National Half Marathons: Ballybofey 2009, Dublin 2019

Ballybofey 2009 team photo: included are:  back row l-r – Chris O’Connell, Seamus Gaughan, Brendan Gill, Michael McGrath, TJ McHugh, Ronnie Naylor, PJ Hall, Owen Mongan, middle row Tom Waldron RIP, Mary Gleeson, Chris Gallagher, Kathy Connolly, Ann Murray RIP, Tom Hunt,  Anne Fahey, front l-r Caroline Conway, Catherine Conway, Mary Naylor, Breege Blehein.

The last year the National half marathon championships took place  was 2019 in Dublin. And it will be 2022 before the event takes place again – if it does.

As reported previously by Athletics Ireland “Rock ‘n’ Roll Dublin scheduled for August 7 and 8, 2021 has been discontinued and will not take place in 2021 and beyond”.

This statement was  generally welcomed by club athletes with many commenting that the race be given back to well organised established club races around the country,  as was the practice before it was incorporated in the Rock n Roll commercial event, with all the associated razzmatazz.

Many club runners did not compete in recent years in the Dublin-centric road running Championships – 10k, half and full marathons.

In former times like many western clubs, Mayo AC travelled the country to compete in Carlow, Laois, Athenry, Waterford, Letterkenny etc and our own club hosted the event at Breaffy in 2004.

Just over twelve years ago, in 2009 we competed in Ballybofey on September 6.

It was an event that preceded the inception of www.mayo.com.

And it took place as the club was on the cusp of a major increase in membership following the establishment of Fit4Life in the county and a general awareness of the benefits of athletics or a ‘running boom’ as some would have it.

Mayo AC membership quadrupled in the decade since 2009 up until the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Ballybofey event was widely reported in the local weekly papers at the time.

Here is the story of our excellent performance in the 2009 National Half as published in the Mayo Advertiser.

“Wonderful day for Mayo AC at half marathon

Mayo Advertiser, Fri, Sep 11, 2009

“It was a wonderful day, one of the most successful we have ever had,” said a delighted club chairman, Michael McGrath as Mayo AC swept the boards at the AAI National Half Marathon Championships at Ballybofey on Sunday. (September 6).

The event was hosted by Finn Valley AC and attracted a field of over 200 of the top club athletes from all over the country.

The 13.1 mile one lap course went out along one side of the river Finn, across the bridge at 7 miles and back to town via the main road. Conditions were excellent — misty but not wet.

Mayo AC had 23 runners of whom 14 won medals. The club had five teams and all participants competed as individuals in age categories from senior to over 70. Four of the five teams won — two gold and two silver — and six individuals collected medals.

The victory celebrations were crowned by the gold medal winning senior women’s team. It was spearheaded by Catherine Conway’s second place overall in a magnificent personal best time of 80.31, brilliantly supported by a PB also from Mary Gleeson, first overall in 82.09, Breege Blehein McHale in 88.47 and Caroline Conway in 94.34. They now qualify to represent Ireland in the European Clubs Championships in autumn 2010. Not to be outdone, the women’s o35 team also won gold. They were Cathy Connolly 91.15 (silver individual o35 ), her sister Chris Gallagher – 95.51 in her first half marathon, Ann Murray 99.34 (gold o45 ), Ann Fahey 102.22 and Mary Naylor 111.04 (bronze o45 ).

TJ McHugh switched from the senior team to lead the o35 squad to a great second place. He had an excellent race and a PB in 73.45, as did newcomer Brendan Gill in 81.13 and Dave Huane in 82.28. The seven strong o50 team won silver – Billy Gallagher returning from injury to lead them home in 83.44, Ronnie Naylor 84.25, Tom Hunt 87.18 (silver o60 ). They were supported by a brave run by Seamus Gaughan 88.10, who was just pipped for bronze o55, Owen Mongan 94.06, PJ Hall 95.20 and Chris O’Connell 107.11. The masters men’s achievements were topped by a great gold medal for Tom Waldron who turned seventy on September 3 and won o70 category in 143.46.

The new look senior men’s team performed creditably to finish sixth, led by a personal bests from Sean McDonnell 76.55, Andrew Lynskey 79.59, and Kieran Quinn 81.59.

It was indeed a great day in Donegal and the outlook is bright for Mayo AC as they prepare for the 30th Dublin Marathon incorporating the Irish Championships.”

Moving on ten years, here is our report from the National half marathon in 2019 – the last year this championship event was held.

As in 2009 we had 23 members competing. However, despite the quadruple increase in membership over the preceding decade there were three Mayo AC medal winners in 2019 compared with fourteen in 2009.

A Mayo AC group at 2019 National half marathon

https://www.mayoac.com/?s=2019+half+marathon+

There has been no announcement yet from Athletics Ireland competition section about a 2022 national half date or venue.

 

Mayo AC will be looking to get back to their previous high standards of medal winners whenever or wherever the event is held.

 

It remains to be seen if the current track training sessions and some long runs will generate Mayo AC half marathoners who can achieve sub 80 minutes by women or sub 75 minutes by men.

 

Winning championship medals on track and field, road, and cross country for individuals and teams in senior and master categories will also be a measure of our success in 2022.