Thursday 26 May 2011

Summer Series Gets Under Way

Athletics – John Cashman

(Evening Echo Wed May 25th)

The summer season of road running is certainly here when one mentions the word Ballyandreen. This Thursday evening the picturesque coastal village in East Cork will become a hive of activity as Ballycotton Running Promotions host the opening 5 mile fixture in what is widely regarded as Ireland’s original road race series. Then on the fourth Thursday in June, July and August action follows at Shanagarry, Churchtown South and Ballycotton respectively.

Calling on statistics to highlight the current boom has become an almost weekly pass time for those involved in the sport and when it comes to the Ballycotton Summer Series, the surge of activity on the roads is even more evident.

Four years ago when Alan O’Shea clocked an impressive 25:05 to break the tape, there were 237 runners behind him. Just 12 months ago when the race was won by James McCarthy of East Cork AC, the entry desks had checked in 521 runners. The figure represented an increase of 110 on the previous year, 243 on the 2008 race and 283 on the aforementioned 2007 event. With that in mind, it is reasonable to assume that even a cautious prediction for this week’s race surpasses 500.

The figure is further solidified when one considers almost 800 pre entered competitors took part in last week’s Eagle AC ‘4’ miler at Fota Wild Life Park, although this venue had obviously a considerable novelty factor.

All told hosting a race such as the Ballyandreen fixture is now a major undertaking. Although the Ballycotton Running Promotions team are in a class of their own when it comes to such events, the success of their task is nevertheless very much dependant on the co operation of the runners. Because of the tight confines of the venue, all athletes are urged to make a very special effort to arrive early. Entries will be taken from 6pm.

Defending champion James McCarthy is likely to line up again this year as he bids to embellish his highly impressive winning streak which saw him take first place in both Ballintotis and Midleton in recent weeks. He also produced a superb display to finish in fifth place in the Ballycotton ‘10’ back in March. Incidentally, last year’s ladies winner in Ballyandreen Lizzie Lee from Leevale AC went on to be crowned the ‘10’ mile winner in Ballycotton earlier this year.

The respective times of all competitors from this week’s race will be carried forward to race 2 in Shanagarry next month, with overall prizes on offer at the end of the series for the leading men and ladies. There will also be a coveted ‘Top 50’ t shirt for the leading 50 men at the end of the summer whilst the feats of the top 15 ladies will be similarly recognised. Finally all those who complete all 4 races will also receive a souvenir plaque in recognition of their efforts.

A reminder that in these days of increased prices, the entry fee for the first three races remains at a very modest 5 euro. The 6 entry fee for the final fixture will see a donation of 1 euro from each participant to a local charity.

*Summer Series Race Dates – May 26th Ballyandreen (8pm), June 23rd Shanagarry (8pm), July 28 Churchtown South (8pm), August 25 Ballycotton (7.30pm)