Inside track

Inside Track: Parkrun phenomenon continues to spread worldwide

Conal McCambridge was a busy man over the holidays 
Malcolm McCausland

THE amazing phenomenon that is parkrun continues to grow and grow.

Sweden and Canada were the latest countries to join the parkrun family in 2016 and the organisation saw its three-millionth registration with 1.1 million different people completing a parkrun. Of course none of that would have been possible without the 142,000 people who gave their time to volunteer.

That growth is matched locally with 24 parkruns in Northern Ireland plus three in Donegal, one in Monaghan and one in Cavan bringing the total in Ulster to 29. But it has not all been plain sailing with the Enniskillen parkrun community having to leave its Castle Coole home last year after permission for its use was withdrawn by the National Trust.

Even the festive season did not see any falling off of participation levels. Besides the increased number, many venues witnessed some top class performances. But nothing came near matching the achievements of Conal McCambridge. The 19-year-old North Belfast Harrier won the Waterworks parkrun on Christmas Eve in 16:15 (80.21 per cent). Three days later he ran the Christmas Cracker 8.6 miles at Castlewellan finishing fourth with club-mate John Black.

However, that was overshadowed by his exploits last weekend when McCambridge returned to the Waterworks on New Year’s Eve to finish second behind Ben Bradagh (15:15/84.59 per cent) with a personal best 15:59 (81.54 per cent) timing. The following day, he took advantage of a delayed Waterworks start to run and win the Stormont parkrun at 9:30am in another personal best 15:52 (82.14 per cent). A quick dash back to north Belfast and he was on the start line at the Waterworks for the 11:00am kick-off and notched up another win in 16:31 (78.91 per cent).

That Waterworks run was very much a McCambridge family affair with his mother Ita (VW55-59) leading the women home in 21:35 (82.78 per cent), while father Paddy and brothers Brendan and Eamonn also took part. The Pure Running employee will not be resting over the coming few weeks either with the Antrim International next weekend and the Celtic International in Cardiff seven days later both firmly fixed in his sights.

Meanwhile, Paul Rowan (VM50-54) was another man to double up over the holiday weekend, with a 17:20 (85.10 per cent) clocking at Queen’s on New Year’s Eve, followed by a 17:25 (84.69 per cent) the next day. Michel LeVelly (VM50-54) also crept over the defining 80 per cent at Queen’s with an 18:33 (80.14 per cent) mark.

But the top percentage mark of the weekend came from ten-year-old Bailey Duncan who achieved a remarkable 21:06 timing at Bangor for a massive 88.63 per cent rating. Paddy Corr (VM45-49) showed he was regaining his old style from the Ballyclog days with a 17:12 (85.08 per cent) in Cookstown, Dave Clarke (VM55-59) impressed with his 18:44 (83.45 per cent) in Larne, as did visitor Joe Swarbrick (VM60-64) in Enniskillen, clocking 19:15 (83.29 per cent) and Lauren Wilson (SW20-24), who registered 18:04 (81.92 per cent) in Victoria Park.

Three well-known athletes wiped their feet on the way over the 80 per cent crossbar. Paul Elliott (VM60-64) managed a 20:19 (81.05 per cent) timing in Colin Glen, Neill Weir (VM40-44) sped to 16:55 (80.69 per cent) in Victoria and Barry Monaghan showed he was equally adept on two legs as two wheels with an 18:02 (80.50 per cent) in Rostrevor.

Parkruns continue at the various venues tomorrow at 9:30am and do not forget to bring your barcode so that your performance can be recorded.

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Tony McKeown of event sponsors CRASH Services, Deirdre Breen of Lurgan Friends of Southern Area Hospice group, joint-organiser David Wilson and Ciaran Woods from the House of Sport

THE Lurgan Park 5K and 10k Fun Run & Walk in aid of the Southern Area Hospice Services (SAHS) returns this year on Sunday, February 26.

The event has raised more than £17,000 for the hospice over the last three years and the 2016 race attracted over 550 participants: “We are always overwhelmed with the response,” said David Wilson, a teacher in St Ronan’s College and joint-organiser.

“The event has grown every year and there is great support for the SAHS in Lurgan and the surrounding area. There is a growing running community in the local area too and we get experienced runners, beginners and walkers.

“Each participant gets a running number, bespoke medal which features the Coalbrookdale fountain which stands in the park and a goody bag. Sponsor cards are also available from the SAHS.”

To register for the Lurgan Park 5k and 10k Fun Run & Walk, please visit www.crashservices.com/lurganpark.

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THE running year started with an upset when both defending champions were deposed at the 22nd Race Over the Glens in Glenariff Forest Park.

The smart money was on experienced Mark McKinstry to hold on to his men’s title but nobody had reckoned on Zak Hanna to produce the race of his life.

Run in cold but sunny conditions over a 6.6 mile route, McKinstry was at the head of the 400-strong field after the first mile with Hanna lurking ominously at his shoulder. Kent Swann, Neill Weir and and Matthew Hewitt led the pursuit some metres back.

As the race progressed over the rollercoaster terrain, it was mountain runner Hanna who moved clear of the North Belfast Harrier and continued to widen the gap until the finish. When the Newcastle runner crossed the line in 35:19, he had 31 seconds to spare over McKinstry with another North Belfast club man Kent Swann a distant third in 38:15.

North Belfast Harriers dominated the women’s race too as Martsje Hell kicked off the year in style with an impressive win in 45:05. Club colleague Penny Lindsay occupied the runner-up spot some 17 seconds back while 2016 winner Shileen O’Kane had to settle for third on this occasion in 46:38.

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THE Born2Run Events Company is organising its first race of the new year on Saturday (11am) at Tollymore Forest Park.

It will be the fifth of their Run Forest Run Series that has proven extremely popular this year since adding the option of a 5K to each of the fixtures. This has meant that runners can choose between the 5K and 10K depending on their preference or state of fitness.

Born2Run’s motto is 'Great Races in Great Places' and Tollymore Forest Park certainly meets that criterion. It is in the foothills of the Mournes, near Bryansford, county Down and provides a beautiful setting for a race.

All participants will receive a beautiful commemorative medal as well as enjoy first class post race refreshments. The Tollymore race had over 700 entries last year and it looks as though the 2017 field will be even bigger.

Runners will not need to have competed in any of the previous races in the series in order to take part tomorrow. Online entry is closed but you can still enter on the day. Registration takes place in Tollymore Forest Park from 9-10.30am. For more information on the Run Forest Run Series please go to www.born2runevents.com

The Moira Cross Country organised by City of Lisburn AC also goes ahead on Saturday (11.45am). Full details are available at www.cityof lisburnac.co.uk.

Across the province, Sperrin Harriers host the second race of their winter league on Saturday, with the Lough Fea 5K being held between Cookstown and Draperstown (www.sperrinharriers.co.uk for further information).

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Ireland’s Fionnuala McCormack kicks off the new year with Team Europe at Saturday’s Great Edinburgh Cross-Country in Holyrood Park 

IRELAND’S Fionnuala McCormack kicks off the new year with Team Europe at Saturday’s Great Edinburgh Cross-Country in Holyrood Park (Live on BBC1 from 1.15pm).

McCormack, who has two wins and three seconds in this race to her credit, will join a squad that includes her great rival Karoline Grovdal of Norway.

Team Europe will take on squads from Great Britain and the USA over four races; a Senior Men's 8km, Senior Women's 6km, Junior Men's 6km and Junior Women's 4km. The overall winning team will be determined by the best aggregate finishing positions of the six best placed athletes in the senior category, as well as the four best placed athletes in the junior races.

Two-time double Olympic champion Mo Farah is the star attraction in the Senior Men’s race. Farah finished second in this race last year and will be looking to exact revenge on the winner Garrett Heath who returns to lead the USA team. They will take on European champion Ali Kaya and his Turkish team-mate Polat Kemboi Arikan.

Also scheduled is the popular mixed 4x1km relay, in which Ireland finished a close third last year. The winners were a Scotland team that included Laura Muir, who is set to lead her team again.

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