Sinead Murtagh was the emphatically convincing female winner of the Newry Half Marathon on Sunday 26 May. With a new course that took runners out from the city centre to Narrow Water Castle and back, athletes were optimistic about recording fast times. Having said that, temperatures in the low 20s and the absence of wind made long distance running more challenging. In a field of 559 (202 female and 357 male competitors), Murtagh ran an exceptional 1:25:33 to secure top spot on the podium. This comes on the back of a 38 minute 10k, good enough to win the recent race in the same city. However, the Drumaroad woman did not have it all her own way. In the first half she was accompanied by the very experienced Susan Smyth of Dromore AC as the pair paced towards Warrenpoint stride for stride, each focused on giving nothing away to the other. As they turned for home, Murtagh turned the screw and by the 8 mile marker was away and clear, upping the tempo and lowering her mile spilts significantly as she extended her lead to an unassailable one. She maintained her form magnificently, growing in strength and confidence as the race progressed. As she approached Newry again and the finish line she closed in on and passed quite a few of the male athletes, breaking the tape in an impressive 1:25:33, good enough for 24th place overall. Smyth was able to sustain her pace, and despite not challenging Murtagh, recorded a very strong time of 1:27:38. The podium was completed when Collette McCourt finished third in 1:30:10. The male winner was Eamon White who recorded an impressive 1:12:50. There were no NAC male runners taking part due to commitments to other events.
Three other Newcastle ladies took to the tarmac. Lorna Cunningham was taking on her first half marathon on the road, but was in confident mood after a strong showing at the Trim 10 Mile road race earlier in the year. Since then she has been training with great determination, resilience and perseverance and all three undoubtedly helped her on the day as she stormed to a highly impressive 1:40:23 to finish 19th lady overall. Her mile splits were metronomic as she ran a totally even paced race, save for the burst in the last two miles. All in all a magnificent debut and one she will build on in the future. A little further back, Claire McStravock was running an equally impressive race. Fresh from a PB in the recent Omagh Half, she, like Cunningham, was able to maintain excellent form throughout and improved her PB to 1:48:41, finishing 44th lady. Rita Devlin, despite a recurring injury took the line and was measured in her approach. Determined to return to competition, she worked hard through and formed a great alliance with Greame McGowan of Scrabo Striders that enabled both to finish strongly in 1:53:25. With a number of Half Marathons available in June and July, we can expect to hear more of the exploits of these and other NAC ladies. Maybe a few of the boys will get the flats on and give it a lash!
Report by Bogus Boy