The focus locally now is firmly on this Sunday’s Waterside Half Marathon, the 34th staging of the popular and enduring classic which is set to take close to 2000 runners round the new course from Ebrington to a finish on the St Columbs Park running track.
Race headquarters is in the Foyle Arena, newly opened on the site of the former St Columbs Park Leisure Centre which hosted the Waterside from its inception back in 1981 to 2005.
The event then moved to Gransha but this year returns to its roots in St Columbs Park, to the delight of many local runners. The new course will bring the race to the other side of the Foyle for the first time and will see the participants cross both under and over the Foyle Bridge to return to the Park via the Peace Bridge.
It is a good running course albeit the weather conditions will determine the degree of difficulty on the Foyle Bridge and has been welcomed by the local running fraternity.
Start time is 10am. The solitary wheelchair competitor Karol Doherty will get a few minutes head start, and the first finishers are expected back to the finish line, 13.1 miles later around 11.06am.
The top males are the Raheny Shamrock AC duo from Dublin, Freddy Sittuk well known in these parts as the double Walled City Marathon winner, and Mick Clohisey an established top Irish road and cross country exponent with a 64 minutes and 42 seconds half marathon personal best.
Declan Reed, Scott Rankin and Pauric McKinney will front the local challenge with Gary Slevin, Chris McGuinness and Pius McIntyre also all expected to chase top ten spots.
Catherine Whoriskey is in a rich vein of form right now and will look for a podium place in what looks like an extremely open women’s race with Martina McMullan and Gemma McGinty and Marie Boyle of Letterkenny also eyeing up big runs.
Race pack collection begins at the Foyle Arena on Friday at 12noon, continues on Saturday from 10am and for visiting runners only there is a race day collection between 8am and 9am. Locals should ensure they pick up on either Friday or Saturday.
Speaking from race HQ a spokesperson confirmed that entry is definitely closed and said: “There absolutely is no ‘on the day’ entry for the WHM. We have reached our target numbers and are all set for the start gun on Sunday.
“We ask runners to get to the start line in good time for the 10am kick off and cooperate with the police and parking stewards to access the range of designated parking areas in and around the St Columbs Park/Ebrington grounds.”
The supporting fun run of around 2K has a 10.15am start and will use the Ebrington site grounds and the Greenway to take participants from Ebrington to the St Columbs Park running track finish.
The half marathon start and finish will also be used for the fun run.
Entries can be made at the Foyle Arena this week including between 8am and 9.30am on Sunday morning and race packs collected at similar times as those already indicated for the half marathon.