Athletes not horses set to compete at Down Royal on 18 July as sport returns

Ann-Marie McGlynn will join Stephen Scullion in the event at Down Royal Racecourse on Saturday when competitive athletics returns to Northern Ireland

Competitive athletics will make its Northern Ireland return when the ChampionChip Ireland Running Series begins at Down Royal on 18 July.

All runners in the distance events - ranging from 5km to half marathon - will wear a chip which will mean a post-race tracing capability.

"We will know where they were at all times during the races," says event organiser Glenn Grant.

Those who will compete include Stephen Scullion and Ann-Marie McGlynn.

Grant is hoping that the participation of Olympic Games qualifier Scullion will help bring in a number of competitors under the 30-minute mark in the 10km race.

Stephen Scullion celebrates finishing second in last year's Dublin Marathon
Stephen Scullion will be among the athletes competing at Down Royal on 18 July

Scullion training with Kirk's group

Scullion spends much of his year training at Flagstaff in California but took the decision to travel home when it became clear that lockdown was in the offing.

The Belfast man has tagged along to coach Mark Kirk's training group over the last couple of weeks since the strict lockdown measures began to be eased.

And Scullion says the sense of comradeship is something he believes has helped people during these unprecedented times.

"One thing we can learn from Covid is that if we stick together, and if you are having a positive day, it may inspire somebody else to have a positive day," said the 31-year-old, who has qualified for the marathon in Tokyo.

"Maybe that then can come back on itself when you are not doing too well and others can help you."

McGlynn chasing Olympic qualification

McGlynn is also aiming to book a marathon spot in Japan although she is still chasing qualification.

The Strabane-based Offaly native says she is "really looking forward" to racing again after training well during lockdown.

"To toe the line at Down Royal will be really exciting," said the 40-year-old, who is effectively in her second running career after giving up the sport for six years.

"It will be a chance to test yourself against because you don't really know where your form is at when you are just training."

Other similar events organised by Championchip Ireland will be held at Balmoral Park in Lisburn (1-2 August) and Glenarm Castle (8 August).

The emphasis will be on safety with the events taking place in closed locations free from cars, bicycles, walkers, dogs and others exercising.

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