Belfast half marathon glory just the ticket for Freddy Sittuk
There were impressive half marathon victories yesterday for Freddy Sittuk in Belfast and Gary Murray in Derry, while Ciara Mageean produced another scintillating performance in the New York City Mile.
The second Deep RiverRock Belfast City Half Marathon provided not only the anticipated tightly fought battle among the leaders but also some unfortunate drama just before the start at the King's Hall.
The race was delayed by an hour for the 3,800 runners because of a serious road accident, which resulted in the temporary closure of the Malone Road section of the course.
When the gun was eventually fired, Belfast Marathon winner Sittuk and Annadale's Eddie McGinley wasted little time forging to the front and testing each other out.
After a slow early pace, 31-year-old McGinley made the first of several attempts to break clear of the field.
This proved to be a frustrating process as the 28-year-old Kenyan simply followed in his wake without making any attempt to lead.
At the six-mile mark, there was a mere one-second gap between them, with Annadale's Keith Purdy almost a minute back in third.
Little changed from that point to the finish bar the expected breakaway by Sittuk in the closing stages.
He crossed the finish line in 67 minutes 33 seconds with a battling McGinley only three seconds in arrears.
Purdy consolidated his third place in 70.38 followed by triathlete Brian Campbell (71.39), Ben Beattie of Sheffield (72.18) and Gary Hynes of Blanchestown (72.47).
Afterwards, McGinley said: "I am disappointed not to win as I led the whole way but Freddy's game was just to sit in.
"I thought I had got away a couple of times but he always came back.
"However, I am going a lot better than a year ago and I have a couple of races before my big objective, which is to do well in the Dublin Marathon."
Sittuk, who said he was pleased with his win, announced that he too was racing in Dublin as well as returning next year to defend his Belfast Marathon title.
In the Ladie's race, victory went as expected to Commonwealth Games athlete Gladys Ganiel in 79.17.
North Belfast took all the rostrum positions with Louise Smith taking second in 80.46 followed by Heather Foley (81.27). Next came Beechmount's Gerrie Short (85.34) and Lisburn's Judith Lonnen (85.40).
Ganiel said she was happy with her win as she was just coming out of a rest period following her good marathon run in the Glasgow Games.
Meanwhile, in the Waterside Half Marathon, pre-race favourite Gary Murray of St Malachys broke clear from the 1,700-strong field in the final two miles to win in 68.01.
City of Derry's Declan Reed was a close second yet again in 68.12. Foyle Valley's Scott Rankin was third for the second successive year in 69.53.
Strabane-based Anne Marie McGlynn sliced over two minutes off her PB to dominate the Ladie's race with victory in 77.21. Fiona Stack, winner in 2012, was second in 80.25 followed by Lifford's Clare McGuigan (85.14).
In the 5th Avenue New York Mile, Portaferry's Mageean continued her spectacular return to the sport following serious injury with a superb third place in a classy international field.
The Irish 1,500 metres champion was timed at four minutes 21.2 seconds, just behind US winner Jenny Simpson (4.19.40) and team-mate Benita Martinez (4.19.60). Mageean, 22, defeated GB international Hannah England (seventh in 4.23.10) and Commonwealth Games 1,500 metres silver medallist Laura Weightman (11th in 4.26.90).
Ireland's Paul Robinson was third in the Men's Mile in 3.51.10, a mere 0.1 seconds behind winner Jordan McNamara of the US.