Panel bids to bring ‘dream’ race event to Antrim Coast
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The bid panel, in collaboration with Clearer Water, announced on Tuesday submission of their letter of intent for the major event previously known as the World Half Marathon Championships.
First launched in 1992, the globally broadcast race been held biannually until now, when it will be hosted annually.
The first application to come from the island of Ireland, Larne’s bid will be among 10-12 in contention. It was put together by Antrim Coast Half Marathon founders James and Ruth McIlroy, and Ross Lazaroo-Hood and Sitki Gelmen, co-chairmen of the award-winning Clearer Water.
In collaboration with Tourism NI, Mid and East Antrim Borough Council, UK Athletics, UK Government and the Clearer Group, the bid panel has huge experience in activating mass participation events, evidenced with Antrim Coast Half Marathon’s being only one of two events in the UK and Ireland to be awarded World Athletics Elite status.
Elite race director James McIlroy said: “It feels like the natural progression. Last year, we had over 20 nationalities participate in the event and all the overseas runners where in awe of the coastline course with 100-metre-high cliffs on one side and views of the Mull of Kintyre and Scotland close on the other.
"So, we thought bidding for the World Road Running Championships would be a fantastic opportunity to showcase the Antrim Coast and Northern Ireland to the whole world. We know the event will have stiff competition from across the globe, but like ‘The Open’ golf in 2019, I’d be confident that Northern Ireland would deliver, putting on a fantastic spectacle and showcase our famous hospitality.”
The Antrim Coast Half Marathon now holds the number one half marathon ranking in the UK and number two in the world, the organisers noted.
Previous winners of the event include Olympic champion Sir Mo Farah, Ethiopian record holder Jemal Yimer and multiple world record holder and 2022 London Marathon winner Yalemzerf Yehualaw.
A significant funding package has been agreed for the 2025/26 World Road Running Championships submission.
With participants staying 4.3 days and spectators, 3.2 days, plus global coverage, it is estimated the event would have a direct economic impact of £17.5 million into the province.
Ross Lazaroo-Hood, co-chairman of Clearer Water, said: “Sitki Gelmen and myself are delighted to be part of the bid panel to bring this dream event of the World Road Running Championships to Northern Ireland. To host the world-class elite athletes and running enthusiasts will make a significant positive impact on the local communities, economy and hopefully inspire the next generation of runners here in Northern Ireland and across the globe.
"This event will affirm the Antrim Coast as a location for leading international running with the aspiration of bolstering and supporting our local communities plus amazing hospitality sector.”
The successful bid will be announced at the end of May 2023 with James McIlroy going onto say: “The Antrim Coast Half Marathon event will have major announcements in mid-March which we are very excited to share with everyone.”