On Your Marks – Herald April 24

Road running fans that have been around a bit know that for good value and impeccable organisation, you need look no further than the Business Houses Athletic Association, which has been organising races for over thirty years now.

The BHAA ethos is simple: these are races organised by runners for runners. That’s it really – you sign up for a small annual fee of €15 and then enter any of the races for €10 on the day. Guests can run any of the races for €15 upfront. After the race, you can expect lashings of tea and superior “refreshments” as you await the announcement of prizes in team and individual categories; about 80 prizes in all. And because the team prizes go to company or work place teams, you have the perfect incentive to get your mates from the office, shop, school or hospital to get out and run with you.

So last Saturday, 463 runners of all standards headed to Straffan for the annual K Club 10km – a race on a fast, flat course that deservedly won the prestigious “BHAA Race of the Year” title in 2011.

All went well, with Eoghan McGinley first home in 32 minutes 44 seconds, just beating Eoin Callaghan and the veteran Declan Power. Of the women, the top six were all under 40 minutes , with Ilona McElroy leading them home in 38 mins 26 secs.

That’s solid running of a standard you won’t get in a commercially organised race. Not that the BHAA is in any way elitist – the last finisher, cheered all the way to the line, came home in over 73 minutes.

The only glitch came when it turned out that the BHAA’s chip timing system, based on wi fi, had crashed. Chip timing has become an essential at road races, usually adding about €2 to an entry fee. But it doesn’t always work perfectly and whether it’s worth the extra cost is debatable; a topic for another day.

Next stop in the BHAA Summer Series is Saturday’s RTE 5-Mile in Donnybrook, another hugely popular BHAA fixture.

A big attraction at this race are the unusual spot prizes and an expertly edited race video that always raises a laugh or two in the RTE clubhouse. Everyone is welcome; register online at www.bhaa.ie

* Starting tonight (Wed) at Bray Head is the annual IMRA Summer Evening Hill Running League. In all, 13 races are scheduled with anyone finishing seven races getting a top quality prize after the final race at the Sugar Loaf on July 17. Entry fee per race is just €7.

* Belvedere House outside Mullinagar with its superb gardens and “Jealous Wall” is the venue for the Pat Finnerty Mullingar Road League starting next Wednesday May 1 (8.0) and continuing every Wednesday for the month of May. That’s five races in a gorgeous venue for an overall entry fee of €30. Not surprisingly, over 830 completed the league last year. Details www.mullingarharriers.com

* Niamh Whelan of Ferrybank scored an early season victory over Togher’s Marian Heffernan when she won the 200m at the Leevale Open Sports in Cork. Kelly Proper of Ferrybank, who is switching from her specialist long jump to the multievents, finished third. Proper was having a busy day, also winning the long jump, tying for victory in the high jump and finishing second in the hurdles behind irish indoor champion Sarah Lavin of Emerald. Marcus Lawler of SLOT won the men’s 100m, beating David Hynes of Menapians, who won the 200m. Clonmel junior Sean Tobin scored a notable double, winning both 800m and mile.

* Tallaght is the venue next Wednesday for the opening Dublin Graded Track and Field Meet of the season (6.45pm). On the programme are 100m, 800m, 1500m and 3000m races for men and women; the 1500m races start earlier than usual at 6.45pm. Shot, discus, javelin and triple jump are on offer to field eventers.

* On the roads, Siobhan O’Doherty of Borrisokane set a great new course record of 34 mins 34 secs , while Gary O’Hanlon of Clonliffe led home over 600 finishers at the Pasty Kelly Dundalk 5km  in 15 mins 9 secs. Raheny’s Aoife Talty was eighth overall and first woman in 16 mins 46 secs. A day later, O’Hanlon finished second behind his Clonliffe team mate Sergiu Ciobanu at the Inishowen Half Marathon in Co Donegal. Stephen Scullion and Pauline Curley were the winners at the TQ 10km in Belfast.

*Irish marathon champion Paul Pollock, of Kent AC, ran 2:17.10 at the London Marathon – just 40 seconds slower than his winning time in Dublin last October. As he had done in Dublin, Pollock set a fast pace from the start, and although he struggled in the final 10km, still finished 14th overall. On a good day for Northern Irish athletes, Breege Connolly of North Belfast Harriers ran a personal best 2:39.32, with her NBH clubmate Gladys Ganiel three minutes behind in 2:42.35.

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