A Very Busy Week For East Down AC

Reports from the frontline on the East Down AC runners

Reports from the frontline on the East Down AC runners

Hill and Dale Series continues.

The series hosted by Newcastle & District AC has continued on Thursday nights with Slieve Martin on 28th April and Binnian the following week writes Alison Carroll.

Brian Hamilton and Paddy McDonald remain resolute in their attendance with none missed so far.  John Taylor has also made a showing by racing these last two as he gets mountain ready for “The Seven Sisters” in Donegal.

Paddy Erskine ran at Slieve Martin and in fact was the quickest man home for the club. He was 163rd in 55.13, Paddy McDonald was 180th, John Taylor was 186th and Brian was 191st with 224 finishers that evening. The Binnian event took in a new route and it was debatable if this was any easier than the old course. John Taylor was the lead EDAC on the night with 44 minutes on the clock in 170th place. Paddy McDonald was 174th and Brian Hamilton was 194th out of 222 over the line. Keep it up, guys!

Run the Runways

The clue to this race is in the name. On Friday 6th May runners turned up to this event which took place on the airport runway in Newtownards. It was obviously flat but it was by no means easy due to the breezy location.

Sharon Madine, Roisin Gaffney and Paul Lloyd at Run the Runways 

The course was laid out in a series of twists and turns marked by cones. So many cones in fact that Roisin Gaffney said that she was seeing rows of orange markers in her sleep after the race! She did the full 10K and while she found it a challenge she was pleased to finish in 54.36. Paul Lloyd and Sharon Madine signed up for the 5K and clocked 20.21 and 22.00 respectively.

All three were quick to praise the organisers Scrabo Striders and the enthusiastic marshals. They said that it was a slick event with a very warm welcome and great support during the event.

Seskinore Forest 5K

On Saturday 7th May Suzy Smith was cajoled into yet another road trip by her enthusiastic sibling Patrick. He like to study the fixture list and choose runs that he thinks might be interesting, scenic or just somewhere he would like to visit. This week’s day out was to Seskinore Forest in Omagh.

In the words of Patrick, “it is rightly labelled a hidden gem.”There was a real buzz at this event organised by the local rural community group. The family atmosphere and picturesque setting attracted a field of almost 400. Some preferred to walk it in the Saturday morning sunshine. The course began in the forest park and runners then exited after 500m to complete an anticlockwise lap of the country roads around the perimeter of the forest itself.

The opening 3k was favourable but there was a testing  ascent at 4km and the finish itself was a 400 metre straight leading back into the courtyard at the park. Safely marshalled this is an excellent addition to the calendar with representation from amongst others local clubs based in Omagh, Knockmany, Killyclogher, and Killeshil.

It had an environmentally friendly aspect to it  – wooden trophies for all  age categories and wooden commemorative medals for all finishers. Both he and Suzy enjoyed the run enormously despite the hills. Patrick finished in 23:58 in 67th place and Suzy (26:47) was 108th. The final verdict was that they would definitely recommend it but given the 150 mile round trip perhaps adding a 10k option it would make it one for a future club day out.

London Vitality 10K

Olivia Mooney at the London Vitality 10K.

One of EDAC’s members, Olivia Mooney is currently studying and living in London. It gave her the opportunity to take part in the London Vitality 10K last weekend. This is a mass race in the city and it attracted over 13,000 runners from those out to complete a 10k to the elites at the front of the race. The headlines centred on the fact that Mo Farah was beaten by club runner Ellis Cross. The two men were locked in battle to the line with Cross getting the win in 28.40 to Farah’s 28.44.

Abigail Elliott performed in the Long Jump at Mary Peters Track.

This shock defeat has signalled the end of Mo Farah’s comeback and provided a great spectacle for the crowds watching at home and on TV. Olivia soaked up the atmosphere during her run but also produced a personal best of 46.46. She was 387th female out of over 6000.

District A

A quiet week for the juniors with only the Year 8-10 District A Track and Field to report on. Abigail Elliott after her recent good showing in the long jump at the Firmus Fab Five Track Event arrived ready to give it her all. She jumped well to get a bronze medal in the Year 10 (Junior) age group. This also qualifies her for the Ulster schools later this month.

Alex Robinson was 10th in the Year 9 (Minor) 800m. He also ran the last leg of the 4x100m relay for his school (Down High). The team qualified for the final where they came 4th narrowly missing a medal.

British Mountain Running Inter Counties Championship

This year’s British Mountain Running Inter Counties Championship took place in North Wales over the Llanberis Ridge, an undulating 11km course with over 700m of climbing. There were teams from England, Scotland,  Wales and Northern Ireland.  EDAC’s Aaron McGrady had been selected as part of the Northern Ireland & Ulster Team.

At the British Mountain Inter Counties Championships: (l-r), Jared Martin, Adam Cunningham, Johnny Scott, Timmy Johnson and Aaron McGrady.

The course consisted of 3 climbs, the first 4 kilometres long peaking out at 724m. The second two were mere bumps compared to this but coupled with steep descents and warm temperatures, they really stung the legs before a flat out 4km descent to the finish in Llanberis. The NI team packed well in the front half of the race and worked together up the first climb before getting strung out on the sharp descents.

Aaron held his own but ran out of legs in the final 2k and lost 3 positions. He ended up finishing 23rd out of 90 runners in the open race. The NI & Ulster Men’s Team was 7th and the Women’s Team placed 9th. The scenery and weather made it an enjoyable experience as well as a competitive event.

Wicklow Round

Niall Gibney is always on the lookout for a mountain that needs tamed and has practically worn out the Mournes with his efforts. Having completed the Denis Rankin Round – both clockwise and anti clockwise he decided to go further afield with the intention of having a crack at the Wicklow Round. 

Irish ultra-runner Joe Lalor is credited with the creation of the Round in 2008 and his long-distance route follows a prescribed circuit of 26 mountains  and includes almost 6,000 metres (20,000 ft) of elevation so it is not for the faint hearted or ill prepared. While there is some flexibility on route choice between peaks, the climbs must be completed in a fixed order and a strict 24 hour deadline is imposed.

If runners fail to complete in that time limit their efforts are not recorded as a valid Round. The important difference between this round and others is that GPS devices are forbidden and participants have to relay on map and compass for navigation.

Pacers or support runners are also not permitted. Niall made comment that this was much to the delight of Gavin “the last leg” Hynds as he did not have to interrupt his busy triathlon training regime to give Niall back up!

Nial Gibney in the Wicklow Mountains.

Niall’s preparation spanned many months with lots of long mountain runs in the Mournes. As a result of a Wicklow recce last August he chose May for his attempt as he learnt that from mid July the bracken, heather and gorse grows uncontrollably obscuring many paths making it at first difficult and then nigh impossible as the year goes on.

Accompanied by trusty side kick and one woman support crew aka his wife Helen, he arrived on Saturday ready for a 3am start the next day. This start time was strategic as the first climb was along a well established track with the descent on an access road and a couple of tarmac miles beyond that.

He reckoned this would be manageable in the dark and that by the time he reached the next trickier section that it would be almost daylight. He also calculated that if all went to plan then it would still be light for his descent off Tonduff North (3rd last peak) which would be a challenge even on a clear day.

Unfortunately his plans were knocked off kilter by the weather. He arrived at the foot of Kippure to mist and rain. Low visibility hampered his progression through the first few legs. Time was lost having to check map and compass and a few navigational errors did not help. To counteract the constant soaking he tried a clothes change at Lugnaquilla only to discover that his numb fingers were a big hindrance.

Unsurprisingly he was not in great form when he first stopped at Glenmalure nine and a half hours in. Helen was on hand with sympathy and motivation in the form of hot coffee, pot noodle and a full change of clothes. Two big climbs followed but on more obvious paths allowing him to reach the next stop in better shape.

More coffee and another pot noodle and he pressed on with determination. The rain stopped at last and visibility improved giving some great views of Lough Dan and Lough Tay. The resourceful Helen somehow sourced a curry chip which was washed down with energy boosting coke sending him into the last section in a buoyant mood.

He found a great line up Tonduff but then a compass error sent him way off course. Miraculously he found himself on the right road despite this and realised that he was nearly home. The last section was familiar from his previous recce and even in the dark he yomped confidently to the finish.

At 1.50 am on Monday morning 22 hours 50 minutes and 15 seconds after he began, Niall reached the final point with 70 minutes of leeway before the cutoff. His tracker recorded 70.5 miles and 18,500 feet of climbing. He was elated to have made it and Helen was relieved to stand down from her duties.

A mammoth effort from them both. As Niall said: “She was in the right places at the right time which is no easy feat as a lot of the support points are well off the beaten track and also you cannot get anywhere very fast in Wicklow”.

There are fewer than 50 recorded rounds so getting added to that list is a major achievement. The record stands at 15 hours and 4 seconds  but only 8 people have gone quicker than 20 hours so Niall’s time is also impressive. Each time he finishes one of these safely there is a collective sigh of relief but it also begs the question – what next? We look forward to hearing the answer to that.