ONE image perhaps illustrates better than any just how successful last Saturday’s Omagh Half Marathon was for both participants and the organisers.
The photograph shows a sea of runners stretching as far as the eye can see. Over 2,500 of them were embarking on the 13.1 mile route, while another 2,000 completed the 5k Fun Run.
For all, though, the sense of achievement at crossing the finish line at the Leisure Complex was clear.
No wonder, then, that the 30th anniversary event has been described as ‘probably the best ever’ by the race director, Michael Ward, who has been involved with the ‘Omagh Half’ since it was re-established in 2000.
“We had over 250 volunteers working on Saturday, from marshalling the route, to organising the water stations and ensuring that everything was in order at the finish line,” he said.
“The images of the runners is, for me, unbelievable. It’s a sight that those of us who have been involved for so many years could never really have envisaged when the event was re-organised 19 years ago.
“That whole event paints a very positive image of Omagh. The joy on the faces of all those who took part or watched from the footpaths and roadside was extra special.”
This year, Michael took a brief break from his duties to complete the course with his son for the first time and he has a special admiration for all those who completed the Half Marathon, Wheelchair Race, or the 5k.
Many, of course, are not members of a running club and will have been training for the event for the past four or more months.
Around 300 locally had taken part in the Run for Enda initiative, organised by the Dolan family in memory of Enda Dolan who was tragically killed four years ago.
Runners came from all over the North, and the fact that the winner of the Half Marathon, Gary O’Hanlon, hailed from Clonliffe Harriers in Dublin emphasises the far-reaching appeal of the event.
However, it’s those individual stories of commitment which are also very much part and parcel of the whole day, according to Michael Ward.
“I always have a special admiration for the wheelchair participants who come every year to compete on what can be a challenging enough course with a few hills,” he added.
“But then there are so many others who have joined training programmes and may be running for a relative who has passed away or raising money for a charity which is close to their hearts.
“The sense of emotion when they finish either the Half Marathon or 5K is always very special. There is always a real sense of achievement and it’s certainly fully deserved.”
By Saturday night, all the signs had been carefully taken down and stored away for another year.
For the runners their medals,t-shirts and bib number will be reminders of the day they entered and completed the 2019 Omagh Half Marathon or 5K.