A Round Up Of Running Scene By The East Down AC

Report by Joe Quinn and Alison Carrol. 

The big decision for runners last weekend was not so much what to wear but where to wear it. The dilemma was caused by the unfortunate clash of dates which saw the Gr8 Dundrum run pitched in direct conflict with the first round of the Cross Country League in Comber, exacerbated by the double whammy of both being right on our doorsteps.

The cross country was superbly hosted by Balllydrain Harriers at the Billy Neill Centre near Dundonald and proved to be an ideal setting, though underfoot conditions were very soft in places and as the result of recent hedge removal, rough and uneven with cloying mud in others.

joe Quinn Alison Carroll Joanne Foster Catherine O’Connor Cheryl Denvir Clare Carson Ella Carroll Aoife Cochrane at Comber with the Ballydrain Harriers Cross Country event.


However, after the early day drizzle had cleared away, the sun emerged and the air was unseasonably warm when the Ladies and Over 60 Men’s race started. This year changes to the Cross Country rules mean that clubs could earn points for the number of finishers, up to a maximum of 16,  per round,  as well as the award of place points depending on the finishing places of the first 4 runners, all the way down to 8th place.

So the  idea is for the smaller and perhaps weaker clubs to send up to 16 runners to each round in order to retain an interest in the League throughout the season. So the clash of the 2 major races in the same area affected many Clubs ability to meet this target as some members chose to go to Dundrum rather than Comber. And who can blame them?

I was torn myself as the Murlough race is one of my favourites but opted for the Comber event for a variety of reasons, but mainly though because it is less painful to fall on grass than road, track or beach! In the event I didn’t fall at all, though not for want of trying.


The East Down Ladies turned out a team of 7 runners and they took a very creditable 4th place in the Team challenge, which in fact is the main focus of cross country running. The top 4 finishers from the club on Saturday were Catherin O’Connor 17th, Joanne Foster 20th, Aoife Cochrane 32nd, an excellent first outing from her after her recent graduation from t Junior anks, and Cheryl Denvir 35th. The other East Down runners who contributed valuable points were Clare Carson 65th, Alison 75th, and Ella Carroll 8oth.

It was good to see Tom Dowey out and competing stoutly again in the Over 60 category, his 69th place overall in a field of 139 finishers representing a splendid effort.


On the run: Gavin Hynds, Stephen Heasley, Martin Wilcox,  Ciaran Denver, Kieran McMahon, Paul Burns, and Barrie Atkinson.

The 179 Men who contested the Comber Cup race had to cope with not only the 4 gruelling laps but also the increasingly difficult underfoot conditions, as a result of the hundreds of foot falls already administered during the earlier series of races. However, East Down’s  seven, perhaps not yet magnificent, but working at, nevertheless produced battling performances,  to take 8th place.  Their top 4 runners  were Martin Willcox 40th  a very well judged run as he picked off many runners over the last 3 laps, Paul Burns 52nd adopting similar tactics to Martin and always looking strong and in control, Barry Atkinson 61st, a tenacious effort in spite of him not finding conditions to his liking  and Ciaran Denvir 68th , will come on a lot from this outing, his first for several weeks. The other point scorers were Stephen Heasley 94th,  Gavin Hynds105th and Kieran McMahon 161st .


It is anticipated that as the weeks progress between now and Christmas the East Down club will field the maximum number in all the remaining fixtures, in both the Mens and Womens competitions. The value of getting runners out in depth is demonstrated by looking at the table from round 1 of the league where the top 4 ranked teams all scored an extra 16 points as did Ballydrain who finished in 9th place, out of the top 8 scoring teams but benefiting from the points per finisher rule, actually were awarded 7 points more than the two teams who finished ahead of them and 4 more than Newcastle who were 5th team overall but who equally suffered from lack of numbers to make up the difference.


Catherine Burke. Deirdre Weatherall, Dee Murray, and Janine Murray at the Dundrum GR8.

Those who opted for Dundrum and Murlough on Saturday were not disappointed as conditions were reported as near perfect, resulting in several personal bests. Dee Murray improved his 2016 time from 53.01 t0 52.42, Declan Teague posted 56.06 and James Magennis was reportedly over the moon to clock 58.58, a significant psychological boost not only with the new PB but dropping below the 60 minute mark. But watch out James with all this dope testing going on it might be better not to draw to much attention to your lunar explorations, even if you’re explanation is that you were only out looking for a bovine bounder!

Luke McBratney came up with a commendable run in his first outing in Club colours, crossing the line 61.15, while John Manley celebrated wife Lisa’s birthday with a 65.55 time. Gavin McConvey another first time run under the East Down AC mantle, also celebrated his 78.06 time.


The Ladies, who will become aficionados of cross country   running in the weeks ahead, were headed by Deirdre Weatherall whose 57.49 gave her 3rd place the Female Open category and 10th overall. Well Done.

Cathy Burke too broke the 70 minute barrier, recording 69.52 while Janine Murray 72.23, was more than happy to complete her first ever Dundrum Gr8, despite suffering from a chest infection.  And Linda Cunningham 82.30 must have wondered why she had to finish just over 8 miles after starting when she was only beginning to warm up.


Matthew McGrattan and Adam Morgan at the end of the U18 4k Comber Cross Country

October marks the start of the XC season and although some of the Juniors had already tested their spikes in the first race of the McGrady Series 3 weeks  ago, this week provided not one but three opportunities for a gallop in the muck.  Flahavans Primary School Cross Country League kicked off on Tuesday at Dunleath Playing Fields – a familiar setting for the EDAC Juniors who were representing their various schools. Conditions were soft and treacherous so it took a lot of skill to negotiate the winding route.

A big well done to Jodi Foster who came 2nd overall out of 144 Primary Girls. Emily Burns (9th), Kari Foster and Ella Telford also took part. The Boys’ Race followed soon after and Oliver Robinson pushed all the way to the finish line finishing in 2nd place out of 157. Callum Kent was hot on his heels in 4th. Alex Robinson, still only a P5 pupil like Kari earlier, bravely lined up despite being young for this event and both will have learned a lot from the experience.

The Billy Neill Playing Fields were the venue for the next event on Saturday morning. In the first event for Primary School age, Jodi Foster had another fine 2nd place and Callum Kent was 6th. Conditions were even worse than Tuesday and with hills added in to the mix, it was not an easy race. In the U13 there was a trio of EDAC girls with Lauren Madine leading the way to take the win. Lucy Foster was 5th and Anna Gardiner was 7th.

Anna Gardiner, Lucy Foster, Lauren Madine and Jodi Foster

A credit to the Club. By the time the U18 event took to the start, the ground was well churned up and this age group had a longer distance to run (4k to be precise).  Matthew McGrattan, Edie Carroll and Adam Morgan participated in this age group and were glad to finish upright and without injury!

Round  2 of the McGrady Financial Services XC Series took place in Kilbroney Forest Park less than 24 hours later. This was tough on the runners but pity the mothers who had to get the spikes hosed and the muddy vests ready for the third time that week. Joanne Foster with multiple kits to prep might be thinking that swimming would have been a better sport for her troop to take up!!

Anyway a full report on this race will be posted later this week. Suffice to say well done to the Juniors for putting in your best efforts and to parents for transporting them to Rostrevor. The setting is idyllic and the going was good apart from the grass being a little on the long side and provided great racing. Commiserations to Malachy McGrady who had to pull out of the Year 11 Boys race, when going well after he twisted his ankle badly on lap 2.

 RED HIGH 10K and 2 X 5K RELAY

Next Saturday brings us to the 2nd running of the Red High 10K and 2 x 5K Relay Race at 12.00 noon from the school on the hill.   Online entry is open until midnight tonight, Wednesday 18 October, at www.atleticsni.org  though entries will be taken on the day from 10.00 am in the School.

 SON of the GRIDDLE?

As indicated a few weeks ago the Griddle Race will not be held this year but so as not to disappoint the many loyal supporters and to perhaps appeal to the many ultra and often masochistically inclined runners in our midst, I’m toying with the idea of planning a Mother of All Griddles or Son of the Griddle 10K or similar, taking in all the famous and notorious hills in and around Downpatrick. If it goes ahead it will be on Griddle Sunday 3 December and if nothing else it would prove the oft repeated moan to me that “ Your races are always full of hills” so serves you right for complaining. Watch this space!!