This weekend is a red letter day for hundreds of local road runners with the 35th staging of the annual Waterside Half Marathon set for Sunday morning (September 4th) with 2,000 expected to line up for the challenging 13.1 miles around the banks of the Foyle.
Kenyan Freddy Sittuk and Foyle Valley’s in-form star, Scott Rankin, head the male rankings and Catherine Whoriskey, the 2015 female winner from City of Derry Spartans, is favourite to retain her title with a sub-80 minute run her stated target.
Behind them runners of all abilities will toe the line. Organised by Derry City and Strabane District Council in conjunction with local running clubs, the WHM is an institution in athletics circles and since its first outing in 1981 has forged an enviable reputation as a must do race for serious runners and joggers alike.
Such was demand, the race organisers have regretfully had to turn away late entries from last Wednesday, the 2,000 limit having been reached.
The new course, introduced to much acclaim last year, hugs the Foyle and is spectator friendly. It starts in Ebrington and finishes on the St. Columb’s Park running track while crossing the Foyle Bridge and Peace Bridge and showcasing the environs of the Foyle. Race HQ is the new Foyle Arena and the action gets under way at 9.55am on Sunday when the Wheelchair athletes start.
Its 10am for the runners and, after a circuit in Ebrington, its away up the Limavady road to drop into the Watreside Greenway en route to the Gransha Grounds before crossing the Foyle Bridge and down past Boom Hall into the Bay Road Park.
Exit the Park, on to Fort George and the riverside walkway to the Council car park and then out on to the express way right through to Coshowen. Swing left on to the cycle path, back past the Railway Museum to the Peace Bridge. Cross the river and on into the St Columbs Park track and the finish.
That’s the 13.1 miles - leaders expected by 11.06am - and if last year is any guide, spectators will be there in huge crowds to welcome all the finishers home.