On Sunday past 4th August 2013, Cookstown was the venue for one of the few World Police & Fire Games (WPFG) events outside of Belfast, as local and international runners gathered for the World Police and Fire Games Cookstown Half Marathon.
Mid-Ulster Sports Arena was turned into Race Central, as international WPFG athletes were the first to arrive. As athletes, spectators, volunteers and officials mingled in the glorious weather, more athletes arrived as the start time of 2pm approached with a field of over 500 taking to the start line just before Cookstown District Council Chairman Councillor Pearse McAleer started the race.
The athletes set off on their 13.1m journey, which would take them from the Mid-Ulster Sports Arena into Cookstown Town Centre and out onto rural roads towards Lissan taking in the beauty of the Sperrin Mountains in the distance before they came back through the Town Centre, making their way back to the Sports Arena and the finish. There was agreement amongst the athletes at the finish line that it was one of the toughest Half Marathon courses with the increasing heat throughout the afternoon making it a challenging run for many.
As the expected time for the first runners to appear approach, word reached the finish line that Tyrone man, non-WPFG runner, Henry O’Neill (Unattached) was at the front with Jonattan Morales (Mexico) and two Russian athletes following as the field went through 10 miles. Henry O’Neill entered the final straight to loud applause and to the sound of bagpipes, the Omagh based O’Neill crossed the line in 1:12:18 to win, securing the Cookstown Half Marathon title.
Mexican WPFG competitor Jonattan Morales followed in 1:13:31, taking the prestigious WPFG gold medal; Spain’s Jose Del Campo Gijon sealed 3rd place overall and a silver medal in the WPFG race in 1:15:00, before Paul Moran (Ireland) took 3rd place in the WPFG competition (and 4th place overall) with a time of 1:16:51. Keith Young (Unattached) claimed the runner up spot in the Cookstown Half Marathon open event when he finished in 1:18:10, while Brendan McDaid (Inishowen Fitness) completed the open race top three when he finished 1:21:07, receiving 3rd place in open race.
Kelly Neely became the first woman to cross the finish line securing her victory in the Women’s open race; Kelly, runner up in the Larne Half Marathon and the Ards Half Marathon this year completed the tough course in 1:28:14.
In the WPFG ladies race, Svetlana Zaharova of Russia enjoyed a comfortable win in the WPFG race, crossing the line in 1:22:24 to win.
Local lady and former Commonwealth Games athlete Club Pulse AC‘s Linda Meehan (1:37:33) claimed second place in the open race, just thirteen seconds before Team NI’s Shelley Boyd (1:37:50) took second place in the WPFG race; Hazel Smyth, who is originally from Northern Ireland but now works and lives in Scotland, finished as 3rd place WPFG lady in 1:40:02 before Fiona Johnston (Unattached) ran 1:40:28 to complete to ‘open’ race top three.
World Police and Fire Games Road Race:
Top 3 Men: 1st Jonattan Morales (Mexico) – 1:13:31, 2nd Jose Del Campo Gijon (Spain) – 1:15:00, 3rd Paul Moran (Ireland) – 1:16:51
Top 3 Ladies: 1st Svetlana Zaharova (Russia) – 1:22:24, 2nd Shelley Boyd (Team NI) – 1:37:50, 3rd Hazel Smyth (Scotland) – 1:40:02
Cookstown Half Marathon Open Race:
Top 3 Men: 1st Henry O’Neill (Unattached) – 1:12:18, 2nd Keith Young (Unattached) – 1:18:11, 3rd Brendan McDaid (Inishowen Fitness) – 1:21:08
Top 3 Ladies: 1st Kelly Neely (City of Lisburn AC) – 1:28:14, 2nd Linda Meehan (Club Pulse AC) – 1:37:33, 3rd Fiona Johnston (Unattached) – 1:40:30