IN the past week, runners of all standards faced a bewildering choice of close to 50 races from slick commercial operations to free park runs.
On a holiday weekend, there were possible trips away to highly-publicised races in Limerick, Glengarriff and Galway, as well as a women's mini marathon in Mayo. Biggest of the lot was the 32nd Belfast Marathon.
In years past, the adventure began with the 9am train to Belfast. You ran the marathon at noon and were back on the 5pm train to Dublin later that afternoon. The banter and the camaraderie were priceless.
Those days ended when the start time was moved to 9am but, on the plus side, the marathon relay has become one of the biggest in Europe, made possible because of a number of perfectly positioned sports centres along the marathon route. It makes it a great day out for runners of all standards – and is something unique on this island.
Winning the race was Kenyan veteran Joel Kisang in 2:19.28, while setting a new women's course record of 2:36.50 was Nataliya Lehonkova of Ukraine. Best locals were Tom Frazer, fourth in 2:26.24, and Julie Balmer in 3:00.29. The relay, with more than 2,200 teams, was dominated by Northern Irish clubs. Pencil it in for next year!
Ireland isn't short of marathons these days and, a day earlier, Clonliffe's racing machine Gary O'Hanlon won the Limerick Marathon in 2:29.46, with Clonmel's Angela McCann – another prolific racer – first woman. O'Hanlon's Clonliffe team-mate Sergiu Ciobanu won the half marathon, with ex-international rower Sinéad Jennings first woman. A good pay day for all four.
Drogheda was the venue for the Boyne 10km which was the big draw in Leinster, with almost 1,600 finishers. Robbie Matthews from Dunshaughlin made it three wins from three races when he beat Colin Costello of Star of the Sea comfortably in 32 mins 9 secs. First woman was MSB's Kate O'Neill.
Unfortunate to clash with the Boyne 10km was the Tallaght 5km, which got a little more than a hundred starters. Of course, you could always run both races – as did Bernard Roe, who was second in Tallaght and fourth in Drogheda, and helped Raheny Shamrock to double team victory.