Athletics resumed in impressive style after lockdown with a NI Women's 10k record by Ann-Marie McGlynn at the ChampionChip-sponsored meeting at the Down Royal Maze Racecourse, where Olympian Stephen Scullion also scored an easy victory before announcing - and then retracting - his retirement!
The 75 entries in the main mixed event read like a who's who of NI's top road racers. The quality field plus good weather over a fast course resulted not only in McGlynn's record of 32 mins 43 secs but also a string of other personal bests.
The 40-year-old Letterkenny woman proved yet again that age has not impacted on her fitness levels which before the lockdown had resulted in a series of PBs.
South Belfast's Stephen Scullion set a vicious pace from the gun in the first wave of 30 elite athletes. McGlynn settled into the top 20 and took advantage of the pacing services of North Belfast's John Black.
She stuck grimly to her task and overcame a rough patch mid-race to storm through to the end in style, finishing 18th overall with a huge 55secs off her previous best. Her time was a Northern Ireland record, eight seconds better than that set by Banbridge's Emma Mitchell in the Abbey Dash in 2017.
"I stayed on the pace thanks to superb help from John Black," said McGlynn.
"At one stage, I had to work really hard against a wind and a few rises on the road. I had already run a record time in training and knew that with a race atmosphere and a goal in mind I could go faster.
"I just don't know about future marathons at present as everything is so uncertain. In the meantime, I'm planning to race as much as possible and will compete in the NI 10,000 metres in two weeks."
North Down's Jessica Craig was second in a PB of 35.08, followed by Ballycastle's Gemma McDonald (39.14).
Scullion, 31, is already qualified for the Tokyo Olympics marathon following his sub 2 hrs 12 mins time in Houston in January. At the Maze, he tested himself from the start and quickly opened an unassailable lead over triathlete James Edgar.
At the finish, the Clonliffe man crossed the line in a PB of 29 mins 13 secs which took just one second off his previous best set back in 2010. The next four finishers all recorded PBs; Lisburn's Edgar joining the exclusive sub 30 minutes club with 29.54 ahead of North Belfast's Conan McCaughey (30.27) ,Russell White of Dromore (30.44) and Neil Johnston of Annadale (30.45).
Scullion's upbeat demeanour at the finish was in marked contrast to his announcement several hours later on social media that he was retiring.
He subsequently backtracked on this and said: "Things got a little too much for me and I made a rash decision to announce some form of retirement.
"It's been an up and down experience during Covid. It caught up with me that I should be in a training camp in Tokyo preparing for the Games "
In the half-marathon event, 61-year-old former Olympian Tommy Hughes dominated the opposition with an easy win in 72 mins 55 secs, with Annadale's Chris Hutchinson second in 1.15.59.