IT started on Thursday in Tollymore with my first appearance at Race 9 of the Hill and Dale series, brought there more by the first staging of junior races for children from P5 upwards, than any desire or intention of participating. In the event I thought I would try out my spectating skills one more time rather than run.
The children were treated to the uphill finish usually reserved for the seniors and East Down girls D’Arcey Campbell and Aoife Cochrane made light work of it, coming home first and third respectively in the P7 Girls race while Amy Godfery took the Year 8 girls Gold in what was in truth a tough challenge. Padraig Rogan was the only Boy to appear for the Club and ran his usual steady race in the P6 category.
The senior race was a stunning triumph for Alan McKibben as he marked a return to top form, storming up the hill, raising his arms in triumph while most were just happy to raise their feet. First home for East Down was Arthur Morgan who has taken to the Hill and Dale environment like a duck to water. He attained his highest placing so far, taking 24th spot just behind Nathan McComb who remarkably ran and won the Year 12 race just a few minutes earlier. They breed them tough in Newcastle. Gavin Oakes continued his recovery programme following his exploits in the Wicklow Roar, cruising home in 38.55 while Megan Wilson continued her superb series coming home as first Junior Female but regaining the upper hand in her “friendly” battle with her dad Brian.
Anna McCoy was just behind, 2nd in the Female Open category and Michael Degan just 38 seconds further back. While all these battles were unfolding out on the course, the legendary Joe McCann, who some say is attempting to become twice the man he used to be, was proving in graphic fashion that he wasn’t half the one he thinks he is, or at least that was the consensus among his groupie followers, as he toiled up (and over?) the hill. Though I suppose size, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder.
Brian Hamilton was next East Down man home, just a minute ahead of Donna McCusker who much as we would love to have her and despite what the results say is with Murlough AC. She certainly shows no ill effects from her splendid marathon run in Edinburgh. Denis McKay and Paul Rogan kept close company with East Down guests Patrick Wilson and Josias Cunningham who had made the trip from South Africa.
Then it was on to Saturday when apart from my comeback on feet in early morning Tollymore the most notable performance of the day was Brian Donnelly’s superb 13th place in the Mourne Way Ultra marathon which takes in 53 miles from Rostervor to Newcastle and back, all accomplished in 10 hours 48 minutes despite tearing a calf muscle after 5 miles, and as part of his build up to the Connemara 100 mile challenge in August.
The redoubtable Deon McNeilly placed 3rd in the shorter marathon 26.2 miles) race finishing just seconds behind Gary Bailie a race in which John and Wendy Findlay posted notable times so of4.43 and 4.53 respectively.. Well done to all who took part.
While they had already been running for several hours the Senior Championships were taking place in Antrim Forum with Elaine Burch taking 3rd place in a below her best time of 4.59 in the 1500 metres and Brendan Teer posting 15.55 for the Mens 5K. James O’Hare took 3rd place in the 1500 metres in 3.55, as all times seemed to be adversely affected by windy conditions.
On Sunday the Impact Romania Charity 5 and 10K races were staged in Ballynoe round a challenging 2 lap course and while the entry numbers were disappointing, though perhaps understandable given the glut of events over the previous few days, the quality was nevertheless outstanding. Local man Liam venney took the race by the scruff of the nck from the off and came through the first lap in 16.24, followed by Gary Flynn and Stephen Shannon.
The order remained unaltered through the second circuit and Liam crossed the line in a super 33.10 with Gary over 3minutes behind and Stephen a further 69 seconds back. Ryan Hagen, Mark McDowell and Francis Tumelty were the next three home in the East Down dominated field, 18 of the 28 starters coming from the club. Cheryl Braniff gave notice of her improving fitness with a storming finish to claim the Ladies trophy, ahead of Megan Wilson and Noreen Kerr, while the 5K prize went to Declan Quinn with Ethan Braniff first Under 15 Boy.
In the Ladies race first prize went to Eleanor McCormick with the Junior prize going to Nuala Reynolds. The organisers would like to thank everyone who tool part or helped in any way and are determined to hold the event next year again, on a less crowded weekend.
Next Road race is the Loughinisland 5.05 mile and 3 Mile Fun Run on Wednesday 29th June at new starting time of 7.30pm.