegrove participants:

Des Fahy 1.27.46
Sile Brennan 1.33.00
Rodney Corrigan 1.36.08
Stephen Anderson 1.36.50 PB
Julie McKimm 1.41.29
Ian Grant 1.42.12
Michael O’Donoghue 1.42.48
Zdzislaw Malkinski 1.45.33
Ian Millgate 1.45.44 PB
Jacqui Maxwell 1.47.47
Emma McWilliams 1.50.18
Brian Todd 1.50.18
Anne Moore 1.54.46
Heather Shanks-Miller 1.54.49
Trish Magill 1.55.34
Linda Craig 1.56.51
Kerris Hamilton 1.58.28
Sharon Corken 1.58.28
Kirsty Buchanan 1.58.55 PB

Very well done indeed to both Des Fahy and Sile Brennan for leading the OAC contingent home. The AES Larne Half Marathon was won by Gideon Kimosop (Project Africa Athletes) in 1.07.28. Laura Graham (Mourne Runners) was first lady in 1.19.21.

We at OAC are very grateful for the support and encouragement we received around the course, particularly from our own Sharon McFarland, Anne Devlin, Ian Reid and Thomas and Liz Leitch. We are also very grateful for the many photographs they took during the course of the day, some of which I will attempt to compile into a photo album to follow this report. Thank you!

Winter triathlon

Male club captain Robin Montgomery should have been pounding the coast road with us, but instead he was on ‘business’ in the Netherlands, in Enschede to be exact, taking part in a ‘work related’ winter triathlon. Have no fear, he is not doing the whole thing himself. It was Robin’s job to run the 10k road/trail section before handing over to a cyclist (50k) and eventually to a speed skater (22k). As was to be expected Robin did his bit with gusto, running the 10k in 39.21 for sixth place out of 47. The cyclist didn’t fare so well, suffering a mechanical failure which slowed him before he handed over to the speed skater. To cut a long story short, Robin’s team finished in 19th place out of 47 and was the first work team to complete the event. We offer our congratulations to both Robin and his work colleagues.

GloHealth Irish Masters Indoor Championships

There is within Orangegrove a small but very active sprint group under the ever watchful eye of Alan Martin which meets at the Mary Peters Track on Monday evenings and at Grosvenor on Wednesday evenings. This Sunday a number of the sprinters are in Athlone taking part in the GloHealth Irish Masters Indoor Championships. I understand that Joy McAleer, Beverley Martin, Ian Wilson, George Gribben, Jim Harris and Alan himself will compete and results will be added to this report as soon as they are available. Indeed, before even a sprint was sprung, the day got off to an excellent start for Orangegrove with a very focused looking Emma Smith featuring on the front cover of the Championship programme. Unfortunately Emma could not compete due to injury, but was present to coach and cheer on her team. We wish them all the very best of luck.

And the news from Athlone, so far, is good news. Jim Harris was 3rd in the 400m. George Gribben was 2nd in the 200m and 4th in the 60m. Beverley Martin was joint 4th at 60m and 5th in the 200m with a new PB by 1.41 seconds. Ian Wilson, recovering from injury, ran 8.52 in the 60m and coach Alan Martin, sprinting for the first time in a long time, registered 9.02 in the 60m. I have no news of Joy McAleer other than a photo of her standing alone on the 3rd place level of a podium. We will hear in due course. Sorry, wrong! Joy is standing on the silver side of the podium, having secured 2nd place in the F50 800m. Job done! Very well done indeed to all the sprinters!

JogBelfast 5K

There has been an enormous revolution in non-competitive running in the last three or four years and at the heart of it has been parkrun and the Couch to 5k programme. While parkrun caters for those who can run a bit, the Couch to 5k phenomenon has offered incredible support to hundreds, possibly thousands, of local people in their efforts to make the enormous jump from inactivity through a twelve week programme of manageable easy steps towards a first parkrun of 5k and, in the process, providing a sense of achievement, self respect, friendship and fraternity and even a bit of craic for those who see it through.

Our own Club, now in conjunction with Victoria Park and Connswater Athletic Club, has been foremost in running a successful Couch to 5K programme over the last couple of years and it is gratifying to note that today some of our most respected Club members have entered the portal from the programme. On Sunday March 20th the achievements and endeavour of every individual who has come through Couch to 5k were celebrated in the running of the inaugural Couch to 5k race in Ormeau Park. While specifically for those who have completed or are completing the scheme the race also welcomed anybody else who wished to take part. The route is a five kilometre loop within the park itself. The start is at 10am and the organisers will welcome all those who have partaken in the scheme and not just those who wear the blue JogBelfast t-shirt. Race headquarters is in the Bowling Pavilion at the Ormeau Road end where the start and finish areas will also be located. Timing will by ChampionChip Ireland.

The organisers are very grateful for the support they have received from Belfast City Council, the Public Health Agency, ActiveNI, the Belfast Health Development Unit, Sport NI, BelfastRunning.com and Bailies Coffee, a company which has not only provided valuable sponsorship but will also provide welcome refreshments on the day. Entries are limited to 1000 and hopefully our Club will be represented both on the track and amongst the marshals. We salute them! Too many to mention all of them from Victoria Park, but certainly today the following were in action at Ormeau: Jack Duffin, Christina Laing, Magda Berntek, Eleanor Harkness, Joanne Bakley, Teri McIlroy Wilson, Linda McKenna, Leon Thompson, Charlene Hughes, Emma McCreery, Richard McCance and Alison Smyth. (Names provided by Ian Wilson) Very well done indeed to the runners and to the coaches who got them there!

North Coast Marathon Series

It all started as a nasty unlikely rumour, but then it turned out to be true. Following on yesterday’s Larne Half Marathon, it would appear to be fact that Michael O’Donoghue got out of his bed this morning and headed for the north coast to take part in a North Coast Marathon Series marathon from Portstewart to somewhere west of Ballintoy and then back to Portstewart? His Strava report records a time of 4.10.26 and an elevation gain of 1,082 feet. I will just leave you with that. Nuff said!


Parkrun goes from strength to strength and is not far off being a global phenomenon. Last week Ormeau had over 500 runners and our own Victoria Park had 335 while Waterworks had 301. Long gone are the days when these locations would have sported a man and his dog only at 9.30am on a Saturday morning.

There are currently over twenty parkruns within Northern Ireland, with eight in the Greater Belfast area alone: Waterworks, Victoria Park, Queen’s University at the Dub, Falls, Stormont, Ormeau, Colin Glen and Newtownabbey. This week 209 runners plumped for Victoria Park and there were one or two very good runs from the Orangegrove clientele.

Many congratulations to Darren Houston who is running very well at the moment. Darren completed his 100th parkrun in a personal best time of 19.33. Well done Deborah Killen on yet another personal best of 35.38. At Queen’s, Aaron McCord (JM 11-14) recorded a personal best of 21.27. At Stormont Martin O’Brien (21.37), Gerald Harvey (23.10) and Melinda Wilkinson (26.52) all set personal bests for the venue. David Fletcher (22.07) and Ryan Drain (JM10/23.25) were first timers at Stormont. Andy McIntyre was flying at Ormeau where he finished second in a personal best time of 18.01. Well done Reg Sanlon at Comber where he registered a personal best of 24.11.

Thomas Leitch was 2nd overall at Larne parkrun at Carnfunnock in a personal best time of 19.00 for this hilly venue. Mark Williamson tackled Letterkenny parkrun where he finished second in 21.28. Paul and Lyndsey Tyro were speedy first timers at Cookstown in 18.24 and 19.52 respectively. There also seems to have been quite a bit of parkrun tourism going on at the weekend amongst the OAC brethren. Paul Gruhn was in Newcastle-upon-Tyne where he recorded 25.26, Lisa Fleming was in Ballymena (23.15), Anna Rankin was at Marlay, near Dublin, in 26.06 and Nicola and Chris Downey ran at Fish Hoek (Cape Town, South Africa) where Nicola recorded 31.03 and Chris a more sedate 45.59.

The whole thing is dependent on Volunteers and there is room for more. Training will be given and you will not be thrown in at the deep end.

Email belfastvictoriahelpers@parkrun.com and the indomitable Gerry Ward will get you a wee job to do. It could change your life. It most certainly will change your Saturdays.