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Newcastle AC Notes: Quail Wins Good Egg Award
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Quail wins the ‘good egg’ award at the Commonwealth Mountain and Ultra Distance Championships

Newcastle AC Notes by Joe McCann

Several Northern Ireland athletes, including some from Newcastle were in action in a festival of running that took place in North Wales from 23rd-25th September.  James McMullan of England was the winner of the Open Mountain race in a speedy 50:03.  Our man, Brendan Quail ran a very respectable 66:43 amid illustrious rivals and earned the plaudits of the crowds by making sure that the other athletes had crossed the line before he did so himself.  Such gentlemanly conduct is rarely witnessed in fell running events these days.  Anne Sandford finished 3rd Northern Ireland lady behind Diane Wilson and Shileen O’Kane and 28th overall.  Well done to both athletes on representing the province with considerable style.

Linehan makes an appearance in Newcastle

The word legend is far too readily used these days. In fell and mountain running you need to be extra-special to even come close to that kind of status. However, alongside the likes of Kenny Stuart, Billy Bland, Joss Naylor, Robbie Bryson and Deon McNeilly, the name of John Linehan rightfully belongs on any list. The unassuming Irish mountain legend has not only won some of the best mountain races in Europe, also becoming World Champion in 1991, but was also a highly-talented road runner winning big races in America and posting a half marathon and 10k PBs of 63 minutes and 28:40!

He is also one of only a handful of fell runners who handed Kenny Stuart a defeat when the Keswick man was in his prime.  The Kerry farmer has been winning races since 1976, and is still highly competitive in the Irish scene, winning a staggering 19th Carrauntoohil race in 2009.  The great man was in Newcastle at the weekend on a walking trip in the Mournes and, as our picture shows, some of the Newcastle AC stalwarts were on hand to drop in for a chat.

For Jim Patterson it was a rare trip out of the house after dark and the creaking noise from his wallet reverberated throughout Hugh McCann’s restaurant.  Marty McVeigh was on hand to present a Hill and Dale 2011 goody-bag and Linehan looked about as enthusiastic as the masses that were in receipt of similar accoutrements on the last night of the series.  However being a true gentleman he gratefully accepted the tokens.  When Deon McNeilly was asked what it was like to share a room with a legend, he cogitated briefly before declaring, ‘You’ll have to ask John Lenihan!’

Great success at the Fallows

‘A great race; well-organised and an interesting course.’  This is the printable version of the comments used by the loquacious Eugene McCann to describe the Fallows race organised by Mourne Runners on Saturday 1st October in Kilbroney forest park Rostrevor.  Eugene and his pals (both of them!) had been training flat out on the course for weeks and when the day came were as ready as a turkey at Christmas time.  The 10 mile course was a myriad of forest track and open-mountain with plenty of testing climbs, punctuated by undulating paths.

Unsurprisingly Deon McNeilly was, as ever, in the thick of things, pushing for another race win.  On this occasion it was not to be and despite finishing extremely quickly had too much ground to make up on deserving winner David Simpson.  Simpson is a quality athlete and demonstrated his prowess by winning Race 1 and Race 11 of the 2011 Hill and Dale Series.

Andrew Annett was first home for the host club in third overall.  Newcastle AC was well represented throughout the field and there were fine performances from Brendan Quail, Eugene McCann, Rich Bell, Philip McCrickard, Paul Watson and Ann Sandford.  There were also not so fine performances from Dominic McGreevy (the man who lambasted my efforts at Killyleagh – long runs the fox!), Marty McVeigh and Pol Og.

Bangor 10k

Kerry Harty was Newcastle’s leading light at this race on Saturday 24th September.  Although only beaten by seven male athletes and recording a very impressive 35:12, Kerry was forced to work hard all the way by a determined Gladys Ganiel of North Belfast Harriers.  There was only 5 seconds between the pair at the halfway point and although Kerry took more time out of her rival in the second half to win by 19 seconds, she certainly knew that she had been in a race.

Lowe Alpine Mourne Marathon

Eamon McCrickard, and his randomly selected running partner, Deon McNeilly finished joint first with Billy Reed & Gerry Kingston after approximately 55k of hard mountain running over two days on 17th and 18th September.  Needless to say that this was the first ever tie in the 32 years of the event. The latter started day 2 with a seven minute lead after McNeilly had to stop with heart problems on day 1.  After 20 minutes of examination and analysis it was confirmed that he did, after all, have a heart and was given the all clear to go proceed!!

On the second day weather conditions were very poor and the situation was exacerbated (my word, not Deon’s) by a missing check point. After lengthy deliberation with the judges, after the event, following the removal of lost time due to the missing check point a draw was decided the only fair outcome, as after nearly 12 hours of running only a few seconds separated the leading two teams. Under normal circumstances this would have been enough to provide a clear winner but with the problems caused by the missing check points it was just too close to call.

In the end all agreed that this was the fairest thing to do and everyone went home happy.  McCrickard concluded by stating that he will consider having McNeilly as his partner again next year, unless, of course, a better offer comes along.  With this new found knowledge, I intend to train flat out in the mountains all winter!!!

Donnelly’s perspective from further down the field

In the interest of encouraging younger scribblers and as part of my cunning succession training ploy, I invited Young Brendan Donnelly to share his thoughts on the event from the perspective of ‘C’ category athletes.  Brenmantha tested their relationship with two days in the mountains, navigation to agree on and a tent to be pitched, before tucking into a meagre repast.  I am pleased to report that they are still on speaking terms and present Brendan’s reflections on the event.

“We began at precisely 9:11 just outside the Metropolis of Attical and were sent on our way by a very official looking posse of marshals in the form of Eugene, Frank and the ever positive Marty. The first couple of markers were quite easy to locate, possibly to lure the competitors into thinking this would be a mild amble. Once the early markers had been dispatched it was just a question of navigating up and over Pigeon Rock with a view to climbing Muck.

During this stage of the race we were caught by none other than the Big Fella & His Fella.  We exchanged some grumbling before they ascended Pigeon in good fashion. I could have sworn I heard him say something like, ‘You’re not running hard enough’ as they passed us but I can’t be sure as they were running too fast!

The descent of Pigeon was fraught with potential calamity as we encountered countless rocks masquerading as innocuous tufts of grass. Next up was Muck.  After meeting a rather pleasant farmer, who gladly let us climb over the rustiest section of his fence, we were on our way. There was mass confusion at the summit of Muck as to the location of the marker, after copious amounts of swearing (which I maintain helped enormously) we located it and set off again.

The latter part of the day was relatively uneventful and we reached the camp site in good time. Once there the competition of the race boiled over into a ‘who has the smallest wettest tent competition’.  Once our tents were pitched we moved on to preparing a culinary masterpiece of pasta and jelly babies.  An unnamed marshal even dispensed some contraband apple pie which was well received.

After the positively balmy evening the campsite awoke to find itself shrouded in mist.  With the tent packed up we marched slowly towards the mass start. There we were welcomed by a bright eyed Frank who wished us well on as we set off to determine our fate. Most of the C class banded together for the first section of the course.  My partner and I spotted a group move off the front of the pack and decided to bridge the gap. The mist was quite low for most of the morning and made finding some of the markers an arduous task, alas we soldiered on.

The group bunched up once again at one of the more difficult to locate markers and this would prove to be advantageous in the mist. The final climb of the day was met with disbelief and some productive muttering; the reward was the sight of the ever vibrant Attical in the distance. With that in mind we descended rapidly towards the second last marker, once checked we continued towards to road to Attical.

The pace was well and truly increased on this road section with my partner asking me at one point ‘Can you run any faster please?’ We made it to the finish and gladly blipped the finishing marker, 27th out of around 70 teams and so happy enough with our first attempt.

Something to look forward to!

In next week’s column find out the Newcastle line-up for the Gr8 Dundrum as the race draws closer and discover if ‘Hen’ lays a plan to make it for a cup of tea and a scone after the Sunday run!