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Belfast Marathon 2017

There have been many titanic struggles over the years: Ali vs. Fraser, Blur vs. Oasis and Pepsi vs. Coke but none will ring through the annuals of Link history as Blue Shells vs. The Crazy Horses!

The relay competition has become a regular event in the Project 23 calendar. Taking place at the same time as the Belfast marathon, teams of 5 runners compete over legs of varying distance across Belfast. Over the last two years we have had two teams competing against each other in hard fought duel.

The start of this clash of titans begins almost a year ago when Team Mo’ Powah were vanquished at the Belfast Marathon by the Link Legends. The young people smarting from their loss resolved to do better and as they performed their forfeit of running Bangor Parkrun in Tutu and Fairy Wings they made the resolution: Never Again.

January saw them begin their training, meeting Gordy and Ryan McVicar from Extern on Thursday afternoons for a regular run and discussions on hygiene, stretches and healthy diet. Their team captain, Cameron McMillan ran a tight ship ensuring his team showed up and encouraging/threatening those who failed to show. From the dedicated cadre of runners Cameron choose his elite team of 5: For his veterancy Scott Maxwell a member of every running team for the past 5 years, a returning Chris Knox anxious to show that he could push himself to higher things, Jonny Roth keen to show that he could commit and a solid speedster by the name of Mark Luxton. Over further sessions throughout March and April at Bangor Sportsplex and Bangor Parkrun they improved their stamina and gained vital experience in running in large groups. It was also decided that the losing team or Team captain would be required to run Bangor Parkrun in a dress so the stakes were high!

Over this period Gordy put out the call to put together a team to rival these young guns. Robert Dalzell a CYMI student in Comber would take the first leg having run the full thing several times, his second was filled by a (nearly) Presbyterian minister and marathon relay stalwart Craig Lynn, he would take on the third himself, the fourth was taken by a running powerhouse who had put in impressive Parkrun times by the name of John Melvin and their anchor leg was covered by Martyn Drury a man who had completed the full thing in 2012 and was a Boy’s Brigade athletics medalist a few *cough* years ago.

And so the stage was set. Our actors stood ready, the date of their performance set for 1st May 2017 but who would perform Hamlet and who would give us Hollyoaks?

At the onset the Blue Shells set a strong pace with Scott Maxwell putting his foot down and giving his team a convincing lead ahead of Robert Dalzell. The hand over was smooth for both teams to their next leg and Cameron McMillan was able to fight through ankle injury to increase their lead by 10 minutes with Craig Lynn running a spirited leg, pausing only to get his photo taken with a group of supportive Nuns from the Sisters of Adoration and give his entire ecclesiastical history. Jonny Roth, the Blue Shells next runner, had been a question mark before the run with what a Doctor, several Nurses and the guy behind the reception desk at Londonderry Park Sports centre all having labeled “A Manky Toe”. Would this slow Jonny down? Sleep deprived father of a 2 week old baby, Gordy certainly hoped so! Unfortunately Jonny let the pain push him to hold their lead over the grueling 7 mile stretch up the Antrim Road. Jonny passed onto Chris while Gordy eventually passed on (and out) to John. Both put in the run of their lives with John managing to reduce the lead of the Blue Shells. Could they hold out or would the Crazy Horses gallop to victory after all? Mark had showed himself to be a solid runner with decent pace and a die-hard attitude and his marathon performance backed this up. Mark kept a strong pace going and was able to hold-off marathon veteran Martyn Drury who, despite a spirited finish, was unable to catch the young speedster.

And so the Blue Shells stood victorious, their heads held high in the full knowledge that their hard work and training had paid off. The buzz from all the participants was great. For the young people they had worked hard and could see that their training had paid off. Some had already commented about how great it was having bragging rights and how great it made them feel. There are already talks about next year and even a bit of buzz about a Young Women’s team! Big thanks to all who took part and all who helped especially to my fellow Crazy Horses who gave up a Bank Holiday to race against our young people! There is a further part to this story as Gordy will be carrying out a forfeit on behalf of his team. Watch our Facebook page as there will be evidence! And all being well this won’t be the end of Project 23’s running endeavours in 2017!


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