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Some of you younger athletes out there may think that before you arrived on the scene veteran athletics in N I had had no real stars so for your enlightment we have prevailed on Billy Brannigan to recall some of his exploits in the 80's. Billy was a prolific racer at all distances from Zmiles to the marathon and was equally at home on road, track or cross-country although his best distances were 10k, half and full marathon. During the winter he would frequently compete in the vets race and then go out in the senior event and finish in the top ten. In those days the senior race was the major event of the day and would always have had more competitors than vets race which is rarely the case now. You will note from his times that very few over the last 10 years have been able to come close never mind better them. You will see from the article that our secretary Drew Crawford had a fair turn of speed back in 1980. Billy says that he was lapped 5 times by John McLaughlin in the 10000m track championships that year. As he ran 33ml5sec I would estimate that John ran around 26m SOsec which was probably a world record then. Bet that surprised you John!!

Billy now lives at Campbelltown on the Mull of Kintyre and would love to see any vets who happened to be passing through.He plays a lot of golf now-a-days and says there is a beautiful championship course just down the road so if the Red Bay ferry ever gets going again he might just regret theinvitation.

Billy's Tale:
I turned vet in November 1980 and my first race was at Tullamore were I finished 3rd behind Mick Connolly in a 2 miler. Best short run in 1981 at Newry where I set record of 9.29 for two miles and beat Jim Alder. Won all N.I vets races until Derek Graham came of age in September of that year and we had some great races. He was too god for me over the shorter distances. I did Letterkenny marathon in August and the following week won vets 10,000 mtrs track championship in 33.15.1 lapped the field; bar Drew Crawford, but John McLaughlin, running the seniors 10,000 at the same time, lapped me 5 times. Makes you think, doesn't it?
My best year was 1983 when I ran several sub 53.00 10 milers and half marathons average 71.20. The best of these was Belfast in 69.13. Managed to beat Derek in the Joe Seeley in 31.24. In March I beat Jim Alder in 6.5 miler at Sth Shields in 30.55 and in June finished 43rd in Gt Nth Run in O'5 72.16. Set vets record of 2.28.39 in Belfast Marathon after falling over a dog at the 20-mile mark. I was selected for Nth Ireland to run in the Aberdeen marathon with Martin Deane and Matt Shields. Finished 10th in 2.30.40 and was 1st vet. The following week I was 1st vet in NBH half marathon in 71.25 and the next day ran 71.36 in the Deny half. The next week I did 71.21 in Nottingham half but the following week blew up in the Enniskillen 10 where I only managed 56.05.1 took a rest after that. Finished the year with a 31.58 10.000. Average mileage for the year was 54 miles a week.

In 1984 I was always finishing second to Derek Graham in short runs where he kept setting new records. Several times I thought I was going to beat him but we would come to a corner and suddenly he was 20 yards up on me. I still don't know how he did it. He was phenomenal. Ran in the Boston Marathon and did 2.39.33 in 558th place. Again I was 1st vet in several 10s and half marathons.

My last marathon was Belfast in 1986 when I ran 2.37 and the next month I had a very bad fall, which smashed my ankles and kept me from running for almost 2 years. My work was also preventing me from training properly and I haven't done much since then. One half marathon in Wales in 1990 recording 76.30 and my last one in Scotland where I ran 89.30. This felt like a marathon. I would love to run Belfast once more but knees, back and legs say no. So does my wife!

I WISH ALL MY FELLOW VETS (especially the younger ones) GOOD HEALTH and keep showing the youngsters what our sport is all about.