With decent weather forecast for the weekend, Sunday’s 34th edition of top local road race the Waterside Half Marathon is ready to go, with an record entry of 1,900 plus runners all set to take on the 13.1 mile challenge.
The Gransha Park grounds, home of the event in recent years, will host the Waterside for the last time on Sunday, as in 2015 it moves back to its original home in St Columbs Park, with a new course expected to embrace both sides of the Foyle.
That, however, is music of the future as the focus now is on Sunday’s action.
The clash with the relatively new Belfast Half Marathon has by no means impinged on the popularity of the Waterside as the record entry demonstrates.
Indeed the response from runners of all abilities from right across the North West and beyond has been phenomenal and the race organisers had to close the entry process over two weeks ago!
The magnificent input from the new breed community based running groups has been significant with groups such as Reach, Blast, Born to Run, Bolt and Eglinton Road Runners all entering in big numbers.
The athletics clubs continue their support to ensure the high level of competitive action and Sunday is set to produce some serious up-front competition among the faster men and women.
The men’s race looks like a cracker with Keith Shiels, Declan Reed, Scott Rankin and Scott Rankin expected to front the field.
Defending champion, Shiels has been absent from competition for a while but ran superbly over 5K last Friday night and despite his silence may well be on the start line this Sunday.
Last year’s runner-up Declan Reed has next month’s Dublin Marathon on his mind and will definitely line up as will Scott Rankin who ran well last weekend in the Laganside 10K.
Gary Murray of St Malachy’s, a teacher at St Joseph’s could be the big threat, hasn’t raced much over the distance but is a class act and with Gary Slevin, Chris McGuinness and Pius McIntyre also in the field, the battle for the major prize money and local bragging rights will be interesting.
Anne Marie McGlynn is back to defend her 2014 title and will face among others, the 2012 winner Raheny Shamrock’s Fiona Stack.
The Lifford AC woman is a rare talent with an impressive range of ability from 800m to Half Marathon and will be difficult to dethrone.
Her clubmate Claire McGuigan, and locals Anne Paul, Jackie McGinley, Miriam Bridge and Catherine Whoriskey should be prominent as will Sarah Marie Doherty of Inishowen AC.
Down the field as well should deliver lots of cracking action with all the age group categories as ever being hotly contested, locals Ryan Snodgrass, Paul McCafferty, Michael Murphy and Mark Mullan just a few of the talented Masters in the field.
The evergreen Christy McMonagle will wear race number 70 to match his age and will no doubt finish well in front of many much younger runners.
Oldest in the field is Strabane resident Ken Jones at 81 years of age and Danny Sheerin will wear number 33 to mark his number of Waterside Half Marathons completed.
Get me to the start on time
The race starts at 10.30 a.m. with the first finishers expected around 68 minutes later. All participants and spectators are asked to get to Gransha early to avoid traffic delays, you do not want to have done all the hard training to mess up by getting all stressed by running late.
The Mayor Cllr. Brenda Stevenson will start the race and in a twist, will then run the first leg in her “Something Special” 3 person Relay squad. Go Madame Mayor!
The 2K Family Fun Run will go at 10.45 a.m. and finish in good time to allow everyone to cheer home the Half Marathon runners.
Entries for the Fun Run will be taken at Gransha from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. and are expected to reach 300 to 400, as the local running bug is very much alive and well.