Sperrin Harriers Winter League Trail Series
THE fall of leaves heralds the start of the annual Sperrin Harriers Winter League Trail Series later this month.
The competition is organised by the successful mid-Ulster running club and is now into its seventh year. It has grown into one of the North’s premier trail race series and attracts runners of all types from the beginner to elite level. Its popularity is testimony to the attraction of the warm welcome, great atmosphere and scenic venues.
Last year’s league was the most successful to date, with numbers participating up 40 per cent on 2013/14 and some races even having a 70 per cent increase in starters. Runners from 42 clubs across Ireland took part. The series also drew a significant number of high profile athletes, making for strong competition in a league that is a firm favourite for runners of all abilities.
A new venue is being tried out this year, with the 10-mile race moving from Lough Fea to Parkanaur Forest Park, Castlecaulfield, just outside Dungannon. The league kicks off in Davagh Forest 10K on Saturday, October 31, followed by the Lough Fea 5K two weeks later on November 14. In the new year, An Creagan 5M takes place on January 9, followed by the Drum Manor 10K on January 23, with the series concluding with the 10-miler in Parkanaur Forest on February 13.
Entry fee to each race is a reasonable £6 affiliated or £7 unaffiliated, with tea, coffee and refreshments served afterwards. All races start at 12 noon, with on the day registration from 11am (10.30am for the first race on October 31).
Athletes can keep up to date with the latest regarding the series by liking the club's Facebook page and going to www.sperrinharriers.co.uk/winter-league-series.
FAMILY comes first for Jason Smyth, despite the Paralympic Athletics World Championships being held later this month in Doha.
The two-time Paralympic sprint gold medallist is on the comeback trail having undergone minor knee surgery earlier this year. However, that is not the reason the Derry City Track Club athlete will not be defending his 200m title in Qatar. Instead, he has a more important fixture at that time – his wife Elise is expected to give birth to their first child.
“My wife is actually due on October 25, so that’s probably the more important reason that I’m just doing the 100m,” said Smyth.
“I actually arrive back home on the morning of the 25th, so it’s going to be a bit close. It has been a tricky year and quite a long year. This year, there is that aspect of having to take a step back in order to, hopefully, take two steps forward. That’s just something I had to do. It’s been difficult, but my expectation is still to go there and win gold.”
Smyth has raced lightly this season. He ran two 100m races at Lee Valley in London in August before winning the 100m in Rio against the fastest Paralympic sprinters in the world. The 28-year-old has been living in London for the past couple of years, but intends to return home in the run up to next year’s Rio Paralympics.
Smyth is one of nine Paralympic athletes named this week to represent Ireland at the IPC World Championships. Belfast man Michael McKillop, like Smyth a double gold medallist at the London Paralympics, is also included in the squad, as well as thrower Órla Barry, who took bronze in 2012. The IPC Paralympic Athletics World Championships run from October 22-31.
TO CELEBRATE the 35th year of the Deep RiverRock Belfast City Marathon, the organisers are urging all local secondary schools to get involved and enter their school into the 2016 event to win a cash prize of £1,000.
The competition is open to pupils, teachers and parents of all secondary schools in Northern Ireland. To qualify, each school must register a minimum of 10 entries in either the fun run, team relay or eight-mile walk events. Prizes will be allocated dependent on the total number of participants registered under the name of the school.
There are two cash prizes up for grabs; £1,000 and £500. Entry for the Belfast City Marathon on May 2, 2016 is now open at www.belfastcitymarathon.com.
SATURDAY'S Comber Cup, organised by Ballydrain Harriers, heralds the start of another cross-country season.
The Harriers have been hard at work organising their showcase event, held in recent years at the Billy Neill Playing Fields in Dundonald. The event also kicks off the Athletics NI Cross Country League, with North Belfast Harriers defending the Comber Cup that they took from 2013 winners Newcastle & District.
There is a new trophy for the women’s team competition this year, with the addition of the John McKeag Cup. Named after the 93-year-old Ballydrain stalwart who is still attending fixtures throughout the year, the silverware should give the ladies an added stimulus to tackle the demanding climbs on the course.
There is full programme of races for all age-groups, from primary school pupils to old masters. Full information can be found at www.ballydrainharriers.co.uk.
On Sunday, the attention switches to the Navan Centre for the Armagh Adidas 10-mile Road Race, which has a midday start. For further information contact, Edel Ferson on firstname.lastname@example.org or 028 37 529636.
FURTHER afield, Fionnuala McCormack (Britton) is in the Chicago Marathon, where she pursues an Olympic qualifying mark (2:42).
McCormack faces, among others, Kenya’s Florence Kiplagat (2:19:44), Ethiopia’s Mulu Seboka (2:21:56) and Amane Gobena (2:23:30), as well as Scot Susan Partridge (2:30:46).
Britton made her marathon debut last year with a 2:31:46 mark.