Springwell runners brave the heat to take part in Walled City marathon

The Purple Army at the Fairhill 5
The Purple Army at the Fairhill 5

With the sweltering heat wave continuing this past week, many people were wilting like flowers.

Undaunted, the fabulous Purple Army togged up, laced-up and knocked out some really good performances, despite the conditions.

On Wednesday 1st June, nearly four hundred competitors took to the start line of the annual Fairhill 5 mile road race around the town centre in Ballymena, a very well-organised event hosted by Ballymena Runners.

This very popular race always gets a high quality field and this year was no exception in both the Mens and Ladies races. The course is potentially fast but due to its undulating nature demands respect from the runners!

Part of the attraction is the courses’ interesting nature with twists and turns along the two lap route, plus the great encouragement offered all around the course by the many spectators and marshals from the host club.

Easy access , handy parking and the use of the Town Hall facilities all contribute to the events continued success as does the generous catering and prize money dished out at the Awards Ceremony after the event!

Congratulations to Race Director, James Turtle and his support crew on a great nights racing and hospitality!

The only drawback was the heat, which remained very high right through the evening making for difficult racing conditions but, it was the same for everybody!

Springwell had a great turnout of 37 runners, of which seven amazingly managed to run PBs’ despite the weather conditions and three snatched Age Group wins, with a further two claiming Age Group second places making it another great nights running by the Purple Army!

The race was won by the Foyle Valleys Scott Rankin in 25:01, with Ballymena & Antrims’ Pauline Thom winning the Ladies race in 30:38.

The Age Group winners were Lady Chair, Karen McLaughlin whose fabulous running form continues impressively, from race-to-race, also running a PB and finishing a brilliant sixth in the Ladies race, Brian Geddis, 1st MV55 and the evergreen Jim Breen, 1st MV60, who is running really well again this year having focused a lot on marathons last year.

Amanda Connell also had a great run , running a PB, claiming 2nd FV35 and finishing seventh in the Ladies race! Not a bad night Amanda! Rounding off the prize winners for the club was the incredible running machine (and birthday boy on 5th June), that is Mr Hugh Boyle, 2nd MV60. Happy Birthday Hugh!

Others to run PBs on this difficult night were Aaron Craig, Andrew Wilmot, Mandy Stewart, Lizanne Wilson and Lorraine Abernethy, so a big well done to all those folk!

First home for the club was Stephen Joyce again, in an excellent 16th place with Chris Denton, Steven Magill, Jimmy Stewart and Brian Geddis completing the top five Springwell finishers.

Great also to see Leslie Ashe out racing again after a lengthy recovery period due to a serious illness a few years back, plus a lot of new faces, particularly female ones, helping to give us a tremendous presence on the racing scene and cement our standing as one of the foremost running clubs in the province, so thanks very much to all the runners who turned out on Wednesday night, your efforts are very much appreciated!

On Sunday 5th June, thousands of athletes brought the City of Derry/Londonderry to a standstill as they took to the Maiden City’s streets for the fourth annual running of the well organised SSE Airtricity Walled City Marathon, an event which has proved exceptionally popular after its successful debut during the UK City of Culture programme 2013.

Although marathon running is not new to the City, given the fact that there used to be a 26.2 mile race there in years gone by, this newly adapted course and the event in general, appears to be catching the imagination of not only the locals but also the wider running community, attracting athletes from fourteen different countries.

Once again though, the excessive heat, from early in the morning, was always going to be an inhibiting factor for most runners in terms of their finish times or simply just finishing!

Springwell had four runners on pacing duties and all duly ran true to their target times with great accuracy, Jason Scott pacing 3hrs 15, Eddie Clyde 4hrs, John Butcher and Chris Denton the 4hr 15’ mark. Well done to those guys!

First home for the club was Anthony Higginbottom in 03:16:48 for 55th place, followed by Dave Sexton in 03:18:13 and 63rd place. Dave also won the MV55 Age Group, so a fantastic run, well done Dave!

Stephen Fillis finished 89th in 03:26:01, admitting that he started a bit too fast for the conditions and ultimately paid the price, while Andy Dowey ran steadily to finish 125th in 03:32:31.

First Lady home for Springwell in an impressive run was Nicola Frizelle who clocked a great 03:43:05 to finish 193rd, followed by Davy McNicol who finished 281st in 03:54:20, to complete all our sub 4hr finishers on the day.

Nigel McNeill and Kyle Cromie finished in identical times of 04:09:37 and joint 451st place, with Helena Dornan running strongly as usua,l to finish 509th in 04:14:40. Noel McAllister completed the course in 04:34:00 to claim 708th place and Davy Patterson ran 04:39:00 to finish in 742nd place.

Our final finisher was Althea Clarkson in 05:19:05.

Well done to all for running and completing a marathon in those seriously hard conditions while commiserations must go to David McGaffin and Julie Millican who both pulled out at 20 and 17 miles respectively, discretion being the better part of valour in this case.

A small group of our highly-talented Juniors travelled to Tullamore in Co Offaly to participate in the GloHeath All-Ireland Schools Athletics Finals, where only the very best get to participate and the stars of the future are unveiled.

Our Juniors have been out-standing all year doing the Club and their coaches, Ali Bratten and Philip Tweedie, proud.

Once more they did not let us down and all performed exceptionally well, at this highest level of competition.

Andrew Gordon competed in the 1500m Junior final finishing a super 5th in 04:26:79, while Ryan Cullen exploded around the track in the Senior 200m final in 23:33 to finish seventh.

Niamh Carr ran brilliantly to finish fifth in the Intermediate 3000m final in 10:58:92, Aife McSheffrey fought hard to claim 6th in the Senior 800m final in 02:22:50 as did Hermione Skuce to also claim 6th in the U16 Mile race, running 05:34:55.

Brilliant times and brilliant results from our Junior Superstars, well done all!