Records tumble again in Armagh

Armagh men's start

The Armagh International Road Races, that took place last night., out-did previous year's record-breaking results with a new course record in the women's 3k, 77 men running under 15 minutes in the 5k event and 29 under 10 minutes in the women's event.

Double Olympian, Laura Weightman (handicap -1.2) smashed the previous record of 9:07 with a stunning 8:59 in the 3k, whilst Ben Connor (handicap -5.9) missed the men's 5k course record by an agonising second when he crossed the line in 13:55.

The races are run around the 1030m Mall in Armagh, making the women's race just less than three laps and the men's just less than five and allowing the excited crowds to sprint across from one side to the other to cheer twice on each lap. The early leader, in the women's race, was Jessica Judd (handicap -0.5) but by the end of the second lap, Laura was stretching away from the rest of the field. If there had been a roof on the Mall, it would certainly have been lifted as, one lap later, the frenzied crowds and commentators were roaring her down the home straight, as the clock ticked towards the nine minute mark, and then erupted as she crossed the line with one second to spare. Rosie Clarke (handicap 0.3) was close behind in 9:02 and Jessica followed next in 9:10.

The men's race followed and it was clear from the start that the previous record of 67 under 15 was in danger as the swarm of runners on the Mall were operating at a fast and furious pace. There was a surprise surge from Graham Rush (handicap -5.1) when he broke away from the main pack with more than a lap to go but they chased him down, swallowed him up and pretty much 'spat him out the back' on the final lap and so it was Ben Connor that led the chase down the home straight and just managed to hang on from Brandon Doughtly (USA). Both were given 13:55 as their finishing time with Dewi Griffiths (handicap -6.1) finishing 3rd in 13:58. The young, junior runner. Petros Surafel (handicap -4.1), ran a fabulous race to finish 4th in 14:00 with Kris Jones (handicap -5.4)  finishing 5th and leading a world class group of sprint orienteers home who are staying on in Armagh for a 3 day Sprint Orienteering event that begins tonight at the Armagh Planetarium. What followed next was another 72 runners breaking the 15 minute barrier making a total of 77 and prompting the question from the crowds - how many sub 15 minute runners could Armagh produce? Dare they dream to aim for 100?

Photo credit - Alex Donald