MARY PETER’S TRACK
Thursday past was a momentous day in the history of athletics in Northern Ireland. On that day the refurbished Mary Peters track was officially re-opened after a £3 million makeover which saw the track extended from 6 to 8 lanes, complete reverse of its layout with the back straight becoming the home straight, a complete upgrade of the infield and at long last, a 400 seater grandstand and changing rooms. Not what you might normally call cutting edge development in this day and age but given the facilities which had existed for almost 40 years previously, a major step forward writes Joe Quinn.
The Golden Girl herself, Dame Mary Peters, was there to perform the opening ceremony looking like she could still compete at Olympic level as she posed for photos and did run-ups for the benefit of the many TV and Press cameras on hand to record for posterity. The original track was opened in 1976 on foot of Mary’s never-to-be-forgotten Gold medal in the 1972 Olympics and it was fitting that she should witness what is the fulfilment of her dream to provide the very best environment in which to assist the development of young athletes throughout the country.
The previous night was perhaps every bit as momentous in terms of the history of several East Down individuals who scrap for every second on the relentless timing clock. Not only did at least five of them set new PB’s for the distance but with the first four counting, placed a very creditable 6th in the team competition. In the absence of the acknowledged big two of Teer and Venney, the squad was led home in fine style by Neil McCartan in 16.35 ahead of the ever consistent Barrie Atkinson in 16.46.
Next was new boy James Savage in 17.46 with the evergreen Liam Keenan anchoring with a superb 18.19. Peter Morgan translated his improved 10K form into the shorter distance with 19.40 ahead of Michael McKeown in 19.50. Gavin Oakes 20.09 was followed in by Stephen McCartan 21.09, another PB, with Colm McNeill 25.18 completing the 9 strong team. The lone East Down lady taking part Catherine O’Connor, who also took the opportunity to record a best for the distance time of 20.07.
With numerous postponements of races over the past week it was something of a relief that the Omagh Half marathon was staged on Saturday. Michael McKeown was the sole East Down representative in the field and posted a solid 1.30 to get his campaign in the Pure Running Half Marathon Series off to a good start.
NEW DATE FOR LARNE HALF
It has been agreed that the Larne Half Marathon, postponed two weeks ago will now take place on Saturday 8 June.
NEXT EVENTS ON THE FIXTURE LIST
Meantime, two events in which East Down AC are heavily involved in the coming weeks may provide opportunities for those who still have Larne on their “To Do” list. On Saturday 11 May a totally new event on the calendar, in the shape of the Downpatrick Lions 3 Lakes 14K Challenge from the Lakeside Inn on the shores of Ballydugan lake, takes place and with a 7K Fun Run also on the programme there is something to suit all tastes. It certainly promises one of the most scenic routes anywhere, taking in the shorelines of Ballydugan, Magheraleggan and Loughinisland Lakes.
Online entry will be available by the end of this week at www.athleticsni.org
STEEPLECHASE THE BLUES AWAY
The following weekend the Club are promoting a totally new type of foot race – a steeplechase – in the grounds of Stormont Estate, on behalf of Action Mental Health. Again a big turnout is anticipated as runners try out the delights of a Grand National without the horses. Participants are assured that all the “fences” will be jumpable and it is very much a novelty fun type event for runners of all ages and abilities. There will be two races, one over a 5K distance and the other over 5 miles and online entry is open at http://amhsteeplechase.
So Jump to it!!