Striders Weekly Update 17/01/2024

Posted: 17/1/2024

Scrabo Striders Article 15th January 2024

By Ian Frazer and George McGonigal

On Thursday evening, Scrabo Striders and the wider running community lost a legend. Heath Graham passed away peacefully at his home surrounded by family after a short illness.

Heath was truly one of a kind, as anyone who has ever had even the briefest of interactions of him would have known. His encouragement, humour, kindness, and relentless positivity made him an excellent Couch To 5k leader, club member, coach, and friend.

As the many hundreds of tributes came pouring in over social media on Friday, it was evident just how many lives Heath touched and changed for the better. The outpouring of respect extended to Friday evening's social run from Conway Square, where some 120 runners from a number of running clubs showed up to observe a minute's silence, appropriately bookended by the blowing of a coach's whistle.

Heath's own running journey was significant, starting with regular sessions at Couch to 5K, gradually increasing distance and building fitness, eventually progressing to running 5 marathons (most recently Dublin in October 2023), which he took great pleasure in telling anyone who would listen.

However, it was coaching and encouraging others where Heath really shone, starting as a leader for Couch to 5k groups before joining Scrabo Striders and becoming part of the coaching team, completing both Leader in Running Fitness and Coach in Running Fitness qualifications. Training sessions led by Heath were always memorable, both for the laughs during them, and the way he was able to get everyone to give their all. At races he was a constant encourager, whether for club members or just those he happened to end up near, Heath was always full of exactly the right motivational words people needed to hear in the toughest moments. These particular talents came to the fore with his well-known "Party Bus" pacing groups during local races such as Ards Half Marathon.

In November, his achievements were recognised in fitting fashion when he was presented with the Captain's Choice award by Captain Andy Haylett at the Annual Awards dinner. Andy highlighted Heath's innate positivity, and that he was helping change people's lives and improve their mental health simply by being himself. Heath was delighted to have won the award and in his typical style, he fashioned the trophy into a makeshift medal which he wore to the next club social run.

Heath gave his all to the very last; running and coaching right up until just weeks before the illness took him so devastatingly quickly. His larger-than-life presence will be missed for an incredibly long time to come. For many, club training will never quite be the same again, but Heath’s legacy lives on in the memories of all those who had the privilege of knowing him, as they hear his voice ringing in their heads when they need it most, "you've got this, kid!".

Heath is survived by wife Carol, daughters Natasha and Nicola, parents Tom and Jenny and 4 grandchildren. Sincere condolences from the Committee, Coaching Team, and entire membership of Scrabo Striders Running Club. RIP Coach Heath.

We know Heath would want the show to go on and in true Scrabo Strider spirit it did just that, with both Juniors and adults competing at the Mathieson Cup & Shield cross-country at Mallusk playing fields on Sunday. Primary were first up with Hamish Orr-Stewart first for Scrabo in 2 minutes 54 seconds over the 800m followed by Joshua Bingham 3.01, Rory Braniff 3.10, Adam Haylett 3.14, Calum McCready 4.00, Olly Simpson 4.16 and Maddie Dynes in 4.18. In the Under 13 Harry McCready finished the 2km in 09:03followed by Keara Simpson in 12:32. In the Under 15 4km first Strider was Luke Braniff in 18.23 followed closely by Willow Farrington in 18:39. Well done kids.

Norman Mawhinney took overall 2nd in the Men’s Veteran category covering the 6m in 24:02 while in the Senior Women first Scrabo home was Jenny Taylor in 27:24, then Lorna McMurray 28:22, Heather Baron 30:01 and Alison Shanks in 30:55. A further fifteen Scrabo ladies competed.

In the men’s 8km race Matt Bell crossed the line first for Scrabo in 32:18 followed very closely by Colin Harper in 32:34 and Andy Haylett in 30:52. Next was Gareth Davies 33:06, Graeme McGowan 34:12 and Jonathan Swann in 35:39. A further eight Scrabo gents competed.

On Saturday Coach Norman Mawhinney travelled to Athlone to compete in the Irish Masters Indoor Championship, his first ever indoor run where he secured M65 Category Irish Master 3000m Champion. Very well-done Norman!

The weekend isn’t the weekend without Parkrun where Scrabo had 56 participants running across 15 different venues. Most popular was Comber where Matthew Halus took overall second in a blistering 18 minutes 38 seconds, followed by Colin Harper 21:54 and Abrar Hossain in 22:14 while Daniel Barnes and Rachel Brown both recorded new personal bests (PBs) of 25:35 and 38:08 over the 5km distance.

Zara Johnston completed her 25th Parkrun in Larne in a time of 28:20 while over at Belfast Victoria Willow Farrington grabbed a new PB of 21:49 followed by Luke Braniff 22:07, Lorna McMurray with a PB of 24:41, Rory Braniff 26:41, Karen Wilson (PB) 27:11 then Stephen Braniff in 31:45. Allie Farley and Liam Rodger ran Portrush for the first time in 52:34 and 52:37 respectively, while other first timers included Georgia McGonigal 31:37 at Antrim, Angie Crone 35:04 at Queens and Paul Blair 24:19 at Ormeau.

Travelling further afield and continuing to take Parkrun tourism to new levels, Michael Burgess and Cheryl McCartney completed Wepre Parkrun in Wales in 23:34 and 44:08 respectively while in England Rachel Lyttle finished Lyme in 46:27 and Gavin McDonnell secured a new course personal time of 29:28 at Bramshall Road.

At the Sunday morning junior Parkrun in Comber Lyda Blair completed the 2km course in 13:11 followed by Harriet Frazer 14:25 and not far behind brother Nathaniel in 14:43. Well done to all our Scrabo Weekend Parkrunners!

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