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Runher Stormont Race Report
Runher Newcomer shines in the Stormont Sunshine
RUNHER NEWCOMER SHINES IN THE STORMONT SUNSHINE.
It was her first appearance at the Belfast Telegraph Runher series but it was a mighty impressive one as Breege Connolly,34, from North Belfast won the 12th running of the event at Stormont.
Breege has had a red letter year including becoming the third fastest woman in N.Ireland history at the marathon distance clocking 2 hours 40 mins in Rotterdam.
She crossed the new finish line right in front of Parliament Buildings in bright autumn sunshine in a quick 37 mins. 26 secs. – setting a course record that will be hard to beat in the future.
Julie Balmer,from North Down ,a great supporter and past winner of Runher, finished second in 39 mins 21 secs as she warms up for the Dublin marathon with a virtual unknown, Ashleigh Kane from Larne in third in 42 mins 41 secs – as Runher continued its tradition of bringing new talent and new female runners to the fore.
There was also a remarkable run from the current Miss Northern Ireland,Tiffany Brien who finished in 7th place overall in 46 mins 25 secs.
For the second year in a row Judith Lowry,34,from the City of Lisburn club won the Belfast Telegraph 5K. Judith, just back from finishing 7th in her age-group at the World Duathlon Champs in France, was timed at 18 mins 40 seconds.
Jessica Craig, a past winner at Runher, finished second in 19 mins with her North Down team mate Rachel Gibson in third in 19 mins. 28 seconds.
Earlier Jessica had helped keep the spirit of the London 2012 Oylmpics going just a little longer as she brought along the torch she had carried during the build-up to the Games.
She was joined on the start-line by another of the torch bearers,Ella Davis,by Runher’s ‘first lady’ and still our golden girl Dame Mary Peters and by the star guest at the event, Bethany Firth, the only female gold medallist from N.Ireland at the London Paralympics.
Everyone wanted to feel the weight of that gold medal round her neck and Bethany,16, from Seaforde, not only started the Dash for Kids but then ran round as well despite being a swimmer! That event also included several Special Olympians from the All-Star club in Belfast.
Dame Mary took part in the 5K as did MLA Paula Bradley,BBC Sports presenter Denise Watson ,BBC weather girl Cecilia Daly,Emma Louise Johnston,Cathy Martin and opera singer Rebekah Coffey. However, new Sport NI board member Roisin Mallon went one better completing the 10K.
The Sports Minister, Caral Ni Chuilin, was due to take part, but she is still recovering from recent surgery although she was still on hand to act as starter and hand out prizes.
In all, some 1400 registered for the event – which was also a record number – taking the overall total for 2012 including the Coastal Challenge in May to close to 3,000 participants.
The Champion Challenge has seen one of the biggest growth areas in Runher with team leaders being encouraged to bring at least 9 like -minded exercise seekers with the incentive of a reduced entry fee and a ‘super’ goody bag. Some 33 entered this time. They included Sparky’s Girls, named after the Ulster rugby mascot and including Tina Wallace,Childline – the officially nominated charity- Girls in Gloves, composed of some of the Province’s leading woman boxers,Cash for Kids, title-sponsor Belfast Telegraph,Ladies Who Lunge,Mums on the Run,Bay Babes and the Holywood Honeys.
It was the biggest ‘athletes’ village yet seen at a Runher event with after-race physio being offered by Apex Clinic, health checks from Fitness First, kids’ entertainment offered by G-Force Events, a ChildLine desk and, something very much in the public mind at present, the chance to sign the Organ Donor Register.
Support for the event came from Belfast City Council with their Support for All initiative, from Sport NI, Brooks and Premier Inn.