SUNDAY MORNING next will bring in excess of 1,500 runners and walkers to the Gransha Grounds for the 30th staging of the Waterside Half Marathon.
And participants will have the choice of the classic 13.1 mile race distance, the new 10 Mile Walk Challenge or the 2K Family Fun Run.
The Derry City Council organised event caters for all standards, at the sharp end it incorporates the NI Half Marathon championship with top club runners vying for honours while hundreds more challenge themselves at a lesser pace and distance.
The up-front half marathon action will feature a direct head-to-head between defending men’s champion, Stephen Duncan of Omagh Harriers and North Belfast Harrier, Stephen Scullion who look set to scrap it out for the top spot.
Duncan won in 2009 and 2010 and would dearly love to do three-in-a-row but the talented, yet injury-prone Scullion has the younger legs and if his endurance is good, could be the man on Sunday.
Duncan is said to be targeting a 65/66minute finish and the Belfast man could be the spur for fast times for both of them.
As we go to press, local Spartan Declan Reed heads the opposition but with entries being taken right up to an hour before the 10.30 a.m. start, who knows who may appear on the start line come Sunday.
Reed ran a 31m 19s PB over 10K last week in Dessie’s Run and is in shape to bust his half marathon best and run sub 70 minutes. That will be needed to make the medals and hopefully the Spartan, who is training hard for the upcoming Dublin Marathon can be rewarded with a big performance.
His clubmate, Anne Paul comes back to defend her 2010 crown and among the confirmed challengers will be North Down’s Julie Balmer and Roberta Dornan and another Spartan, the rapidly improving Marina Campbell.
Runaway Dessie’s Run winner, Maria McCambridge may also make the short trip from Letterkenny to chase the £500 first place prize money and, as in the men’s race, the sharp end could be really competitive here as well.
The local Spartans are the defending mens and womens team champions but will face tough opposition on Sunday.
Jackie McGinley should complete a strong top trio for the red vests but North Down, Letterkenny, if spearheaded by McCambridge, and possibly Inishowen, Springwell and Dromore could threaten the local women.
The strength of the male Spartans squad has not yet been identified and a strong North Belfast team will probably start favourites.
The Foyle Valley boys could go well with the likes of Cathal McLaughlin, Chris McGuinness and Pius McIntyre in the field while Inishowen and Letterkenny will not be far from the heavy duty up front team action as well.
The half marathon is set to go at 10.30 a.m., the wheelchair competitors, including Clonmany man Karol Doherty, start one minute earlier and the leading finishers are expected back at the Gransha finish not long after 11.30 a.m.
The 10 Mile walkers, and there is are a few hundred of them, get the gun at 10 a.m and the 2K Family Fun Run has a 10.45 a.m start time.
Entries for all three events will be taken at St Columb’s Park Leisure Centre up to 4 p.m tomorrow (Saturday) and then on Sunday morning in Gransha from 8 a.m. Entries will close 30 minutes before each start time and all intending participants should make every effort to be inside the Gransha site well before their start time.
This is important as traffic will be heavy in the area and lets hope no one misses a start time. Race HQ is in the U3A Foyle building in the grounds, close to the start and finish areas.
The Fun Run is ideal for all those who may have a family member or friend out in the half marathon or walk. It will be an enjoyable way of passing the time and there’s also a large marquee hosting lots of entertainment between 10.30 a.m and 1 p.m.