25th Balla 10k Saturday July 29, 7pm

Over the past twenty-four years the Balla 10k has traced a significant line in the history of road racing in the West. The event developed after the demise of the ’80s running boom. It also followed the formation of Mayo AC in 1988 – an amalgamation of smaller clubs to enable the continuation of adult athletics.

In the early years the race was one of a handful in the the locality, most of which survive, like Hollymount and Tubbercurry 10ks. Consequently, it was common for club runners to travel far and wide to compete – Quilty and Kilnaboy, Adare and Raheny, Omagh and Derry, to name but a few. This trend continued well into the 21st century and when the current fitness boom began, fun runs, Fit4life and recreational runners, brought increased numbers to events and club membership.

Balla 10k 1993: l-r 3rd Dick Hooper (Raheny Shamrock AC), winner Paddy Murray (Mayo AC), 2nd James Connell (Tuam AC)

Paddy Murray (Mayo AC) who was one of the  leading runners in the West in the ’90s, won the first Balla race in 1993 in a great time 30:50. It took place at Craggagh near Balla in 1993. Paddy was a great distance runner and won races all over the West and beyond. He made a comeback in Balla 2000 and recorded 34:24 there in 2001. Together with John Byrne he has inspired many throughout the Balla years.

A snapshot of Balla 10k results 2000-2003 make for an interesting comparison to recent performances and general trends. Gerry Ryan (then GCH) won three consecutive races from 2001 with a best time of 31:33 from that year. Natalie Davey (Mayo AC) won the women’s race in 2001 in what is still a course record 34:36. The original Balla course was re-measured officially a few years ago with a new start line adding about 100 metres and Freddy Sittuk (Raheny Shamrock AC) holds that course record with his 31:25 finish in 2013.

Many of the countries leading runners have won the race including Sean Hehir (Rathfarnham AC) who ran 31:32 in 2012, a course record at the time. Sean is in the Irish team heading to London next week to compete in the marathon at the World athletics Championships.

Page one of the 2002 results

John Byrne appears in the Balla 2000-2003 results with a best time of 36:28 in 2000. Obviously he whittled that down to the low thirties in subsequent years when he went on to some amazing achievements in ultra competitions. Ann Lennon likewise was at the core of Mayo AC success and she has been also an outstanding  figure right through the Balla years. She won Balla in 2000 in 35:33, and amazingly was first home again in 2013 in 37:49.

Looking at results from a few of the years 2000-2003, when most fields were made up of club runners (around twenty clubs were generally represented), 73% of finishers were under 50 minutes, and 30% under 40 minutes. Nine clubs took part in last year’s race, a trend probably due to the glut of events on the race calendar currently.  In the 2013 Balla race when there were 245 finishers, 50% were under 50 minutes, and just 9% under 40. In terms of gender, it’s good to see the recent boom is reflected in a big increase in women runners with an average 52% of the field in the recent Mayo AC Summer 5k Series.

Whatever about the statistics, Balla organiser Brendan Conwell has made a major and unique contribution to road racing through putting together every race since the event’s inception in 1993. We all owe him a huge debt of gratitude. He says this is his final Balla event as organiser. It would be great if there is a big turnout on Saturday evening from all the athletics clubs whose members have raced Balla over the years, to say Thank You, Brendan! The Balla 10k has been central to the summertime calendar since 1993, so let’s hope the baton is passed from Brendan to ensure this traditional, challenging and honest race continues.

Race details are on our events calendar


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