Athletics

World 1500m silver medallist Timothy Cheruiyot set to continur the east African domination at Antrim International Cross Country event

Laura Weightman returns to Armagh next month to defend her women’s title.
Malcolm McCausland

World 1500m silver medallist Timothy Cheruiyot looks capable of continuing the east African domination at tomorrow's Antrim International Cross Country at Greenmount.

The 22-year-old Kenyan had an incredible 2017, going under 3:30 for 1500m and 3:50 for the mile as well as finishing runner-up in the 1500m at the World Championshipd in London.

Major obstacle to a Cheruiyot victory tomorrow is likely to be the soft underfoot going but, as we have seen at the meeting before, class always overcomes the conditions.

The main physical opposition to the Kenyan may come from Ethiopia's Mogos Tuemay, a 13:27 5000m runner, Morocco's Soufiane Elbakkali who ran 13:10 indoors last year and Britain's Andy Vernon who always revels in the mud.

Trevor Dunbar, the first Alaskan ever to run under four minutes, is an interesting entry as are Belgian duo Jeroen D'Hoedt and Pieter-Jan Hannes. Local interest will focus on Conor Duffy, Neil Johnston, Scott Rankin and Eoghan Totten who comprise the Ulster team that contests the Celtic International included in the race.

Two-time Greenmount winner Fionnuala McCormack is among the women's entries. McCormack, 33, who won the women's event in 2012 and 2013, will be up against Ethiopia's Birtukan Adamu and Britain's 2014 European Cross Country champion Gemma Steel. Marathon exponent Laura Graham, Rachel Gibson.

Fionnuala Ross and Katie Moore are the Ulster representatives in the Celtic contest.

The international programme starts at 12:25pm with the feature race for senior men timed to go off at 2:20pm.

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It has been another “wonderful and transformational” twelve months for the parkrun organisation which just continues to grow and grow. Globally registrations have passed four million, parkrun recorded one million performances in a single calendar month for the first time, and Namibia, Swaziland, Norway, Finland and Germany have all joined the parkrun family.

North Belfast Harrier Matt Shields has been instrumental in promoting the parkrun ideals both north and south of the border.

Nine-county Ulster boasts over 30 events including the most recent within the confines of Magilligan Prison. The County Derry event is only the second of its kind in the world.

Parkrun also flourishes in the Republic of Ireland since the first running of the Malahide eventore on November 10, 2012.

“The greatest achievements however were behind these big numbers,” said parkrun founder Paul Sinton-Hewitt. “More than ever before, 2017 was about the impact that parkrun is making around the world. Personally, I've really enjoyed visiting so many different new events in 2017 and hearing so many stories about how parkrun is having positive health and social benefits for real people.”

All this success has been achieved despite continuing to operate on limited resources.

The parkrun population makes up two thirds of the UK's running market and continues to grow faster than anyone else. Nevertheless, the organisation is constantly working to secure long-term financial sustainability. Guaranteeing that parkrun is free for everyone is always the number one priority.

“One of my biggest frustrations is the failure of the wider physical activity sector to give credit to the impact we are making and to listen to our learnings and insight around supporting people becoming more active,” laments Sinton-Hewitt.

“Over the last 13 years, we have used the power of positive celebration of everyone's achievements and the focus on fun, social, free, local, egalitarian physical activity to encourage people to take part.

Obviously, it is not all plain-sailing with an incident reported in a recent Bangor parkrun.

Over 200 people took part in the Bangor Ward Park run braving a cold winter morning.

The organisers said they were both surprised and disappointed after one of the participants was aggressive toward other runners.

It seems that one of the faster runners was blocked from overtaking a backmarker on the three-lap course and let his frustration get the better of him.

"We were, therefore, both surprised and disappointed to get reports this morning of a runner who was behaving aggressively towards other runners," said the organisers in a statement.

"We would remind everybody that Bangor parkrun is a community event and we must be respectful to each and every parkrun participant and other park users too. As the parkrun Code of Conduct states: “Have fun, it's only a run”."

For details of your nearest parkrun and to register please see www.parkrun.org.uk.

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THE line-up just gets better for next month's Armagh International Road Races on Thursday, February 15 with another crack team set to join the fray. Notable early registrations for the women's 3K race include Laura Weightman, Commonwealth triathlon champion Jodie Simpson and Polish 3000m steeplechase champion Naomi Taschimowitz.

Now Providence University intend to send a team that includes Mayo man Hugh Armstrong who represented Ireland recently at the European Cross in Slovakia, finishing 19th.

Also included are American Jordan Mann and Waterford native Shane Quinn who have both run in Armagh previously.

However, the most interesting member of the Rhode Island-based squad is Julian Oakley.

The New Zealander recently ran the second fastest ever time for 3000m indoors by a Kiwi when he recorded 7:44.34 at the Boston University Mini Meet on December 16.

That was only the blink of an eye outside's Zane Robertson's New Zealand record of 7:44.16. Oakley, who ran in Letterkenny last summer, will be competing in the World Indoors shortly after Armagh.

Meanwhile women's record holder and defending champion Laura Weightman showed she is wintering well with a victory in the Ribble Valley 10K on December 31.

It was the debut at the distance for the Leeds-based athlete and her 32:31 timing put her second in the UK listings for 2017. Registration is currently open on-line at www.armagh5k.com for the meeting.

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THERE are no surprises in the 12-strong team announced earlier this week by the Northern Ireland Commonwealth Games Council for the 2018 Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast, Australia.

The athletics programme opens on April 8 at the Carrara Stadium, home of Aussie rules team Gold Coast Suns, and concludes with both marathon events on April 15.

Twelve athletes have been selected in a team headed European bronze medallist Ciara Mageean in the 1500m and including Dempsey McGuigan in the hammer, heptathlete Kate O'Connor, Commonwealth Youth Games high jump champion Sommer Lecky,

Adam Kirk-Smith in the 3000m steeplechase and Leon Reid in the 200m.

Joining them will be 110m hurdler Ben Reynolds, long jumper Adam McMullen, Emma Mitchell in the 10,000m as well as marathon runners Kevin Seaward and Paul Pollock in the marathon. Para-athlete Jack Agnew completes the team and will compete in the T54 1500m.

There are no places for Olympic steeplechaser Kerry O'Flaherty or Amy Foster who would have been making her third Commonwealth appearance.

There is no indication of a men's 4 x 100m relay squad meaning that there is place for Paralympic sprinter Jason Smyth.

‘'We congratulate the personal coaches of the 12 named athletes, and appreciate their dedication and commitment to preparing Northern Ireland athletes to compete against the best Commonwealth nations,” said Jackie Newton, Director of Coaching & Athlete Development at Athletics NI.

“Our vision, for these Games, is that athletes arrive at their event in their best physical shape with a mindset that enables them to perform at their personal best.”

Northern Ireland has competed in eighteen of the twenty Commonwealth Games beginning with the second games, held in 1934.

Northern Ireland did not compete in 1930 (when there was a single team from Ireland) and in 1950. Last NI athlete to win a medal at the Commonwealth Games was Janet Boyle who took a high jump silver in 1990.

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