KCH athletes at the Kilkenny race launch
Excitement is building ahead of the 2019 Streets of Kilkenny 5K, which was launched in the city at the weekend, and takes over Kilkenny on Holy Thursday night.
For host club Kilkenny City Harriers (KCH), the hard work of getting the event up and running has been overtaken by its popularity.
“We’re overwhelmed by how big this race has become in just three years,” said club chairman John Maye at Saturday’s launch in Langton’s.
“When we started this race, we had two visions: a super event which was open to everyone and went in on every calendar every year, whether a runner or spectator. Secondly, we wanted to bring high-class athletics to the streets.
“This year, with the city streets closed off and a new route that features Kilkenny Castle as the perfect backdrop to start and finish the event, we think we will achieve it.”
A higher profile means the Streets of Kilkenny has been elevated to a new platform on the Irish running scene. It will be part of the Kia Road Race Series, a nine-strong calendar of events that will bring the best athletes to races across the country.
The increase in attention means there will be a top-class feel to the event, with runners keen to snap up the extra €500 on offer for the male and female athlete who breaks the current course records.
All this will be done on a new course.
This year the Streets starts and finishes on the Parade. Entrants will run down the Parade and along High Street, heading on to Parliament Street into Irishtown. Turning right, the course takes runners over St Francis Bridge and along the new road to the Castlecomer Road junction.
After a run along the Castlecomer Road the field moves down John Street and over John’s Bridge back to Rose Inn Street. The race will be divided into two lanes – people taking on lap two will go to the right, with finishers staying left before heading back up the Parade to the finish line.
The new route, plus the handsome bonus prize, are just two factors the organisers feel will see a bigger field take to the Marble City in April.
“Last year we had 700 entries for the event, with 600 runners running on the night,” said Maye. “We would love to see more than 800 this April – being part of the Kia Race Series will go a long way towards achieving that figure.
“The series brings some extra prestige to our event, with the guys in our own club are excited about the calibre of runner it will bring,” he added. “There’s a €500 course record bonus (14:43 for the men, 17:22 for the women), two targets that a lot of people will look to hit while getting into a high-class race.”
The Harriers are looking forward to this year’s race and were quick to thank their supporters and sponsors.
“We’re very thankful to Langton’s as a title sponsor and all our sponsors St Canice’s Credit Union, Lacey Electrical, Eoin Everard Solutions Physiotherapy and Laura Langton Physiotherapy, Laurels B&B and to the Co Council for the work they’ve put in - we’ve been meeting with them since December – not to mention Kilkenny Gardai,” said Maye. “We’re really excited to see where the event goes this year. It’s a big step up, but we’re working hard to meet it.
“There’s a real driving force behind this event,” he added. “The committee, which is led by people like Colette Fitzpatrick, Paul Moran and Nicholas Dunphy, is a driving force to who have put in the work to make sure this event happens and happens well and stays with the two principles of delivering a super event with high-class athletics.”
For a fledgling race the Streets of Kilkenny has grabbed the attention – something that was as much of a surprise to the organisers.
“I can’t believe it’s gotten so big so quickly,” said Maye.
“The first year we had a massive debate in one of the early meetings about whether we should get 150 or 200 t-shirts – we were worried about being left with shirts after the event! This year we’ve 500 ordered, and we’d hope to roll that number out as the years go on.
“It’s great to see those shirts out on the road throughout the year,” he added. “It’s become something of a collector’s item, as we’re hoping will be the medal we’re introducing this year.”
The new additions will add to the popularity, but the after-party in Langton’s is already a hit.
“It’s a great venue, with plenty of places for runners to talk to other runners about running,” Maye said with a smile. “You come along for refreshments and talk about running to your heart’s content!
“It’s been great to have their support as it says this is an event worth backing,” he added. “It’s a value to us as a club, but we wanted it to be of great value to the city too; it’s such a gorgeous place to run in – what an opportunity to tour it.”
The Streets is just another chapter in the success story of Kilkenny sport as it has helped the Harriers raise the county’s profile.
“It’s a great way of showing our club spirit and showing the city what we’re about,” explained Harriers PRO, Nicholas Dunphy. “People see the likes of Brian Maher and Eoin Everard and what they’re capable of on the international front, but we also have a Fit4Life group which is there to help people start out in athletics.”
And it’s not just running that the Harriers can offer.
“If you want to get involved, we need coaches as much as we need athletes,” Dunphy added.
“We have hit maximum capacity at some age groups, so we’re always putting the word out that we’re looking for more coaches. If we can get more coaches, we can take on more athletes and help spread the community spirit even further.”
The Streets of Kilkenny 5K will take over the Marble City on Thursday, April 18. The race starts at 7.30pm from Kilkenny Castle. There are t-shirts for the first 500 entrants, with medals for all finishers. Full details are available from www.kch.ie
For more on Kilkenny People sport read here.