Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Churchtown South Could Welcome Record Entry

Athletics – John Cashman (Evening Echo Tuesday July 20th)

Thursday’s third leg of the Ballycotton ‘5’ Mile Summer Road Race Series could see a record entry go to the start line in Churchtown South. Time was when July meant a slight drop in numbers overall due to the holiday season, but such has been the surge in road running in recent times that even allowing for seasonal vacations records are being broken on a regular basis. Last year’s record number of 472 at the venue looks likely to be surpassed.

Already the 500 mark has been exceeded in the opening 2 races of the Series meaning new highs been set in Ballyandreen and Shanagarry. The latter race held on the fourth Thursday of June recorded a finishing figure of 502, which represented an increase of 32 on last year’s entry.

A glance at the finishing statistics continue to support the trend that the current generation of competitors are not keeping pace with their fore runners. Twenty years ago in the corresponding Shanagarry 5 Miler when 225 crossed the line, the first 4 runners clocked under 25 minutes and 73 came home under the 30 minute mark. Compare this to last month when the race had over twice the entry, nobody broke 25 minutes whilst only 35 crossed line in under 30 minutes. Twenty years earlier 73 succeeded in breaking that barrier.

What is even more enlightening are the stats’ from ten years earlier. On the night just 40 runners took part in the 1980 race, the third staging of the event. Here like 1990 4 runners were home under 25 minutes and in total 26 crossed the line in sub 30 minutes. Thirty years on last month’s Shanagarry race had a mere 9 more competitors home under the half hour mark despite an entry which had increased by 462.

Clearly in those days of the early eighties road racing featured a very elite group of runners. Today the sporting landscape has changed dramatically with a whole new generation of people of varying age and fitness levels being attracted to road running. Whilst the competition may not be as fierce up front, the enjoyment and the thrill of taking part have certainly surged throughout the field.

The man currently setting the standards for all others to chase is James McCarthy of East Cork AC. He has been in tremendous form this year and continued his winning sequence by capturing top honours in last Friday’s Donoughmore ‘7’ before quickly following up with a second placed finish behind Cork City Marathon winner Sergiu Ciobanu in Youghal’s new 4 mile race on Sunday afternoon.

James has triumphed in the opening two races of this year’s Ballycotton Series and has been followed home on both events by Martin McCarthy of St Finbarr’s and last year’s Churchtown South winner Sean McGrath. Whilst the margin between first and second stood at 27 seconds in the opening fixture, the gap narrowed to just 6 seconds last month in Shanagarry.

Neither of the McCarthy’s competed in Churchtown South last year, the most recent form line for the course showing James covering the route two years ago in 26:45 when he finished in third position.

As regards the ladies standings, Shanagarry’s first, second and third females home, namely Rhona Lynch, Niamh Walshe and Michelle Nolan occupy the top places in the overall leader board. Rhona has been the dominant lady during the summer months over the past few years and won at the Churchtown South venue a year ago in an excellent 29:29. Both Niamh and Michelle are enjoying their best ever seasons and have been in the honours list in almost every race in which they have competed to date during 2010. If the top 3, as expected, participate in the remaining two races, they look odds on to retain their respective overall positions.

With forecasts indicate a general improvement in weather by race day the scene is set for what promises to be a spectacular night of running at the Churchtown South venue. The course is regarded by some observers as the fastest of the Summer Series, however this two lap route which includes a gradual climb as athletes enter the village can be somewhat deceptive.

Those travelling to the race are advised by Ballycotton Running Promotions to allow plenty of time in advance of the 8pm start. Athletes who have competed in both races to date will be given the number reflecting their overall position in the Series, whilst separate queues will operate for the other participants.

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