Two new clubs launch and the race is on to encourage more people to run

The newly-formed running group 'Barn Runners Carrickfergus' hit the streets at the recent Belfast Solstice 5k.
The newly-formed running group 'Barn Runners Carrickfergus' hit the streets at the recent Belfast Solstice 5k.

The growing popularity of running is underlined this week with the announcement of new clubs in Larne and Carrickfergus.

And initiatives aimed at encouraging even more people to get up off their sofas and get fit were also launched.

Barn Runners - pictured - had their first outing at the Belfast Solstice event on Saturday.

The other new group, East Coast AC, and the long established Larne AC both launched the Couch To 5k programmes this week.

First press release to reach the Times Sport Desk was from Larne AC, whose programme begins on Monday, July 8 and lasts 10 weeks.

By then, participants who might not have run further than the distance from their car to the front door should be able to manage five kilometres (about three miles) – an achievement in itself or perhaps the start of something bigger.

The club says the free programme has been specially tailored to be suitable for complete beginners and runners of all levels and incorporates a walk and jog technique.

“We are delighted to be sponsored by CS Sports, Larne, who have offered a 10 per cent discount and free water bottle on all running-related purchases,” said a spokesperson for the club celebrating its 25th anniversary.

Everyone is invited – regardless of ability – to go along and meet the Larne AC leaders, who will be delighted to explain more about the training programme.

The ‘Couch to 5k’ group will meet at the Town Park (side entrance) on a Monday and Wednesday night at 7pm. See the Larne AC website at or the club’s facebook page for further details.

On the same day, Larne-based East Coast AC announced it will start a Couch To 5k programme on Tuesday, July 36 at 6pm, to run for nine weeks, with coaching by “a selection of UKA (UK Athletics) qualified coaches”, and a graduation for all participants.

East Coast AC says Couch To 5k is “for everyone”, adding: “Whether you’ve never run before, or if you want to get back into running after being inactive, Couch To 5k is a cheap and easy way of getting fitter and more healthy. If you have any health concerns prior to beginning an exercise campaign such as Couch to 5k, make an appointment to see your GP and discuss it with them first.”

The East Coast programme training will be once weekly and will start at 6pm from Sandy Bay playing fields, There will be a one-off fee of £5.

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East Coast AC is to introduce a new junior section, the East Coast Cheetahs, for children aged five years and above. Safe, fun and all-inclusive training sessions, designed by fully qualified and vetted coaches, will take place in a secure environment.

Interim chairman Justin Maxwell said: “The vision of the founding committee is to improve athletics within the borough and I feel that by both encouraging adults as well as children into athletics, we can begin to achieve this. These initiatives alongside the regular well-structured training for our development and performance sections will ultimately bring talent to the fore. It will also promote a healthy lifestyle.”

East Coast AC training on Tuesday and Thursday nights (7-8pm), meeting at the Larne Youth/East Coast AC building beside the Pavilion at Sandy Bay playing fields in Larne.

Meanwhile, on a very warm and humid night, six Larne AC members headed to Lisburn to take part in half-marathon & 10k races last week.

Geraldine Quigley, currently in second place in the Northern Ireland half-marathon series, was first home for the club in a time of one hour. 34 minutes, and four seconds.

Ian Brennan was next in 1.44.26, followed by Heather Baxter, who was pacing the two-hour group and finished in 1.59.17.

Elaine Hall completed the race in 2.07.57.

In the 10k event, brother and sister John Kerr and Helen Kane were the club’s representatives. John completed the race in 48.55, with Helen a few minutes behind in a time of 54.47.

At the weekly Parkrun, the club had three competitors: Wayne Morrow finishing third and Lionel Date 41st.

No times were recorded at Ecos due to technical difficulties, but at Victoria, Craig Hutchinson finished sixth in a time of 18.27.

County Antrim Harriers were out and about over the past week at a number of local events.

In last Wednesday evening’s Lisburn Half Marathon and 10k Road Races, held in very warm conditions, Ballyboley’s Gary Montgomery was first club member home in the 10k, crossing the line in a well deserved 44:26, followed by Grace Startin (56:58) and Ally Bennett (66:11). Joy Chesnutt, after her recent endeavours at the Larne Half, went the distance again in Lisburn and was pleased with 1:52:01.

On Friday evening, Christine Murray, training for the 10k race in the forthcoming World Police & Fire Games representing the NIFRS, had a preference for the Ards Charity 5 Mile Challenge and in spite of a tough, hilly course was fifth Female Open in 35:53.

Later that night, the Solstice 5k in Belfast City centre attracted a 200-plus field including 13 County Antrim Harriers.. First home for the club was Chris Barrett in 19:46, just ahead of his son Philip, 20:20, with Bob Carson not far behind in 20:52pb.

First female home for the Harriers was Louise Smart with an excellent 22:03, with Heather White on 22:05. Lisa Barrett was hugely pleased with 22:39, with Ruth Morrison next on 23:08.

Then followed a group of CAH’s finest in close proximity to each other, led by Irene Downey (24:32), followed by Cathy Hopkins (25:15), Kim Gleave (25:57), Christine Neeson (27:10), Marion Morrow (28:02) and Eileen Stewart (28:38pb).

In Saturday morning’s park run time trials, Greg Hopkins’s run at Victoria Park was timed at 26:28, while Glenn Smart, along with Lisa Barrett, Eileen Stewart and Louise Smart made the inaugural Ormeau Park event and clocked 22:21, 25:46, 30:54 and 47.07 respectively, with Louise sacrificing a run to walk around the course with a newbie. At the Waterworks park run devotees Heather White, Randall Smyth and Irene Downey on 23:13, 24:00 and 25:50. Christine Murray finished second female at the Ecos (Ballymena) park run with 21:59.

Congratulations to Harriers member Paula Hilman on being awarded the MBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours.