ALMOST a hundred athletes took part in the third running of the O’Brien Challenge 26 Kilomathon which was sponsored by Steelweld fabrications Cookstown, Small & Hyland Chartered Acc Cookstown and Performance Nutrition plus Cookstown.
As the runners made their way to the first kilometre David Simpson Corstorphine AAC, Allan Bogle City of Derry and Chris Mc Peake Sperrin Harriers had quickly moved to the front with Chris looking for a three in a row, with David and Allan making their first appearances at the race.
As the athletes reached Davagh Forest - where there was 17K to run on various types of trails - David Simpson and Allan Bogle were now clear of Chris McPeake with Donal Gallagher (Sperrin Harriers) and Dale Mathers (Newry City Runners) behind.
Karen Alexander (Sperrin Harriers) was well clear in the ladies race, but by 12k last year’s winner Chris Mc Peake was forced to pull out due to a hip injury. This left Allan Bogle in a clear second place with Donal Gallagher and Dale Mathers battling it out for 3rd place but Aaron Meharg was making great ground and had then in his sights. Meanwhile, in the ladies race, Karen Alexander was in a class of her own and had increased her lead further through the forest with Caroline Irwin Springwell in 2nd and Anne Killen u/a 3rd and both ladies were having excellent races.
As the runners made their way towards the 16k mark and the start of the toughest hill around or as the Sperrin athletes call the ‘Widow Maker’, the next 3k would test everyone and test them it did with a lot of changes - but not at the front. And as the runners came out of Davagh there was no change in the top two but Donal had got away from Dale with Aaron right on his heels.
As the runners made their way up the final climb and then come into view of the finish line only 1k away and a nice flat run to the finish and it was David Simpson, well clear of any challenger who finished strongly, taking 1st place as he crossing the line in 1:38:23, breaking the course record from last year.
Allan Bogle was next taking 2nd place in 1:42:01, next and leading the Sperrin Harriers team home with a brilliant run was Donal Gallagher 1:42:26 in 3rd place. with Aaron Meharg running a fast last 5k took 4th pos in 1-46-32, Dale Mathers 5th 1-47-49 then 5th Gary Keenan Orangegrove 1-50-09,and the next five athletes all Sperrin Harrier athletes with 6th Niall Higgins 1-52-09, 7th Karen Alexander 1-52-38, 8th Fergal Mulgrew 1-53-30, 9th Mel Hughes 1-53-31, 10th Aidan O’Hagan 1-53-30.
Karen Alexander was a very convincing winner for the 2nd time in 3 years crossing the line in 1:52:38, smashing the course record. Caroline Irwin continued her excellent run, finishing in 2nd place in a time of 2:12:15 with Anne Killan u/a having one of her best races in 3rd place, clocking 2:14:56.
After the race, the runners enjoyed the post-race refreshments and prize-giving up in Charis house. All proceeds from The O’Brien Challenge were donated to the Charis Integrated Cancer Care and Emergency Medical Services.
David and Christine O’Brien would like to thank everyone who helped them out with the running of the O’Brien Challenge 26 Kilomathon and said they would be back next year with a bigger and better race when they will be hoping to hold the full distance in Davagh Forest and maybe a full marathon when all the new trails will be finish.