The 54th edition of the famous Hollymount Road Races take place on Sunday November 17. This event has been held every November since 1966 making it one of the longest surviving running fixtures still in existence in Ireland.
It’s also incredible that the race founder Sean Reilly has been at the helm of the organizing committee every year since its establishment in 1966.
Sean and his brother Tom were prominent runners at the time and road races in the west were quite scarce, so they decided to start a race to attract runners from around the west and further afield to their South Mayo village.
While Tom lived most of his adult life in the UK he returned each year to assist in the organisation of the weekend. He was also instrumental in adding an international dimension to the races by organizing a bus load of runners from cross channel in 1976 -something that has happened every year since.
Sadly Tom Reilly passed away following an illness in 2009. A plaque in his memory is positioned on the wall beside the race finish line.
The Hollymount Races have always been unique in the athletic fixture list offering a huge welcome to visiting runners with many local families providing free bed and breakfast on race weekend. It is also an event where local runners and joggers can rub shoulders with many leading athletes from around Ireland and beyond.
There have been many landmarks in the colourful history of the event ever since PJ Leddy of Ballinamore AC won the first race in 1966.
In 1970 the first women’s race was won by local girl Yvonne Fallon. The 70s and 80s saw many top international athletes compete, including John Woods (Liverpool Harriers) John Treacy (Waterford) and Hugh Jones (British international and a London Marathon winner) and many more.
1990 saw the 25th Anniversary celebration of the event including the publication of a book. The winners that year were Hugh Jones (Liverpool) and Niamh Murphy (Westport AC).
The years moved on and a new century and millennium arrived. Ann Lennon, one of Mayo’s greatest women runners took the Hollymount title for four consecutive years 1998-2001.
Over the intervening years Mayo AC women established themselves as one of the leading road running teams nationally.
It’s fitting that three of their stars Breege Blehein (2005), Catherine Conway (2008), and Mary Gleeson (2010+2011) tasted success in Hollymount while Norah Newcombe-Pieterse who won in 2014 in the colours of Ballina AC would later achieve national and international honours as a Mayo AC member.
Shrule native Regina Casey who runs in the colours of Galway City Harriers has also had notable success in the event over the years.
John Byrne without doubt one of Mayo’s greatest ever athletes took the title in 2013 making him the first Mayo born member of a Mayo club to do so.
The race celebrated its 50th Anniversary in 2015 on what was probably the wettest weekend in the history of the event.
However, this did not dampen the spirits of the organizers. A pre-race function was held which was attended by hundreds including the CEO of the then Irish Sports Council John Treacy (the 1981 race winner). A statue was unveiled on the outskirts of the village and also a plaque containing the names of all race winners was commissioned. Sean Reilly would later be inducted into the Mayo Sports Stars Hall of Fame for his efforts.
The race logo says “Running since 1966”, and no doubt it will do so long into the future.
Once again Sean Reilly, his family and his local committee will be pulling out all the stops on Sunday November 17. Many of Ireland’s leading runners along with many locals and a bus load from Britain will be making their way to the start line .
As in recent years proceedings will get underway with a 40km cycle event starting at 10 am and organized by the local Hollymount Wheelers Cycling Club
The full schedule for the 54th Hollymount Road Races on Sunday November 17 is:
Registration at Cois Abhainn Community Centre from 11am
12 noon. Start of Boys and Girls 3k
12.20. Start of Women’s 6k
1pm Start of Men’s International 10k
2 pm. Refreshments available to all competitors followed by prize presentation at 2.30 pm
Further information from Race Organiser Reilly 086 8402679
Thanks to Michael McGrath former Chairman Mayo AC for information on the 54th Hollymount and its event history.
Featured photo: Hollymount 10k 2002 – Mayo AC unless stated; back row l-r Anto Devaney 36:56, John Byrne 37:03, Tom Hunt 39:19, Michael Courell (Ballina AC) 42:47, Owen Mongan 37:43, Padraic Cullina RIP 39:45, Hugh Duffy 34:54, Brendan Conwell 41:29, Anthony Gallagher 38:21, Michael McGrath 41:07. Front l-r: unknown, Paddy Murray 39:50, Michael Nallon 44:50, Tom Nallon 43:47, Brian Cusack 39:36
2002 race winner was Gerry Ryan (GCH) 30:42