With the spring marathon season already under way, longer races all over the country attracted big numbers over the weekend.
In Omagh, Sergiu Ciobanu of Clonliffe Harriers set a new course record of 64 minutes 48 seconds on his way to victory in the Spar Omagh Half Marathon. Last year, Ciobanu finished second in the race behind local athlete Stephen Duncan. This time, the
Clonliffe man, who is training full time at the moment, streaked into an early lead and was already a minute ahead of the chasers by the five-mile mark. By the finish, he had built up a lead of over three minutes on Duncan, who outleaned Greg Roberts for second place in 68:17.
In the west of Ireland, the phenomenon that is the Connemarathon attracted more than 3,000 runners, with marathon, half marathon and ultra races on offer.
World 100km champion Giorgio Calcaterra from Italy ran a phenomenal time of three hours 56 minutes 56 seconds for the 39.3-mile ultra race, with Irish international Keith Whyte of Ennis a distant second in 4:21.38 seconds and Carol Morgan the first woman in 5:25.51.
An equally clear winner of the marathon was George Waugh of Bandon in 2:36.21, with triathlete Wayne Reid second and Clonmel's Martina O'Mahony first woman.
By far the largest number turned out for the half marathon. Matt Bidwell of Galway City Harriers led home more than 2,000 finishers in a very respectable time of 74 minutes 30 seconds for the tough undulating course from Leenane to Maam Cross.
A large group of Rathfarnham and Raheny athletes headed over the Irish Sea for the Reading Half Marathon, joining an entry of over 13,000.
Leading them home was Barry Minnock of Rathfarnham, who finished seventh overall in 66:37.
In Liverpool's Sefton Park, Irish cross-country champion Eddie McGinley had an outstanding run for the winning Liverpool Harriers team at the Northern 12-Stage Relay.
McGinley's time of 22:37, the fastest for the ninth stage, helped Liverpool to a 96-second victory over Salford AC.