Rachel Gibson and Conall Kirk ran the fastest parkrun times in Ireland this weekend (21st December)

The festive period brought with it plenty of strength in depth with possibly the fastest week ever for parkrun in Ireland. You needed to run 15:46 or faster to crack the men’s top 10 and 18:42 or faster for the women’s.

With Mark Kirk’s training group attending as well as a number of the NI Athletics’ Marathon Potential 2024 Project, times were bound to be fast at Belfast Victoria. Seven of the top 10 men’s times and four of the 10 ten women’s times showed that it didn’t disappoint.

It was Rachel Gibson who was the fastest woman overall this week taking five seconds off her previous parkrun best to run 17:15. The North Down AC athlete has been in fabulous form in 2019 with pbs at 1500m (4:23.89), mile (4:55.64), 3000m (9:33.18), 5km (16:50), 5 miles (28:19) and most recently 35:41 at the Seeley Cup 10km. Gibson was also a winner of last week’s North West Open XC in Foyle.

Conall Kirk ran a blistering 14:44 to run the fastest parkrun time in Ireland this weekend and break Paul Pollock’s Belfast Victoria course record. Kirk is a man in form having won the Malcolm Cup Open XC in Ballyclare and running a new 10km PB of 30:42 at the Seeley Cup 10K in the last two week’s of November. Kirk’s previous parkrun best was 15:32 set on the same course last year.

Jessica Anne Craig ran 17:32 to finish as this week’s second fastest woman. The North Down athlete has had a very busy month finishing 10th at the Irish Life Health National Cross Country Championships and running the Seeley Cup 10km (35:11 for 3rd) and Telford 10km (35:44) in the space of three weeks. Craig also ran 34:40 at Leeds Abbey Dash but her PB was scrubbed along with many others that day after the course was found to be 23m short.

After winning Darlington Harriers’ Croft 5K at the end of November in 15:06 Andrew Milligan went quicker this weekend to clock 14:52 chasing Kirk to the line in Belfast. Milligan is a man usually found racing on the track with PBs of 1:51.92 for 800m, 3:56.09 for 1500m and 8:53.73 for 3000m.

The start line of Belfast Victoria with no expense spared on the footwear. Credit: Trevor Murphy

Irish Masters Athlete of the Year Annette Kealy once again showed what an astounding talent she is running 17:35 to set a new parkrun PB and a WAVA age grading of 97.73%. To put this performance into perspective the W55 world record for 5000m on the track is 17:29.28. Kealy has a 5000m PB of 16:29.17 from 2003 but it is in more recent years that the Raheny Shamrock has made her mark as one of the finest athletes in the history of masters athletics. Her time is a full minute faster than the official W55 Irish national road 5km record. A fabulous athlete who deserves more plaudits; we have no hesitation in saying that this was the standout performance in an incredible week of results.

The course record fell at Portrush as Neil Johnston ran 15:08 get inside the top three on very fast week where the whole top 10 ran inside 16 minutes (we could have carried on to 14 before we saw a 16:xx). The 14:22.74 5000m man finished 6th at the Northern Ireland & Ulster Uneven Age Groups Championships last month and was a winner at last week’s North West Open in Foyle ahead of Mark McKinstry who was fifth fastest at parkrun this week. Johnston’s time is particularly impressive given the Portrush course is run on the beach!

Under 15 Kirsti Foster was back in action at Belfast Victoria this week clocking a big parkrun PB to run 17:47 with an age graded WAVA of 88.38%. Foster was a winner at last week’s Irish Life Health National Novice and Uneven Age Cross Country Championships in the u/15 race.

Luke Dinsmore was the fourth fastest man with a 26 second parkrun PB of 15:14. Dinsmore recently achieved a fine 10km PB at the Seeley Cup running 31:38.

Men’s top 10

1) parkrun: Belfast Victoria
Conall Kirk, 14:44, Lagan Valley AC
2) parkrun: Belfast Victoria
Andrew Milligan, 14:52, North Belfast Harriers
3) parkrun: Portrush
Neil Johnston, 15:08, Springwell RC
4) parkrun: Belfast Victoria
Luke Dinsmore, 15:14, Springwell RC
5) parkrun: Sixmilewater
Mark McKinstry, 15:15, North Belfast Harriers
6) parkrun: Belfast Victoria
James Hamilton, 15:16, Ballymena Runners AC
7) parkrun: Wallace
Christopher Madden, 15:29, City of Lisburn AC
8) parkrun: Belfast Victoria
Andrew Wright, 15:36, Willowfield Harriers
9) parkrun: Belfast Victoria
Gareth Hill, 15:39, Ballymena & Antrim AC
10) parkrun: Belfast Victoria
Stephen Connelly, 15:46, Annadale Striders

Women’s top 10

1) parkrun: Belfast Victoria
Rachel Gibson, 17:15, North Down AC
2) parkrun: Belfast Victoria
Jessica Anne Craig, 17:32, North Down AC
3) parkrun: Malahide
Annette Kealy, 17:35, Raheny Shamrock AC
4) parkrun: Belfast Victoria
Kirsti Foster, 17:47, Willowfield Harriers
5) parkrun: Sligo
Eavan McLoughlin, 18:14, Sligo AC
6) parkrun: Claremorris
Edel Reilly, 18:30
7) parkrun: Buncrana
Ciara Toner, 18:32, Springwell RC
8) parkrun: Ballina
Norah Pieterse, 18:39, Mayo AC
9) parkrun: Marlay
Amy Mornan, 18:41, Dundrum South Dublin Athletic Club
10) parkrun: Belfast Victoria
Leann Gibson, 18:42, Victoria Park and Connswater AC

If you would like to run faster at parkrun, top tips to help runners of all abilities can be found here.

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