Who's the best runner in Belfast? It's the type of conversation that could go on in any club house, long run or long journey back from a race. Is it fastest time, consistency, number of wins, competing at the highest level? How does track compare to road or cross-country?
Certainly Belfast has a few contenders, there's the 2016 Olympic Marathon runners for a start - Breege Connolly (76th of 156), Paul Pollock (32nd) and Kevin Seward (64th) and then there's Gladys Ganiel (12th in 2014 Commonwealth Games). There's Ciara Mageean European bronze medallist & Olympic semi-finalist at 1,500m, from down the road in Portaferry. Not far off the same road there's Newcastle's Kerry O'Flaherty, who competed at the 3,000m steeplechase in Rio.
Michael McKillop, has 4 World and 4 Paralympic Gold medals at 800m and 1,500m; the latest from Rio. There's Aileen Reid from Derry, a little outside Belfast, who came 21st in the triathlon at Rio & had podium at World Triathlon Series events. Christine McMahon just missed out on Rio but competed at the 2014 & 2016 European Championships in the 400m hurdles.
Kelly Neely won the European Masters Indoor 800m title in April 2016 to add to her World Gold over the same distance. There's Cathy McCourt, winner of two silver and two bronze at the Wold Masters Championships in November 2016. There's been several other UK and European masters medallists in recent years e.g. Beechmount's Stuart Kennedy, plus North Belfast's Paul Elliott who came 6th in World Masters Outdoor Championships in 2015 [Please let me know others]
For those runners who like to stay on their feet. Belfast has a few notable ultra runners Susan McCartney (43rd at 2016 World 24hr Championships), Eddie Gallen over 50 24hr races and leading Irishman at 2016 World 24hr Championships) and Martin Rea (45th, 2014 World 100k Championships).
NOTE: This is only the first of a two part article but we want to hear more. We are basing it on people currently running (ideally those who've competed at a European level or above) but are keen for information, stories and suggestions for other runners past and present of all ages and abilities who deserve a mention... plenty of space, so please email firstname.lastname@example.org