East Down AC Has Another Great Week On The Run

East Down Performances In The BELFAST MARATHON

My apologies to any East Down runners I have missed out on in this report. It is very difficult to check results when the Club names are not shown but if you completed the 26.2 distance, Congratulations to you all.  You have my undying admiration and respect writes Joe Quinn.

Best performance in the East Down colours was Dee Murray’s 3.02.56 in his debut marathon, followed closely by his training partner Neil Andrews 3.07.07. Davy Foster set a new pb in 3.12 as did David Smith 3.19, splendid runs by both with Michael Cultra 3.20.54 just behind. Phillip Vint was more than happy with his 3.24.24, a significant return from injury, and Michael McKeown showed he has lost none of his powers with a fine 3.24.52, while Stephen Heasley 3.28 continues to set the bar ever higher. Robert Loudon cruised round in 3. 29 and will surely better that soon.

A Pb too for Mickey Cunningham 3.57, while Tom McClean came so close to ducking below the 4 hours in his debut marathon but in the blustery conditions could be well satisfied with 4.00.59. Sean Sealey clocked 4.05 25 and another first timer Roger Byrne 4.11.40. Well done, the hard training paid off. The man largely for the training sessions which most of the East Down runners followed was Simon McGrattan and he crossed the line in 4.29.19, having ushered most of his charges in ahead of him, apart from one or two of us rebels that is.

Mick McCreesh and Gerard McAuley delivered impeccable pacemaker’s times of 3.45.19 and 3.58.11 respectively for their 3.45 and 4.00 hours groups, bringing Jonny Burns home in 3.58 though they will seek to be dead on next time!! Charlie Ataliotis clearly hit the wall in the second half, one of those things that happen out of the blue, but he persevered to cross the line in 5.01

East Down runners at the top of Binnian on Thursday night, with Silent Valley reservoir as a backdrop.   L to R Brian Hamilton, Joanne Foster, Mickey Cunningham, Gavin Hynds, Niamh Kellett, Stephen Cassidy, Wendy Findlay, Tom McMeekin, Stephen Heasley, Oonagh Brétéché and Michael Cultra.
East Down runners at the top of Binnian on Thursday night with Silent Valley reservoir as a backdrop.
(l-r) Brian Hamilton, Joanne Foster, Mickey Cunningham, Gavin Hynds, Niamh Kellett, Stephen Cassidy, Wendy Findlay, Tom McMeekin, Stephen Heasley, Oonagh Brétéché and Michael Cultra.

Cheryl Denvir 3.43 was first of the East Down ladies home and Oonagh Brétéché 3.59.31 broke the 4 hour barrier again. Cathy Burke was initially a little disappointed with her 4.06.21 but soon came to terms with what is a very good time, well inside the top half of the finishers while Helen Vint was more than satisfied with her 4.15. Mags Flynn posted a respectable 4.20 while Linda Cunningham not unexpectedly after her London heroics 8 days previously and with shoes full of blisters came home in 4.51. It takes a lot to stop Linda – in fact nothing does.

This time last year I wrote that that it was almost exactly 30 years ago that I stood on the start line of the Belfast City Marathon awaiting the signal for the start of my first ever attempt at the 26.2 miles distance and on the heartache I felt as I waved off the thousands of runners on their great adventure, before returning to my mundane duties as marshal/helper. I had the temerity to speculate that perhaps I might join them next year?

Fast forward 12 months and there I was again on the start line, feeling much more upbeat but even more nervous than in 1985 because this time, as I was there as a participant! Nine years after my last Belfast Marathon I had signed up for one final attempt on the classic distance and persuaded my 4 daughters to run the 4 Relay legs to keep me company. This, I had decided, would be my very last marathon.

My target time was 6 hours plus so imagine my thinking when I went through the first 6 miles in just around 1 hour, raising the potential for a 4.25 finishing time. However reality is no respecter of time and very soon, courtesy of the joys of cramp and a huge dose of reality I was back on a much more sedate, bus pass pace and in the company now of my first daughter Donna. The sun was up, the skies had cleared and apart from the occasional blast of wind conditions were good.

We made our way to the 2nd changeover point at Hillview Ave where daughter Karen was waiting, carrying my lunch pack of 1 banana and 3 (prescription) tablets! Then the long pull up past the Zoo and the agonising downhill to the Shore Road and out to Gideon’s Green where Paula was waiting, shivering with nervous anticipation (or perhaps more accurately from exposure?) and then back to the city along the shore side cycle path. And on to the final handover point where Sheena had been waiting for what must have seemed like an eternity.

A word here for the 4th and 5th leg Relay runners. Something which hadn’t occurred to me before is that these runners, especially those teams whose first 3 runners are relatively slow, have been standing waiting for upwards of three and a half hours without any shelter from the elements. So the fact that many of them have not succumbed to the weather or packed up and gone home is testament to their character and commitment. However I think that conditions can and should be improved for these runners even if only by the provision of a marquee to keep the wind and rain at bay.

The goal of every marathon runner at the start line is to cross the Finish Line and after almost 5 and a quarter hours on the road, with a mixture of running and walking, all the while encouraged by the Quinntettes, and due to the tremendous support from the crowds around the route – better than I ever remember and certainly the reason why so many of us finish – I was finally within sight of my objective. Strangely while very glad to stop I was nevertheless reluctant to acknowledge that it was over – not that I wanted to go any further – but just it was one of those moments which you want to last forever.
But time goes on and it’s done and dusted. My thanks to everyone who donated to my fundraising for Cure Parkinson’s Trust, at the time of writing the total has reached £3000 and I am also indebted to all of you for your supportive and inspirational comments both written and verbal.

It was the unique Binnian to the Top race on Thursday night. Michael Cultra, clearly recovered from his marathon efforts on Monday –finished 11th for the second year in a row, taking first place in the male Over 35 category – a race marking the return of Paul Burns who finished 2 places ahead of Michael and took 2nd in the M40 category. Stephen Heasley improve with every outing and along with Gavin Hynds is giving indications they will be valuable assets in next season’s cross country league. Niamh Kellett was first East Down lady and 3rd in the Female Open category with Oonagh Brétéché taking top placing in the Female O/35 category.

Everyone was rewarded with splendid views from the top (See photo)

This weekend the big event locally is the 3 Lakes Race on Saturday 14 May starting at 11.00am and with a Fun Run over 7K and a 15K for the more experienced runners a big turnout is eagerly anticipated to raise funds for the Downs Syndrome Association, the Lions designated Charity this year. The Association is providing running vests to all 15K runners and water bottles to all entrants so there is optimism that a big turnout of local runners will provide a significant source of revenue for this worthy cause.

While entries will be taken from 9.00am on the day runners are encouraged to enter online at HYPERLINK “http://www.athleticsni.org/”www.athleticsni.org which will be open until midnight tonight (Wed).

Everyone in the Club was shocked and saddened last week to learn of the death of Eddie Morgan, father of leading Club coach Peter and grandfather of two of our most loyal members Adam and Lucy. Eddie had been unwell for some time, and it is widely believed that he never fully recovered from a cowardly and pointless fire bomb attack on the bus he was driving over 25 years ago.

That he left such a loving legacy is testimony to his faith and dry good humour but there is no doubt that the quality of his life was affected by this incident. I believe he was yet another innocent victim of the Troubles. To his wife Eileen, sons Peter and Declan, daughters Julie and Nicola, grandchildren Adam and Lucy and the entire family circle the Club extends its sincere condolences on their sad loss and assures them of its support at this time. In line with family’s wishes a donation in lieu of flowers will be made to the Cure Parkinsons Trust.