The 24th Brooks Armagh International Road Race around the spectacular floodlit Mall on Thursday night looks set to be a thriller with record breaking a distinct possibility.
The 12 race programme promoted by Armagh AC and Armagh District Council is sponsored by Little Big Shot, Simply Fruit and many local businesses has attracted athletes from USA, France, Poland and all the home countries.
English stars Nick McCormick and Matt Bowser won in 2010 and 2011 while Tom Lancashire is an Olympian with a best of 3:33.96 for 1,500.
European steeplechaser Krzysztof Zebrowski leads a very strong Polish quartet, Kevin Schwab of the USA is a former national junior medallist while Mike McLeod and Richard Weir, second last year, will place highly.
Mark Kenneally leads the Irish squad which also includes Mick Clohissey. Mark is an Olympic marathoner.
The local challenge is headed by national 10k champion Stephen Scullion, the winner at Titanic and Greencastle. Former Irish cross country winner Eddie McGinley, Joe McAllister, Paddy Hamilton, Andrew Agnew and Irish Under 23 champion Ryan McDermott will all be on the line.
The ladies race will be equally competitive although last year’s top two Mary Cullen and Ava Hutchinson are doubtful starters due to injury as is Matylda Szlezak from Poland.
The Cross Channel challenge again is very strong. Elle Vernon, formerly Baker, has competed in Worlds and Europeans, Laura Whittle is a former Euro U23 5,000 champion, Ellie Stephens has placed in the top seven for the last five years while Rachel Bamford came fourth last time.
Triple Northern Ireland record holder Kerry O’Flaherty has withdrawn with a heavy cold. The Newcastle girl has been a double winner of the Armagh race. Lifford’s Ann Marie McGlynn the winner of the Waterside event will run strongly.
The Armagh Club are led by Fionnuala Ross and Danielle Fegan while Katie Kirk third in the UK Indoor 800 and Ulster Schools Emer Magee represent Lagan Valley.
Youths olympiad 1,500 winner Ruari Finnegan from Letterkenny can take the open 3,000 where the opposition includes Maxi Walmsley-Pledl of Armagh, Paddy Robb, James Smith and Chris Connolly from St Malachy’s and club mate Peter Gibbons.
The first of nine age group races is at 6.30 with the international women at 8.05, international men at 8.20 and open 3k at 8.45.