James tames Glens in new year race

JAMES McIlroy bridged a 14-year gap to win the annual Race Over the Glens event last week.

The former Great Britain track athlete, representing Larne AC, turned his attention to the contours of Glenariff Forest Park and celebrated by winning the title for a second time - his previous success coming in 1998.

His task was made somewhat easier by the non-participation of Ballymena and Antrim’s Jarlath Falls, the man who has made the Race Over the Glens title almost exclusively his own property with seven wins in the last eight years.

He gave the event a miss as he continued his preparations for last weekend’s Northern Ireland Championships, although he was still present in his professional capacity as a Physiotherapist.

McIlroy’s winning time of 33 minutes 17 seconds was outside the high 32 minute range which Falls has regularly produced in recent years but it was still 17 seconds quicker than second-placed David Simpson, from Edinburgh-based Corstorphine.

Local runners filled the next two spots with Ballymena-based North Belfast Harrier Gregory Walsh - the only man before McIlroy to interrupt Falls’ dominance of the event when he won in 2006 - coming third, while Jack Neeson led the host club Ballymena Runners contingent in fourth place.

Sharon Trimble, of North Belfast Harriers, won the ladies’ competition and her fabulous run saw her finish in seventh place in the overall competition.

Away from the winners, one of the biggest success stories was the bumper entry for the event.

Nearly 300 competitors took part in the event, from all parts of Northern Ireland as well as club runners from England and Scotland, illustrating the event’s popularity not only among club athletes but the casual runner as well.