Action from the start of the Bord na Móna Tullamore Harriers Half Marathon last Saturday. Photo: Ger Rogers.

Course records smashed at hugely successful Tullamore half marathon

Athletics: Bord na Móna Tullamore Harriers Half Marathon

The Bord na Móna Tullamore Harriers Half Marathon held on Saturday last can most definitely be described as a resounding success, leaving the host club filled with immense pride and delight.

From the outset of the planning process, way back in November 2022, the goal of achieving flawless event management and organisation was clear. The race committee took meticulous measures to ensure that every aspect of the event, from logistics to participant experience, was carefully considered and executed and judging by the reaction on race day and the outpouring of positive feedback ever since, it is evident that this objective was successfully attained.

One of the hallmark achievements of the event was the creation of a safe, enjoyable, and memorable experience for all participants and attendees. The club's tireless efforts translated into an environment where participants felt secure, spectators relished the occasion, and lasting memories were forged. This positive feedback not only serves as a testament to the club's dedication but also reaffirms its standing within the athletic and local community.

The race itself was a sellout event, with 1175 athletes taking to the line, an increase of over 300 on last year’s event. This year, the race was the host for the Athletics Ireland National Half Marathon Championships, which will have increased the demand for entries too. It served as the Offaly, and Athletics Leinster Half Marathon Championships also.

From early morning the club was buzzing with activity. Ronan and Eimear from were first to arrive - at 5.30am! Both Ronan and Eimear must be commended for their professionalism and support from the outset when the race was opened for entries. It was no easy feat sorting entries for 1350 athletes and the massive workload pulling the results together in the various categories and championships.

Registration opened at 8.30am and the car park and club were soon full of athletes, marshals, supporters, media and wonderful sponsors. Bord na Móna, the event's title sponsor was represented by a number of company employees, including Sharon Doyle, Head of HR and Corporate Communications; John Reilly, Head of Renewable Energy.

Brendan O'Shea, one of the founding members of the club, and Phyllis Delaney both special guests, came along to meet their many friends.

The 2023 Bord na Móna Tullamore Harriers Half Marathon began with Club Chairman Adrian Curley's warm welcome to the athletes gathered at the start line. Adrian took a moment to remember a cherished member of the club, Noel Guilfoyle, who had sadly passed away in June. Noel's presence from the starting line resonated with all those who had the privilege of training alongside him and getting to know him personally.

As per tradition, the club extended an invitation to a distinguished guest starter, someone who had left a significant mark on both the sport and the club itself. This year's honorary guest was John McGowan, whose journey with the club began in 1968 when he was just 14 years old. Over the years, John has become an integral part of the club, consistently donning the club's iconic blue and white colours at various events. Not only had John been an active participant, but he had also played a vital role in the club's fundraising initiatives during its formative years.

John's commitment to the club extends beyond his athletic contributions. He has devoted considerable time and energy to committee-level responsibilities, always stepping up when the call for assistance rings out. He had frequently led the half marathon and other races on his bike and served as a marshal for various club events.

John's family, including his son Paul and daughters Maureen and Karen, were present alongside John and were welcomed by Adrian. At 10am, the athletes set off to the applause of the large crowd gathered on Charleville Road.

The eventual champion, Ryan Creech of Leevale AC immediately established himself as a dominant force. From the very start, he seized the lead and maintained an unassailable position throughout the entirety of the 13.1-mile course. Ryan took the national half marathon title while shattering the course record, completing the race in an impressive time of 1.05.49.

In the battle for second place, it was David Mahon of Slaney Olympic AC who managed to secure the position with a strong showing, finishing in 1.08.38. Close on his heels, Peter Somba of Dunboyne AC crossed the finish line in third place with a time of 1.08.40. Interestingly, it was Peter Somba himself who had set the previous course record last year, clocking in at 1.07.24.

In the women's race, the spotlight was on Natasha Adams from Letterkenny AC. Her impressive performance earned her the national title, as she powered through the course completing the race in a super time of 1.18.15. Notably, Natasha's run also resulted in the smashing of the existing course record, a record that had stood since 2014, held by none other than Harriers legend Pauline Curley with a time of 1.19.12.

The second-place finisher in the women's category was young Heather Murphy from St Michael’s AC. At just 19 years of age, she showed great determination, finishing with a time of 1.18.53. Following closely behind, Norah Newcombe Pieterse of Mayo AC secured the third-place spot with a time of 1.19.13.

The Phyllis Delaney Cup was presented by the lady herself, Phyllis, to the winning ladies' team – Sli Cualann (Sarah Baryga, Catherine O'Connor, Donna Quinn and Hannah Nolan). Phyllis had coached the underage athletes many moons ago and is remembered fondly by those who were under her guidance.

The Quinlan Cup was presented to the winning men’s team by Liam Hennessy, Club Treasurer. Celbridge AC was the winning team (Martin Hoare, Stephen Conroy, David O’Connor and Tom O’Leary).

Congratulations to all the prize winners in the various categories, and well-deserved recognition goes out to every participant who proudly received their well-earned finisher's medal. The event wouldn't have been a success if it wasn't for the collective effort of numerous individuals, and the club is immensely grateful to each one of them.

The dedication of club members, their families, and friends truly shone throughout the execution of this remarkable event. Their commitment and hard work reflected the spirit of Tullamore Harriers and added to the event's success. A special note of gratitude extends to Bord na Móna and the local businesses and companies whose sponsorship played a crucial role in making the event possible. Their support not only demonstrates their commitment to the community but also contributes to the growth of the event.

The residents along the race route and surrounding area demonstrated immense cooperation and support. Their understanding and willingness to work with the road closures were pivotal in ensuring the smooth progress of the race. The encouragement they provided to the passing athletes added a touch of camaraderie and motivation that made the event even more special. This was noted in the many feedback comments.

The safety and security of the athletes were paramount, and the Order of Malta, Offaly County Council, the Gardaí and the diligent marshals stationed along the course deserve a big thank you for their role. Thank you to the bikers who circulated the course providing drinks and encouragement along the way. Thank you to all the photographers and members of the media for sharing the images of what was a wonderful event.

Tullamore Harriers AC takes immense pride in the memories created last weekend, and the plans for the 2024 event are already in motion!

Full results are available on My Run Results website.