The AAI National Half Marathon Championships were hosted by Waterford AC at their magnificent base at the Regional Sports centre on Sunday morning. The sun shone, the sky was blue, and the whole county was bedecked in blue and white in a frenzy of anticipation for the hurling final later in the day. Sadly, the white heat of Kilkenny blew them away and the “blues” of disappointment awaited them.. a feeling we know so well.
But it was a different story for the red and green of Mayo AC's 17 -trong expedition. Once again they underlined their “small club, big success” status in the national field of distance running as well as being the top Connacht club. They took on the best and biggest clubs in the country and came away with a fine haul of two sets of team and three individual medals, and there were personal bests and other wonderful individual performances from the whole team.
This was probably the most competitive Half Marathon Championships in recent years attracting well over 400 athletes. The 13.1 mile out-and-back course was far from fast and flat - it had a tough mid-section from miles three to nine . Mayo AC's magnificent 17 was made up of three teams comprising - four senior women 'A', three senior women 'B', six in senior men, four in master men Group 2 (o ver-50 ).
The senior men's team were led home with a brilliant display by John Byrne who finished ninth overall in a personal best time of 70.39, beating his previous best time in Omagh last March by almost two minutes. The race was won by Cillian O'Leary (Raheny Shamrock ) in 67.22. Robert Malseed in his new club colours was the next Mayo AC in 72.41, winning silver individual in the Over 35 category. TJ McHugh (75.21 ), Anthony Devaney (76.25 ), Timmie Glavey (77.09 a PB, despite being troubled by a calf muscle problem ) and Dave Huane with a great PB of 82.54. The senior men were a very creditable fourth of 19 club teams, just missing out on bronze.
The Senior Women's 'A' team, brilliantly led by Mary Gleeson (sixth overall in 84.53 ), Catherine Conway (91.27 ) and Cathy Connolly (95.07 ), and Ann Murray (101.50 ) ran great races to win silver - second of eight teams. The women's B'team were sixth - Caroline Conway (102.27 ), Yvonne Byrne (107.02 ) and Breege Stanton - a personal best of 109.30.
The Masters Group two (over 50 ) team won gold beating seven teams in that section. Ronnie Naylor led them to success with a great individual silver in the o50 category in 80.45. Billy Gallagher (fourth over 50 ) continued his amazing championship record finishing in 83.12, and Tom Hunt won bronze individual in the over 60 section in 89.05. They were well backed up by expedition leader Michael McGrath who finished in 117.30. Most of the 17-strong team will have a well-deserved but short week to recover before the next race in the Mayo AC 2008 Road Race League, the Ballina 10k organised by Ballina AC on Sunday next September 14 at 3pm.