Halloween 'Fool Moon Run'

This Friday, we're going on for a run in the dark with a difference... we're going off-road, through Belvoir Forest & Lagan Meadows. You are welcome to wear fancy dress, though not compulsory by any means. Our only stipulation is that if you do wear fancy dress, it can't cost more than £5... and super respect if you can make one for less than £1!

We're leaving Cutters Car-park at 6:45pm on Friday (30th October) aiming to be back by 8pm. Run will be approximately 6-8 mile long at about 10 minute mile pace. The run is free, open to all and is just a bit of craic, so why not give it a try? 

Small Print: Please bring a head torch (with working batteries) & wear reflective clothing/lights. Weather forecast is for light rain/clouds so please (fancy) dress appropriately. Run will be mainly through forest, trail & stony paths and is run entirely at your own risk. You must be over 18.

Are you afraid to run in the dark?

Are you afraid to run in the dark?

Dublin Marathon - Top 10 Tips

10 Tips for the Dublin Marathon


As with all running, or any sport for that matter. Enjoy Dublin, enjoy the atmosphere, enjoy the race, the marathon, take it all in. You can run anytime but the Dublin Marathon is a once a year event, so make the most of it... say hello to people and don't put yourself under too much pressure that you miss all that is going on. At the end of the day, it is just a race. Perspective


Don't eat anything or wear anything you haven't tried before. Be weary of hotel breakfast, is that what you normally eat? or when you would normally eat it before a long run? Be careful of gels, not all gels are the same... if it is not the exact same one, be safe don't try it. Wear what you normally wear for a long run, mindful of weather conditions... do not try new shoes for the first time unless emergency. If you don't know what top you are going to wear, then put your marathon number on your shorts, that way you can change tops at last minute before race or during race and it won't matter. Don't listen to what others eat before a marathon. They are not you and before your first marathon is not the time to try!

NB: Write your name on your t-shirt, makes it much easier for people to shout your name and support you. It works!


Wear the black bin bag (cut head and arm holes) this will help to keep you water-resistant (better quality black bag the more 'water proof'). Throw it away at the start, ditto for old t-shirt if you want to bring it. You may be at the start for 30-60 mins before race starts, and it may be wet. It won't be too cold but you do need to try and keep dry/warm as long as possible.


The wipes are for if/when you need to go the toilet. There'll be a lot there and you want to make sure hands are clean... last thing you want is toilet without toilet paper or handwash. There will be long queues for the toilets and you may be at the race 30-60mins before the race starts (experienced race goers will sometimes try to get accommodation near the race start for this reason). Queueing close to the start time, creates panic. So try to plan ahead as best as possible. Unfortunately men have more 'toilet options' so be weary of alleys on way to race start.


Pack old sweater/fleece, t-shirt and track bottoms that will keep you war. Include a poncho or pac a mac (or waterproof) that will keep you warm and dry. You will be tired at the end of the race so plan properly beforehand. You may not feel too cold when running but you will when you stop, so get warm clothes, keep dry and get some light food/energy into you as soon as possible. You'll thank yourself after the race. 


You've been building up to this for months, the adrenalin is going, you're looking at the watch, your phsyched up... race starts, but the crowd makes it slow to start, you think you're behind you need to get out, you've a time/pace to keep and you feel good (all that tapering)... so you go out to fast. But what odds, just means you're in good shape. WRONG. Go slower than you think and check pace at half-mile or mile marker. You'll surprise yourself. Even experienced racers often go off too fast, with lots of people running fast(er) than you all around, you'll think you're running a lot slower than you are. Settle yourself, go slow and you'll be very grateful later.


Go slower than you think the first few mile. Ideally runners want to do a negative split... you'll pass many people the last 6 mile who went out too fast. If you want to make time do it the last mile not the first. Most new runners will lose time over the last quarter, this is when times are won and lost. If you go out fast, it's very hard to make that back. Plan to make time/PB over the last 6 mile not the first 6 mile. Also, importantly you want to finish the race strong rather than in a terrible state, as then the whole day is tainted. So stay positive and enjoy the last 6 mile of the race, plus getting near the finish and passing people is a great motivator.


Don't look at your watch every 2 mins. Just make sure you go slow first 1-2 mile and then trust your training. Use watch every 2-3 mile as benchmark that's all. NOT EVERY MILE IS GOING TO BE EXACTLY THE SAME SPLIT. IT'S IMPOSSIBLE. So don't beat yourself up. If you're tired you'll start looking at your watch, it doesn't help you and just uses up valuable energy. More and more runners including international athletes Ed McGinley and Marty Rea run marathons without their watch. Trust your training, enjoy race and the goal is to enjoy and finish the race. Don't worry about PBs, if it's your first marathon whatever time you will do is going to be a PB.


If aiming for a time. Go with a pacer. Now pacers vary from race to race. Go for an experienced pacer, but give them space. A pacer will get you under the time, but each mile may be different and you may be 1-3minutes under the time so don't panic about exact splits. Other than that have  rough idea of the time and per minute mile you want to go and check every few mile. Each mile of the course is different and you may stop for water etc so don't be looking at the seconds. Be within touching distance. If you feel good last few mile, push on. (One caveat is, if you'v done a few marathons and feel good, try going hard from the start and ditch the watch, see how it goes. Sometimes it's good not to play safe and test yourself. Use only if do a few marathons a year and feel good). 


Anything can happen on the day, good or bad, no matter how much training you do... at least 50% is how you feel on the day. So don't put yourself under stress. Some days you feel better than before, some days you just don't have it or something happened and you didn't sleep, eat etc as usual. This can happen novices right through to veterans. It's all part of the learning experience. Just remember the biggest goal is to enjoy the race/atmosphere, and finish not completely injured. Start slow, be sensible and ENJOY

ps try and go for an hour walk that afternoon, the legs will be sore and you won't want to but it will help with recovery.

Energia 24hr Race (Part 3)

...Iryna Kennedy, if you've been to Energia, any Energia you may not know the name but you'll certainly remember the cheery face and smile! Iryna has been at every Energia, and embodies the spirit of the race. Always friendly, positive & supportive to other runners, yet personally never giving up.

Irnya may not be the fastest but when the top Women can reach the men's A standard and the Top men are world class, few are. However Inrya, came 25th in this years race running 92.67 mile (149.1 km). That's over 7 half-marathons in one day, imagine doing one... and then having to do six more on top, back to back. Almost 150km is amazing. 

This year Inrya came third in the Irish National Championship, and whilst everyone was delighted for her, her smile and "i've never won anything before" quote summed up this event for me. This race isn't just for the elite or the record breakers, it's about keeping going, it's about pacing yourself, every inch a mental and physical test of yourself.

When you're feeling low, other runners will try and pick you up, talking to you, running a lap or two with you. Even when quiet descends a few hours in, as runners pass, one will often whisper words of encouragement. The power of a humble word, can lift the spirits right up. People offer advice, distraction and just friendship/support. A relay runner offered to run with me for a few laps, not to pace, but just to keep me company when I was at a low ebb. Just the offer can you make you feel better, more positive. This is the stuff you don't get at any other race. 

In mentioning Energia praise must go to Athletics NI for the track/facilities, with Dave Seaton and Gary Keenan there for long periods helping out. The Lord Mayor, Nichola Mallon was there to hand out medals and took a real interest in the race, and Mary Peters was kindly there as ever to start us off. Tom and Michael from Energia are always there in person (last year Tom even ran as part of the relay!), supporting the event more than just financially, and with flags.

But this event would never be the staple it is today without Ed Smith and family. With the entry less than the cost of the Belfast or Dublin Marathon, this shows how hard Ed has worked with funders & sponsors to make this accessible and open to runners. Ed is always friendly, encouraging and has the event working perfectly. Ed's wife, daughters  extended family and friends are all caught helping as well. From taking video, counting laps, handing out t-shirts, to cooking porridge... nothing is too much.

When running 12 or 24 hrs, you don't want to have to worry about the race organisation as well.... and you never do. You know everything will be in place, including the magnificent panorama of the Track setting. 

Conclusion: Whether as runner, supporter, volunteer or spectator this race stands out. You can't compare it to any other race, it's more mental than physical (and there's an awful lot of physical endurance in it!). But unlike any other race, you're all in it together, everyone's effectively within the same Gaelic pitch for the duration. The slowest to the fastest person are all on the same track, fighting their own battles. Whilst everyone has their own reasons, their own demons, their own plan... they all share the pain, the pride and the occasion. 

When coaching at my local club, at the end when everyone's tired I get them to do a few last hills or sprints. They complain they can't do it, but they get on and do it well, sometimes surprising themselves what they have left. Sometimes you never know what you can do, how far you can go until you give it a go. That's why i love the Energia, life's too short never to know, too short for regrets. 

Beyond Limits.

Energia 24hr Race (part 2)

Post event, the injuries have been relatively few. The injuries that I had before the race (heels, left knee, right quad) are sorer, and I’d a few blisters but nothing too bad. The blisters were only because I’d worn lace less Hokas… note to self, only ever wear shoelaces!

Without laces you can’t get uniform tightness of the shoe and the area around your toes always feels a bit loose. If you pull tie-ups, it really just tightens the area near the ankle. This isn’t too bad on a normal run, but on longer runs it can more easily lead to blisters as your toes have more scope to move about.

The right big toenail looks as if it might come off, feels loose. Took about 2 months after Energia 2011 to come off, so will wait and see. Last two times, I was very dehydrated but this time, I was a lot better. Whilst humid, it wasn’t just as hot as last year which must have made a difference as I probably drank less than previous years.

Nutrition wise, I played it a little smarter than previous years. Normally I would have everything under the sun, just in case. But this year I focused on having drink, and small bits of food every hour. Lisa only ever filled the drinks bottle with about 150-200ml which was all I needed and was great. In total, over 12 hours, I took:

  1. 1-2 packets of fruit pastilles
  2. 1 slice of pizza (cold)
  3. 2 bananas – maximum, ½ banana at a time
  4. A handful of haribo
  5. 3 packs of Acti-Snack Sweet & Sour Mango
  6. 1 small bowl of pasta

To drink, I had:

  1. Water
  2. Blackcurrant dilutable
  3. About 750mls of Pepsi Max – Normally mixed with water
  4. 1 bottle of orange Lucozade – normally mixed with water

I’m generally not a fan of Lucozade, but just wanted energy and to mix the flavours up. The coke was mixed with water, to provide something nice to drink (I’d rarely drink coke otherwise) and to provide a little Caffeine. Eoin Keith was taking blended milk, which he said was ok on the stomach, and I know people from last year took slim-fast as a way to get proteins & energy etc. I love milk, but you'd need to keep it cold (warm milk not a fan) and wouldn’t be sure of alternating it with water on the stomach. Milk, and milk variations is something I will be keen to try out though over the next year though.

Stomach is a huge issue for me and many other runners, especially on a long run you need to be able to manage foods and drinks. In the Energia race it’s easier as you’re not carrying it with you, and can have a table where you can put all your stuff. It seemed the majority of runners faced stomach problems during the race, which then really changes your drink/eating capacity and strategy.

As it’s a track your only ever 2-3 minutes from passing the table, where your support crew (very important) can hand stuff to you. It works well, as it allows you to say, “next lap, 2-3 fruit pastilles” or “coke and water in about 3-4 laps”, which takes a lot of pressure off you running. You could, and people do, manage without support crew but it would be a lot harder. Also, there’s various supermarkets (one 24hr) within a few mile of the track, and you can leave extra stuff in your car beside the track, so logistically it’s a brilliant race to run…. Especially compared to a long ultra point to point in England or overseas where you won’t have that easily accessible support.

Strategy wise, this race is very unlike any sub 40mile race, as it’s not just a matter of going a good hard pace and keeping it up. You will probably run at a pace you don’t run much in training ever, you will run slower than you naturally run. You will need to build in rests and recovery, and how you will manage food & drink. You need to know what can you keep up, and sometimes there is only way of knowing and that is by running. Most importantly you need to ensure you can last the distance, if you go out too fast, even a small amount you won’t know for a few hours and by then its too late.

There is no way of replicating what the 12 or 24 hour race feels like. You need to see the faces of those on the track at the finish, and of those not on the track. Compare people on an hour by hour basis. No-one knows what their body will feel like after 4-6 hours running, especially as there is no end in sight. Unlike any other race, you’re 6-7 hours in and nowhere near the finish, you’ve got to live with the speed you have done so far and keep going. Between 7-10 hours, at which point it begins to brighten up again and people feel better is the toughest point for competitors (at least the 12hr competitors!).

This is a mental race, in terms of strategy/planning but more importantly determination. When it gets tough, and it will; when you have all the support in the world at the side of the track, and friendly people on it; it still comes down to you… having to put one foot in front of the other, for hours when it hurts, you’re tired/bored, you have doubts, your plan’s not working and there is no end in sight. That’s when you find out a lot about yourself, stuff you’ll find out in no other race… that’s what makes the Energia24hr the race it is… and why people want to run it, to test themselves.


The final part 3 of the blog, will be done over the weekend (photos added then)

18 parkruns in one weekend - The Findings...

How do you even go about describing the magic, mayhem and memories of an amazing record breaking weekend? I'll start with a few stats and see how it goes from there...


Distance Travelled:     390.4 miles (624.6 km)

Average Speed:          36 mph (57.6 km/h)

Fuel Consumption:      57 mpg

Overnight Stay:           Enniskillen

The four of us surrounded by amazing BRC members and friends (inc Jim Clinton & Colm McGarry), with many more BRC members off camera. (Picture courtesy of BRC Facebook site). What a welcome to Ormeau, filled with pride!



Started:                       5:50am Saturday 5th July (left house)

Finished:                     8:30pm Sunday 6th July (back at house)

Total Hours:                38 hrs 40 mins



Distance Run:             90km (56.25 miles)

Parkruns:                     1 (Carrick)

Parkrun Courses:        18

Total Time:                  8 hrs 43 mins 46 secs

Average Time:             29 mins 6 secs

Time taken by Liam McGarry per parkrun course ran over the weekend, in the order the parkrun courses were completed

Using a base of 15 mins to show greater context of how the pakrun times varied over the weekend


Total:                           17 out of 18 courses – people ran with us

BRC:                           14 out of 18 courses – Fellow Belfast Running Club members ran with us

Parkrun:                      11 out of 18 courses – local parkrun volunteers ran with us

Non-BRC:                    On average 3 non-BRC members ran with us at each parkrun

BRC:                           On average 3.61 BRC members ran with us at each parkrun

Missed Person:           1 - We were late to Derry, so missed one runner... sorry Jonathan!

Picture courtesy of Colin McDowell (far right), who with Joanne and Galye joined us for a glorious Portrush run


“Actually, pretty surprised by how well you’ve all got on this weekend”

Liam to other team members, as we approach 18th parkrun course. Didn’t go down well

“Liam, you and me have very different valuations of craic”

Hotel staff, after being told I was running 18 parkruns not for charity but just for the craic

Notable Memories:

  • Ran the first parkrun course in Ireland (Waterworks)
  • Ran the first beach parkrun course in the world (Portrush)
  • Ran with the first man to run 100 pakruns in Ireland (Jim Clinton)
  • Ran with the fastest Zombie marathon runner in the World (Sean McShane, Waterworks)
  • Ran as part of biggest field ever at Carrickfergus parkrun (147 runners)
  • Received the nicest brownies in the world (courtesy of Liz at Victoria parkrun)
  • Having a seven car convoy from Queens parkrun to Falls parkrun (thanks Jim)
  • Having over 25 people support us at our final parkrun course at Ormeau Park (thanks BRC)
  • We experienced all four seasons in 30 minutes at the most natural parkrun in NI (Ecos)
  • Staying off sweets (kind of) and discovering delights of Sweet & Sour Mango (Acti-Snack)
  • Arriving 30 mins early at Lisburn and finding volunteer already waiting for us (Linda Harley)
  • Having Norman & Raymond welcome us with open arms at 6:30am on Sat (Comber)
  • Hearing about the success of so many parkruns and Couch to 5k schemes across NI
  • Asking random people to take photos, and then waiting ages until we can sort camera
  • Asking random people to take photos and getting variety of helpful reactions
  • Getting everyone to contact me for updates & then drop phone
  • Running past amazing looking Victorian buildings (Armagh and Enniskillen)
  • Liking the inclines, twists and turns (Larne & Falls) and trail elements (Armagh)
  • Being stopped dead in Portrush & Craigavon by just how stunning the setting was
  • Discovering Morelli’s home flavour ice-cream is banana & smarties (delicious)
  • Swapping stories of just how seriously people take their parkruns across NI (various)
  • The craic, variety of smells and mis-directions in the car throughout the journey
  • Running in great places with great people, purely for the love of running and adventure
  • Running Ormeau with my brother, who’d won there for the first time the day before in a new PB
  • Being early or bang on schedule for most of the trip
  • Being the first people in NI to do all 18 parkruns in under 40 hours
  • Having so many people join us and volunteer to help us throughout the weekend
  • Seeing a plan come together from inception to completion in less than 2 weeks
  • Being totally inspired the entire weekend, and feeling on top of the world

Acti-Snack - Food for Thought on Long Runs

I don’t like nuts, and take far too many sweets. Snacking is a major weakness, especially with long or ultra runs when it’s all too easy to grab some quick sweets, energy (ie sugar) drink or chocolate to eat. Yes, people will also eat bananas but for many people, sweets are too easy and too irresistible. However, the better (ie faster, stronger, longer and more sensible!) runners are increasingly realising a natural diet is better for both racing and general health/conditioning.

After coming up with the idea of #18parkruns in one weekend, I knew this presented a great opportunity to try something new. Completing 9 runs per day and driving in between (250 miles on first day alone) left little opportunity to eat properly. Nutrition and tiredness had been major issues for Scottish runners who’d recently undertaken a similar challenge. I wish I could say that after much research and testing, I discovered acti-snack but in truth they had recently followed me on twitter, were local and seemed friendly… sometimes you just hit lucky.

Acti-snack has a range of fruit, nut, soya and seed snacks that can help pre, during and post run (recovery). You can see the full range, ingredients, stats etc on their cool looking website. They hit all the funky & fad boxes. This was going to be a challenge, but bottom line I took fewer sweets on Sunday than I normally would even without running.

There are various flavours but Sweet & Sour Mango was by far my favourite... but the testing continues

There are various flavours but Sweet & Sour Mango was by far my favourite... but the testing continues

This was part conscience effort but more I actually preferred the Sweet & Sour Mango snacks. They quickly became my ‘go to’ snack, perfect for when I was driving between runs. They gave you enough energy to get through run without filling the stomach. Like other runners, stomach problems can play a huge part in races. I’d say 50% of how I feel on the day is down to stomach and it dictates how well I can run more than any other factor.

On long ultra’s / challenges, you can quickly become sick of the taste of a certain food or drink, but over 2 days I never felt that way with sweet & sour Mango… and I’ve got that way loads with other sweets, jaffa cakes or energy drinks (which mostly try and avoid now). Their small size makes acti-snacks perfect for carrying whilst running and for having in your pocket, back pack or car.

I was really worried about diet over the weekend, especially as my stomach wasn’t great to start, but the acti-snack helped and when I took mostly them on Sunday I felt a lot better (also a good night sleep probably helped too). I’m sceptical of all these new hippy happy foods, when a balanced diet, sleep and exercise could provide a lot more benefit. However that’s not always possible. In the meantime, I’m going to try a few of the other acti-snack flavours/packs whilst training and see what works best for me.

In the next 12 months, I need to move more towards a healthier diet generally and especially during long runs/races. I can’t recommend all the flavours just yet, but I’m at least now willing to give them a try, even some of the nut ones… that’s a huge step for me!

I once made the mistake of telling our club runners that my mate, a brilliant ultra-runner, took a chocolate croissant before long runs. So they now think I fully endorse chocolate croissants at any time. Yet, amongst the bananas, fruit, pre-cooked pasta, lucozades, kit-kats, jelly babies, sandwiches and caramel squares… they tried the acti-snacks and enjoyed them.

Acti-snacks haven’t paid me for this (although it’s never too late acti-snack), but they loved the idea of a unique challenge & adventure and agreed to provide a few samples. I’ve still a few left and can give one or two away if people want to try. I don’t know if it’s the fancy packaging, hours of scientific research, gimmicky name or the way they mash the Mangoes, I honestly don’t care if it’s just a marketing placebo effect. It just works, tastes nice, and is a lot healthier than what I normally take… plus the company is local; they’ve been great sports, friendly and supportive. Definitely worth a try!

#18parkruns was the first ever attempt to run all 18 parkrun courses in NI over 2 days. This involved over 390 miles driving and 90km running in under 39 hours. Our team consisted of 4 people, 3 of whom had never run further than a half-marathon before. To find out more contact BelfastRunning@gmail.com

Is Belfast Blind to Running Opportunity?

As we've shown running in Belfast is on the up, but is everyone getting an equal chance to participate?

Belfast Running is working with Guide Dogs NI to increase the opportunities for visually impaired people of all ages to start running and support those existing runners to run more. Almost 20 people attended the first session training session in Ormeau Park in March. That was a 2hr session with half of it involving actual running & guiding in Ormeau Park. 


This will be mainly indoors, so please bring pen/paper. You do not need to have been at the first session to attend this one. This is open to all but we have to limit numbers to 16 people, so please let me know if you're coming. 

By turning up, you are not obligated or committed to being a guide. This is a pilot programme we are running to help train and support people who may want to guide in the future. Names confirmed so far for Wed 14th:

  1. Peter McKenzie
  2. John Black
  3. Derek Goodfellow
  4. Bernadette Millen
  5. Gillian Currie
  6. Claire Nelson
  7. John Nelson
  8. Joanne McArdle
  9. Aaron Hill
  10. Vicky Elliott
  11. Liam McGarry
  12. Eoin McCann
  13. Martin McCann


If you would like to find out more information and/or to be kept informed of future training & support, please complete the form below:

Name *

Top 10 Races in NI (part 1)

With almost 100 races a year in NI how do you choose which ones to do? Increasingly they’re not cheap and with so many options, what are the must do races…

I’ve chosen races that I’ve ran previously myself and that are interesting, challenging, well organised and with a good sense of fun & community spirit. For me a big issue is what makes the race special that you wouldn’t get out on a normal run or that you wouldn’t get just running the same course in training. I’m not interested in goodie bags or shiny medals, though if you’ve a cup of tea with a biccie at the end… or maybe even a shower that is amazing, plus a cool t-shirt for the longer races never hurts!

In alphabetical order:


Belfast Hills 10km

Date: Saturday May 24th @ 11am

Price: £10 (Athletics NI registered)/ £12

Image courtesy of North Belfast Harriers

Nutshell: Off-road race full of ups & downs, but what amazing ups & downs!

Why Top 10: Belfast is surrounded by hills, and this is a great way to see some of them, to climb up – and race down – Cavehill. Vast majority of race is off-road, and unless you’re lucky enough to go over the ‘trail’ all the time, this will be a totally new experience. You pass Belfast Castle, and the views at the top of Cavehill are terrific. If you’re used to running the roads around Belfast then you’ll be amazed at the variety of running routes and scenery so close to Belfast.

Logistics: The race starts and ends close to Boy’s Model, where registration takes place. You can register on the day or in advance online. It’s relatively cheap, very well organised (by North Belfast Harriers) with plenty of parking. There are plenty of refreshments after the race, and a low-key but friendly feel to the whole event, which encourages people to stay and meet other runners. The route is clearly signposted with plenty of race stewards throughout the race. 

Causeway Coast Ultra

Date: Sat 27th September 2014 @ 7:15am

Price: Ultra: £55 (other races vary from £25)

Part of the route around, just past the Giant's Causeway, which the Causeway Coast Ultra runs past

Nutshell: Giant’s Causeway, pales into comparison to rest of the race

Why Top 10: Firstly ‘the Causeway’ encompasses a 10km, half-marathon, marathon and Ultra all on the same morning so there is something for everyone. Ultra starts in Portrush, and from there you straddle the coast as far as possible, passing the Giant’s Causeway and many other scenic spots. You are very rarely on road, and will go over hills, grass paths, trails, beach and rocks… and then repeat most of them on the way back to Portballintrae! As with all Ultra’s the camaraderie is great with no shortage of support or competition among the various distance runners. No better 39miler in NI and it’s the perfect opportunity for anyone looking to move up from marathon and try their first Ultra… plus the Ultra t-shirt is brilliant looking

Logistics: Main base is in Portballintrae, so you park there and they will bus Ultra runners out to the start in Portrush. You then run to Portballintrae (marathon start) and then run out to Ballintoy (half-marathon start) and turn back. It is well organised with drink stops and a drop bag service. Chip timed with 5 mats across the course. You need trail shoes and to be able to carry liquids. Parking can get tight, so avoid the field (nightmare if it gets mucky) and arrive early. There’s a shop near the finish and most of the racers finish around the same time, which makes things easier to co-ordinate.

Christmas Cracker

Date: Sat 27th December @ 1pm

Cost: £25 per pair (2013 prices)

Castlewellan Christmas Cracker, when the race went through the forest. Centre is Gary Keenan (president of Athletics NI)

Nutshell: Run over hills, through fields and in pairs. Tough, fun but what a run!

Why Top 10: This has got increasingly popular over the last few years as the secret has got out and must be near capacity, so get to see it quick. Run a few days after Christmas, this is a great way to test any new running gear and catch up with other runners. It had always a sense of community, and increasingly you are seeing clubs making a day out of the race, coming in fancy dress and staying after. Runners were given soup & a roll afterwards. That aside it’s the route which makes this race, mainly off-road, through mucky fields, along narrow trails between hedgerows and with the threat of one or two hurting hills before you finish. It’s impossible to replicate the race, route or occasion.

Logistics: Race is in Castlewellan and centred on the GAA Club within the town. With the larger crowds, car-parking is becoming harder (as always arriving earlier makes things easier) and queues for toilets will be an issue. There are showers and changing facilities post-race, with soup provided after last year’s race. As with all races come as prepared as possible, and definitely consider making it a Christmas club day out. Trail shoes advised but most importantly prepare for hills. Course is well marshalled and sign-posted.

Dundrum 8m

Date: Sat in October (Date TBC) @ 1pm

Price: £14/16 (2013 prices)

Nutshell: nice distance, no hills, good atmosphere & amazing Mournes backdrop

Why Top 10: Good to have races that the whole village seems to rally round, especially where it’s organised by the local club and funds will support the local club/good cause. Running a race near the Mournes without a tough trail or hill section is also great for a change. There is a good atmosphere from the start and gentle road run, then on to the magnificent Murlough Bay (beach), before race gets competitive on final stretch home, with the Mourne Mountains an ever present backdrop.

Logistics: Only one busy through road through the town, so come earlier if you want better parking options. On the day registration is in local church hall, and is efficient and well managed. Not a lot to do afterwards, so most just head back. Not as many toilet options, more awkward for ladies than gents (lots of fields). Course is well marshalled and with this distance you don’t really need drinks during race.

Energia 24hr Race

Date: 5:45pm Friday 18th July - Saturday 19th July

Price: £60 for 12 & 24hr Races


Nutshell: Be part of a national championship & share track with top class runners on your door step

Liam taking part in the Energia 2013 24hr race, the new Mary Peter's Track is designed for speed not endurance!

Why Top 10: Massive congrats to Ed & Energia this race is becoming increasingly popular and is sold out already for July. Yes, you will run round a track a few hundred times but when else would you even get to see such a race near Belfast, especially within the panoramic setting of Mary Peter’s Track. You get to witness high class athletes such as Eoin Keith, John O Reagan and supreme female athletes such as Ruthann Sheehan… and you see them on a track first hand, giving & receiving encouragement.

 You will see some familiar faces every year with a real community spirit embraced among runners and supporters. Great to see people like Susan McCartney and her brother improve so much year by year. Bar the elite end, you do really get the sense that it is mind over matter, with 100 mile the landmark for many with each person having their own strategy. There are 12 hour and relay options, but this is something every regular marathoner should try at least once… how far can you go?

Logistics: there is plenty of parking at MPT, and competitors put up tents in the middle of the centre field, with supporters putting up a stand/station along the track near the start line. This makes it very easy to store and provide trackside support, food and supplements. If entering this race, you should try to have support there and definitely plan on staying in Belfast on the Sat night. Portable toilets are provided by the side of the track, with additional toilets/changing area in Athletics House about 60m from the track. Located in Belfast means much easier preparation, safer journey home and greater chance of visitors/supporters coming than if it was anywhere else… for a 24hr race logistically it’s brilliant and also not that expensive. Some food is provided and there are physios / massage tent there. Even if not entering the race, it’s definitely worth checking out as a visitor or volunteer. 

These are just the first 5, with the remaining 5 being published next week... 

Top 25 Races of 2014 for Belfast Runners

With so many people out training, we thought we'd provide you with a list of the Top 25 or so races that you need to know about. Most can be entered on the day (cost £10 - £20), although some give discounts for booking online in advance. Sat Mornings Parkrun are always free. Other than that there's everything from 5km to 250km on road, track, trail and mountain:

Sun 9th Mar:   Addiction NI 10km (1pm, Ormeau Park)

Sun 16th Mar:   Jimmy's 10km (11am, ASDA Car-park, Downpatrick, 20 miles from Belfast)

Sat 22nd Mar:   Larne Half Marathon (11am, Larne, 23 miles from Belfast)

Sat 29th Mar:   Omagh Half Marathon (Noon, Gibson P.S., Omagh, 68 miles from Belfast)

Wed 2nd Apr:   Queen's 5km (TBC, ~7pm, Ormeau Embankment)

Sun 6th Apr:   Titanic Quarter 10km (2pm)

Sun 20th Apr:   Decathlon 10km & Half Marathon (TBC)

Mon 5th May:   Belfast Marathon & Relay 

Fri 16th May:   Les Jones Memorial 10k (TBC, but usually from Mary Peter's Track)

Fri 23rd May:   Runher Coastal 10k (TBC, sponsored by Belfast Telegraph)

Sun 25th May:   Newry City Marathon (TBC, 37 miles from Belfast)

Sat 7th Jun:   Mourne Way Marathon (TBC, 5km - 83k (Ultra), 33 miles from Belfast)

Wed 18th Jun:   Lisburn Half Marathon & 10k (6:30pm, LeisurePlex, Lisburn, 10 miles from Belfast)

Sun 22nd Jun:   Between the Bridges 10k (Time TBC, but run on Westlink Motorway)

Fri 27th Jun:   Ards Half-Marathon (6:30pm Ards Leisure Centre, 11 miles from Belfast)

Tue 15th Jul:   Portaferry 10 mile (TBC, 29 mile from Belfast)

Fri 18/19th Jul:   Energia 24hr Race (6:45pm start, 24 & 12hr/Relay race, Mary Peters Track)

Sun 27th Jul:   Divis 10k (11am, Divis Mountain Car-park)

Sat 23rd Aug:   Frank Duffy 10mile (10am, Phoenix Park, Dublin; 100 miles from Belfast)

Sun 7th Sep:   Titanic Quarter Ultra Marathon (TBC)

Sun 7th Sep:   Laganside 10km (TBC)

Sun 14th Sep:   Belfast City Half-Marathon (9am, Kings Hall)

Sun 14th Sep:   Waterside Half-Marathon (10:30am, Gransha Park, Derry, 75 miles from Belfast)

Sat 21st Sep:   Dublin Half-Marathon (10am, Phoenix Park, Dublin, 100 miles from Belfast)

Sat 27th Sep:   Causeway Coast Marathon (TBC, 10km - 64km (Ultra), 59 miles from Belfast)

Sat 27th Sep:    Bangor 10km (TBC)

Mon 27th Oct:   Dublin Marathon (9am, Merrion Square, Dublin; 100 miles from Belfast)


We have provided a full list of races within Northern Ireland and can offer help with race planning, pacing and preparation. Races are for everyone, and if there is anything we can do to help or any races we've forgotten please let us know via BelfastRunning@gmail.com