NOT even a few heavy April showers could dampen the enthusiasm of almost 3,500 runners and walkers in Saturday’s 28th SPAR Omagh Half Marathon, 5K Fun Run and Half Marathon Walk.
It certainly was an amazing spectacle to see what seemed to be an endless procession of half marathon runners make their way across Mountjoy Road, over Bridge Street, and down through the town before making their way down Campsie before turning out onto the Crevenagh Road and out into the out skirts of the town before returning to Omagh Leisure Complex via the Gortin Road.
Unbelievably the 5k and Fun Run was to bring the same feat with almost as many runners again making their way across Mountjoy Road before they took a different route going across Drumragh Avenue, down Campsie and then heading out towards Killyclogher before returning to Omagh Leisure Complex.
The half marathon set off on its way at 11am and it was local hero and pre race favourite Stephen Duncan who made his intentions clear from the start. He certainly didn’t disappoint by romping home with almost three minutes to spare for his second race victory.
The Omagh Harrier runner secured a comfortable victory in a time of 1 hour 10 minutes 5 seconds. Leading the chasing pack behind was Mark Long from Foyle Valley AC, taking second place in a time of 1:12:50. The final podium place was also taken by an Omagh native, with Paul Barbour representing Derry Track Club running a strong race to take third place in 1:13:10.
It was also the pre race favourite in the female race who claimed victory, with Catherine Whoriskey from City of Derry, Spartans securing another notable performance in a new personal best over the 13.1 miles distance in a time of 1:16:52.
Karen Alexander, from Acorns AC, was to improve on her fourth place finish at Larne Half Marathon two weeks ago, claiming the runners up position in 1:21:55. Louise Smith, from North Belfast Harriers, was to replicate her podium finish of 2016, securing third place for a second consecutive year in a time of 1:23:05.
Omagh Harriers were also to the fore elsewhere. Conor Maguire with a time of 1:18:22 finished in 18th place overall. Then it was the ever consistent Derek Sommerville 1:22:12 followed closely by another impressive run from Martin McIvor 1:22:38. The first local female over the line was Michelle Sweeney in 1:34:34, followed by Amy May Lally in 1:38:23.
In the male team event it was Acorns AC who took the glory with the Omagh Harriers team of Stevie, Conor and Derek securing runners up place, followed by Beechmount Harriers in third. The female team prize went to Springwell Running Club, with City of Derry Spartans second and Acorns AC third.
The 5k was to bring more local success in a much closer contest with Cathaoir Donnelly, another Omagh Harrier, representing Omagh CBS taking the glory in a stunning time of 17 mins and 2 seconds. Ethan Dunn, from Ballydrain Harriers, was close behind in second place in 17:13. Third went to John McQuade, an ex Omagh Harrier, representing Queens Athletics in 17:27.
The female 5K prizes also continued the local theme, with Omagh Harriers bright young prospect Niamh Heaney claiming the victory in 19:44. She was closely followed home by Loreto Grammar’s Sorcha Mullan in 19:51. Emma Mulholland, from St. Peter’s Lurgan, took the final podium place in 20:13.
With many prizes in various categories there are too many to mention, but all were fiercely competed for and won by runners from all over Ireland.
Once again the latest SPAR Omagh Half Marathon was an overwhelming success. Omagh Harriers would like to pay thanks to all its sponsors who come on board to make this event happen. Obviously a special thanks must go to SPAR, the flagship sponsor, without whom it would be a struggle to host such a stunning event.
STRATHROY Harps manager Benny McElholm was somewhere between bewilderment and a state of shock following this extraordinary first round...