East Down AC Enjoy Mill Hill Mile Once Again

East Down AC runners find it all uphill at the Mill Hill run.


East Down AC runners find it all uphill at the Mill Hill run.


It was good to see the Mill Hill Mile back on the calendar last week as some events have not reappeared despite the easing of Covid restrictions writes Alison Carroll.

This one is a tough challenge – only one mile long but uphill all the way from the bottom of Mill Hill in Castlewellan to the very top.

Ollie Robinson with Jacob Crawford on his heels

There is one brief moment where runners think that they have reached the crest but just as they breathe a sigh of relief, the road rises once more and they have to dig deep to reach the finish line.

There was a damp mist on the night which only added to the atmosphere as the runners seemed to materialise out of nowhere as they came up towards the waiting spectators. 65 hardy souls had signed up and jogged down to the base of the hill ready for the off. East Down had a fair few representatives in the field and for many this was their first taste of this classic.

Joe Quinn is congratulated by his family and members of East Down AC

Ollie Robinson on the other hand was a repeat entry so he had a fair idea of what lay ahead. He had set himself 6 minutes as the time to beat.

Once the whistle blew, he was away like the clappers with Jacob Crawford on his heels. This was Jacob’s first race for the club and he was keen to do his best. The 2 boys pushed each other on right to the end.

Jacob Crawford, James Wright, Ollie Robinson and Maureen Kelly.

Ollie was very pleased to record 5.59 and while Jacob was one second over the 6 minutes this was a brilliant debut for him. Ollie was 3rd junior and 7th overall.

Next finisher for EDAC was Jonny Holmes in 6.49. He was then followed by James Wright (7.07), Finn Gibney (7.47) and the sole East Down female entrant Maureen Kelly was smiling as usual when she crossed the line in 9.17.

Joe Quinn was last but certainly not least of the EDAC squad. He had made up his mind that he would complete the distance to maintain his long history of taking part over the years.

His steely determination earned him a rousing welcome when he reached the summit.

The Newcastle AC members organising the race expressed their delight at Joe taking part and appreciated his huge efforts to get over the finishing line.

Joe is renowned for his contribution to the sport of running and even though his competitive days are behind him, he still continues to inspire all who know him. Well done Joe!


This event has an interesting concept. Runners sign up in pairs and are given a a sheet (not to scale) with the control points marked listed by their map references.

Once the clock starts the teams have to visit as many controls as possible in a 6 hr time limit. Each control is worth a certain number of points with bonus points for the trickier ones. Each pair can do as many or as few controls as they choose within the 6 hr time limit but there are penalties for going over the allotted time.

Nial Gibney and Gavin Hynds.

It is no surprise that this idea piqued the interest of Niall Gibney nor that he was easily able to persuade Gavin Hynds to be his wingman. The intrepid duo are great mountain runners but more importantly good friends. This bond was definitely needed for the challenges of this race.

The venue changes every year but this year’s start was at Sandy Brae in Attical. This meant that the controls were all placed over the western Mournes which is not only unfamiliar stomping ground for many but also has a lot of harsh unforgiving terrain which is barely suited to running.

Despite the difficult running both enjoyed the event and agreed that they would do it again but perhaps adopt a different strategy.

Niall’s plan would be “to take more time at the start to plan the route rather than making it up as it went along. He admitted that the lack of scale on the map threw him a bit and as a result he underestimated the last climb which made them miss the cutoff and incur a penalty.

Gavin agreed saying: “It would be best to take a few minutes to plan route at the start and check which controls are maybe not worth the points. It’s definitely a navigator’s game.”

The good news is that Gavin forgave Niall for the penalty but maybe that was due to the enjoyment he got seeing Niall slip into a large bog hole up to his waist! Their ability to see the fun in running rather than be a slave to their watches is commendable. In the end they covered over 18 miles of mountain running with 4900 feet of climbing and were happy to place 4th out of 20 pairs.