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Larne Half Marathon


None Since its inception in 1993, the Premier Power sponsored Larne Half Marathon has become an established feature of the athletics scene in Northern Ireland and with each passing year the race continues to go from strength to strength. On Saturday past well over 500 people lined up to compete in either the half marathon itself or in one of its sister events, the three-stage relay, which was run concurrently with the half marathon, or the non-competitive walk over the full half marathon course which started an hour before the race itself.

Prominent among the entries for the main event were the first three home in last year’s race, the Willowfield Harriers’ pairing of Brian Campbell and Alan McCullough and Dave Morwood from North Belfast Harriers, as well as Abbey AC’s Turlough Donnelly, Iain Bailey from East Antrim Harriers and Annadale Striders’ Mark Wright. Pauline Curley, who had travelled up from the Republic for the race, was a warm favourite to take the ladies’ title. The field also included seventeen runners from the organising club, Larne AC; some aiming to put the finishing touches to their preparations for either the London or Belfast marathon, others just out to test themselves over the classic half-marathon distance, including a number making their debuts at the distance.

The day of the race might have dawned dry and bright but a bitterly cold, strong North Easterly wind meant that conditions for running were far from ideal, particularly on the way out to Ballygally. Nevertheless, as the competitors milled around on the Tower Road waiting to be given the off by Mark Dunn, the Mayor of Larne, there was a palpable sense of excitement and expectancy in the air.

Once the race got underway, Campbell, McCullough and Morwood quickly established themselves at the head of affairs, but as the runners made their way past the old Regal Cinema and turned right to head out the Coast Road for the outward leg to Ballygally, Donnelly, Bailey and Wright were all in close proximity. Even at this early stage the field was starting to splinter and before the first mile marker was reached the gap separating the leaders from the tail-enders had already stretched to close on 800 metres. Of the Larne runners, Justin Maxwell was sitting just outside the top ten and with Nat Glenn not that far behind it was already looking as though the contest to be the first Larne AC runner home was going to be between this pair.

The pressure from the leading runners was unrelenting and with each passing mile the gap between them and the second group of runners, which included Neill Douglas from Ballymena Runners, the North Belfast duo of Martin Rea and Thomas Hughes as well as Duncan Bell from Willowfield and Sam Crawford from East Antrim continued to grow. Maxwell and Glenn, meanwhile, were keeping company with Curley, who was easily justifying her ladies’ favourite tag, being separated from the leading men by only three or four minutes as she turned off the Coast Road to begin the three miles loop of the Croft, Ballymullock and Cairncastle Roads. Further down the field James Brown and Andy Gregg of Larne AC, with only a few seconds between them, were running comfortably, while cousins Mark and John McManus, Greg Lavery, Cory Urwin and Evan Taylor, also from the promoting club, were still quite closely grouped, with Paul Gaskell just a minute or two further back.

By halfway it was already clear that last years’ top three were going to fill the same positions this time around, and although the identity of the ladies’ first prize winner was by now also a foregone conclusion there were still plenty of prizes in the age-group categories up for grabs. Douglas was beginning to look a good thing for the men’s over-35 first prize; Wright and Bell were still in contention for the men’s over-forty prize while Rona Harkens had Amanda Perry to contend with for the ladies’ over-35 prize. However, although a podium place might have been beyond the vast majority of runners, it certainly didn’t seem to affect their enthusiasm or prevent them from putting the same amount of effort into their race as the potential prizewinners.

Among the Larne AC runners, the race to be the first man home looked to be going Maxwell’s way while Adele Neill, running a stormer of a race in her first outing in a club vest, already had the race to be the first Larne lady home in the bag. Further down the field, the rest of the Larne AC contingent were all making the best of their way home, with some finding the going easier than others. Jenny McGill, Caroline Calvert and Elaine Hall were all on for personal bests while Brian Spence, who appeared to be running around just to keep Hall company, and new club recruit Dion Wallace were both on for sub-two hour finishes. Old hand, George Sloan, was running well within himself and was clearly enjoying the run.

As the race entered its final stages, Campbell broke away from Morwood to win by twenty seconds, double the gap which separated the pair in 2007. His winning time of 1:09:40 may have been over a minute down on his winning time from last year but given the windy conditions, breaking the seventy-minute barrier on the day was no mean feat. McCullough ran on strongly to take third place in 1:10:54 and maintain his excellent record in the race. Bailey of East Antrim ran a superb race to finish in fourth place just fifty-four seconds behind McCullough. Fifth and sixth places went to Donnelly and Wright respectively.

Curley, as expected, was the first lady home in the exceptional time of 1:17:01. Helena Crossan of Innishowen AC followed her across the line in 1:23:46 with third place going to Cara Girvan of North Belfast Harriers in a time of 1:25:15.

The prize for first team went to North Belfast with 113 points, well clear of Larne AC in second and East Antrim Harriers in third. The first relay team home was Lagan Valley.

With Morwood and McCullough both claiming top three places, the prizes for first male over 35 went to Neil Douglas of Ballymena Runners in 1:14:11 and for the first male over 40 to Mark Wright of Annadale Striders in 1:13:19. The ladies veteran’s prizes went to Rona Harkens of Lagan Valley AC in the over 35 category in a time of 1:27:05 and to Mary McKee in the over 40 age group in 1:42:40.

Justin Maxwell was the first Larne AC runner home in a new personal best of 1:18:05. Nat Glenn and James Brown followed him home, also in personal bests of 1:20:29 and 1:22:04 respectively. Adele Neill was by some margin the first lady runner from the club to finish in 1:37:59. However, personal best weren’t limited to the first three runners home, or the male runners in the club for that matter, for Greg Lavery, Evan Taylor, John McManus, Paul Gaskell, Caroline Calvert, Jenny McGill and Elaine Hall all set their fastest ever half marathon times. Hannah Fletcher also finished in an excellent new personal best of 1:56:37.

Larne Athletic Club, and indeed the wider running community, would like to place on record its thanks and appreciation for the continued sponsorship and support of Premier Power, without it the half marathon would simply not exist in its present form. Thanks must also go to New Balance for the superb range of top quality spot prizes on offer; to Ambutran for the provision of first aid; and to those club members and their families and friends who turned out to take entries, put up banners, posters, mile-markers, etc, marshal, attend water stations and provide tea and hospitality for the official time-keepers. The fact that this has been the most successful staging of the half marathon in its fifteen-year history speaks volumes for the dedication, time and effort put in by all concerned. Last and by no means least, thanks also to the Larne PSNI for their assistance with traffic control and for helping to keep the race accident free.

2008 Prize Winners

Male Open

1, Brian Campbell, Willowfield T Harriers, 1:09:40
2, Dave Morwood, North Belfast Harriers, 1:10:00
3, Alan McCullough, Willowfield T Harriers, 1:10:54

Male Vet 35
1, Neil Douglas, Ballymena Runners AC, 1:14:11
2, Adrian Callaghan, Letterkenny AC, 1:23:57

Male Vet 40
1, Mark Wright, Annadale Striders, 1:13:19
2, Duncan Bell, Willowfield T Harriers, 1:15:02

Male Vet 45
1, Thomas Hughes, North Belfast Harriers, 1:16:46
2, Gary Keenan, Albertville Harriers, 1:19:00

Male Vet 50
1, Ray Curran, Ballymena Runners AC, 1:21:21
2, Greg McClure, North Belfast Harriers, 1:24:51

Male Vet 55
1, Reggie Hewitt, North Belfast Harriers, 1:20:34
2, Brian Stewart, North Belfast Harriers, 1:28:08

Male Vet 60
1, Brian Hamilton, East Down AC, 1:36:08
2, Joe Quinn, East Down AC, 1:36:28

Male Vet 65
1, David Matthews, Lunchtime Legends, 1:48:10

Female Open

1, Pauline Curley, 1:17:01
2, Helena Crossan, Innishowen AC, 1:23:46
3, Cara Girvan, North Belfast Harriers, 1:25:15

Female Vet 35
1, Rona Harkens, Lagan Valley AC, 1:27:05
2, Amanda Perry, 1:30:10

Female Vet 40
1, Mary McKee, 1:42:40
2, Janice Reid, Dromore AC, 1:45:00

Female Vet 45
1, Lynne Kerr, North Down AC, 1:39:05
2, Laura McKenzie, Seapark AC, 1:47:30

Female Vet 50
1, Barbara Brown, Mourne Runners, 1:49:27

Female Vet 60
1, Brigid Quinn, Ballymena Runners AC, 1:49:30

Female Vet 65
2, Rosemary Armstrong, Doncaster AC, 2:07:18

Team Race
1, North Belfast Harriers, 113 pts
2, Larne AC, 183 pts
3, East Antrim Harriers, 281 pts

Female Relay
1, Seapark AC, 1:52:30

Mixed Relay
1, Lagan Valley, 1:39:54

Larne Athletic Club Finishers

16, Justin Maxwell, 1:18:05
22, Nat Glenn, 1:20:29
30, James Brown, 1:22:04
31, Andy Gregg, 1:23:01
40, Mark McManus, 1:24:22
44, Greg Lavery, 1:24:33
51, Corey Urwin, 1:26:00
65, Evan Taylor, 1:27:53
68, John McManus, 1:28:06
94, Paul Gaskell, 1:31:20
152, Adele Neill, 1:37:59
292, Caroline Calvert, 1:51:24
298, Brian Spence, 1:51:41
300, Jenny McGill, 1:51:44
301, Elaine Hall, 1:51:44
302, Dion Wallace, 1:51:45
387, George Sloan, 2:02:11

Photos are now available from the 2008 event.