Laura Graham lined up for Ardboe appearance

National marathon and half marathon champion Laura Graham should be the star attraction for the fourth Great Rossa Run in Ardboe on July 9
National marathon and half marathon champion Laura Graham should be the star attraction for the fourth Great Rossa Run in Ardboe on July 9

NATIONAL marathon and half marathon champion Laura Graham should be the star attraction for the fourth Great Rossa Run in Ardboe on July 9.

The Kilkeel woman was the winner of this year’s Belfast Marathon and will have Commonwealth Games selection in mind this autumn.

Coached by NI Running’s Ryan Maxwell, Graham has a slight muscle strain at the minute which means she may give the half marathon a miss in favour of a trot around in the 10K – a trot being enough for the speedy 31-year-old mother of four to show a clean pair of heels to the local challengers.

Organiser Shane Mallon also hopes to have Acorns AC’s Darrell McKee to defend his 5K crown but the half marathon looks wide open at this point with no big names yet committed to the event.

“I would expect the top three from each of the three races last year to make an appearance, though I don’t see them in the pre-registration as yet,” said Mallon this week.

“Local interest is in Darrell McKee who runs with Acorns and won the 5k. Sperrin Harrier Gavin Corey had to settle for second place in the 10K and will hope to go one better on July 9. Other than that, we will have to wait and see who turns up...”

Online entry is still available on the Athletics NI website

Collection of pre-registered race numbers will be in Ardboe Parish Centre on the morning of the run, with late entries accepted 9.30am for all the runs.

POLAND'S Patrycja Bernowska heads the women’s field at the IAU World 24-Hour Championships in Victoria Park, Belfast starting tomorrow at 12 noon.

The 41-year-old broke the world record that had stood for eight years at her own National Championships back in February, running 252.6 kms (159.2 miles).

That also meant she took the European record away from Maria Jansson, who had beaten her at the European Champs in Albi, France the previous October. But the 31-year-old Swede will be out to get it back in Belfast.

The Irish women’s team will be led by Cork’s Ruthann Sheahan who is just back from a training stint in Bhutan. Her best place in a World Championship was seventh in Poland in 2012 when she set a new Irish record of 229kms (143 miles).

In the men’s race, world champion from Turin, Florian Reus, will be defending his title. The German has had a quiet year to date but in 2015 he ran 263.89kms (163.9miles) to win the World Champs and followed that up by winning the Spartathlon race from Athens to Sparta.

Another man to watch out for is American Pete Kostelnick who holds the coast-to-coast record in the US and has reportedly been doing big mileage back home. His personal best for 24 hours is 263.41 kms (163.68 miles).

Great Britain’s men are here to defend their team title from Turin and again have a strong line-up including European champion, Dan Lawson, who covered 261.8kms (162.7miles) in Albi.

Known on Twitter as ‘Dan the Running Man’, he divides his time between a home in Brighton and Goa and has a rather unconventional way of approaching major championships. Before the Europeans he slept on a beach for three nights and this time he has been to Glastonbury for three days.

It will be a proud moment for Belfast man Eddie Gallen (above) who flies in from Madrid to captain the Irish men’s team in his native city. No doubt he will also have a strong contingent of supporters down from the Ballybofey area where he has many family connections. Gallen has competed for Ireland at the last eight World Champs and this will be his 34th 24-hour race.

And national champion Eoin Keith comes here on the back of a remarkable run in May when he ran the length of Ireland, from Mizen to Malin, in just over three days and three hours to smash the existing record by nearly 12 hours.

Some 42 nations will be in Belfast for the World Champs from six continents, and for the first time it will incorporate the WMA World Masters Age Groups. USA will have the biggest team. The furthest travelled will be Richard Avery and Kim Allen from New Zealand.

Three countries will just have one representative – Algeria, Bosnia Herzegovina and Greece – and it will be the first time that a team from India have taken part in this Championship. The race concludes on Sunday at 12pm and is well worth a visit at any time in the preceding 24 hours.

THE over 35s look set to grab the spotlight this weekend with the National Masters’ Track & Field Championships down for decision in Tullamore on Sunday.

Age has not wearied, nor years condemned this hardy band of evergreens as results will show.

And do not be mistaken in thinking that it will be a sedate afternoon of friendly competition for the ‘has beens’ or ‘never beens’ as Masters’ competition can be as cut-throat as any other branch of the sport.

The juniors and U23s precede the Masters with their national championships tomorrow at the same venue, while the juvenile inter-club relays will be run off at Athlone on Sunday afternoon.

The NI & Ulster juvenile relays take place tomorrow at the Mary Peters in conjunction with the Youth Development League final.

Road race action promises to be as hectic as ever, with the Ballyhegan 10K and 5K as well as the Ards Half Marathon both scheduled for this evening.

Tomorrow it is the turn of the Lisbellaw United 5 Mile Run.

Northern athletes Kate O’Connor and Sarah Connolly represent Ireland at the European Combined Events Cup which takes place in Monzon, Spain tomorrow and Sunday.

NORTHERN clubs have it all to do after the opening round of this year’s National Track & Field League at Tallaght and Athlone. Following the withdrawal of North Down men, Finn Valley ladies are the sole Ulster standard-bearers in either men’s or women’s Premier League. And even the Donegal side struggled at Tallaght, finishing joint bottom of the six-club match, sharing 74 points with Clonliffe Harriers as defending champions Dundrum South Dublin ran out comfortable winners on 105 points.

City of Lisburn (98) were third in the men’s Division One match, while Monaghan (94) finished fifth as hosts Tallaght led the way with Louth, both sides notching up 114 points.

In the women’s Division One, City of Lisburn (93), Lagan Valley (86) and Monaghan (71) filled positions four to six behind Slí Cualann (107).

Shercock AC women (88) finished fourth in the Division One competition at Athlone behind winners Laois (111).

Ulster clubs should benefit from home field advantage when one of the second and final round fixtures is held at the Mary Peters Track on July 31.