A new course record was set in today’s Donegal Half Marathon in Letterkenny when Yared Derese cruised to victory in a time of 1:07:22.
The Carrick Aces AC runner, who won the National Half Marathon last year in 1:03:44, took two and a half minutes off the previous course record of 1:09:51 that was set by Raheny’s Freddy Keron Sittuk in 2015.
Second in the event, which attracted a field of around 400, was Shane O’Donnell from Rosses AC in 1:13:38, with Letterkenny AC’s Philip McHugh third in 1:15:28.
Helen McCready from Rosses AC, winner of the senior women’s title in 2022, made a successful defence of her crown when taking the victory in 1:21:54. Runner-up was Finn Valley’s Natasha Kelly in 1:24:32, with Ciara Cunningham of Tir Chonaill AC third in 1:24:36.
Giving his reaction to the day’s proceedings, race director, Brendan McDaid, said he was delighted at how well everything went.
“We were extremely happy to have around 400 taking part which is up significantly on last year. Our aim is to keep building on the numbers and we will be aiming to have 500 on the road in the 2024 event,” he commented.
After the 2021 Donegal Half Marathon, the race organisers made a few alterations to the course.
“We looked at things again after the event two years ago and removing the Port Road seems to have been a factor in attracting bigger numbers. The first four miles in around the town are flat, and apart from the climb up Rashedog just after the half way point, the course is flat and fast,” he said.
“That the race is now recognised as a Donegal championship event meant there was an increase in the number of club runners competing and that also boosted the numbers.”
“We’ve had entries from all over Ireland and quite a few from over seas which was really pleasing when you take into account that there were half marathons held in other parts of the country over the weekend,” he added.
“The children’s races, that are sponsored by Letterkenny Century Cinemas, were introduced a few years ago. These were once again coordinated by our friends from Donegal Sports Partnership. Those who ran today got the opportunity to race over the final kilometre of the Donegal Half Marathon, with the finish line on the Danny McDaid Track.
“It takes up to 100 volunteers to make sure out event is run smoothly and this year we had a great response from people coming forward to help. The Donegal Half Marathon is rightly known as the people’s race and we are grateful to the Donegal Volunteer Centre and Letterkenny Athletic Club, along with our experienced team of marshals headed up by Neily McDaid and Gerard McGinley who have given up their time to ensure that we staged another enjoyable event,” he said.
“When one takes into account the half marathon participants, the children’s races and the volunteers who help out, around 600 people were involved in some way in making the 2023 Donegal Half Marathon happen today. So, we can say with certainty that community spirit is certainly alive and well in Letterkenny and among the running fraternity.
“We are also extremely grateful for the help and support we get from our main sponsors, Kernans, Optum, Letterkenny CDP, Donegal County Council, Fáilte Ireland, Century Cinemas and the Gardaí. Without their contribution, the race wouldn’t happen,” the race director added.