East Down AC Jogs On To The End Of An Unusual Year

East Down AC comes to the end for 2020 looking back at missed events but ends in a flurry.

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East Down AC comes to the end for 2020 looking back at missed events but ends in a flurry.

THREE IN ONE.

It could be said that running events these days are like waiting for a bus – nothing to see for quite a while then three events come along at once write Joe Quinn and Alison Carrol.

With the various lock downs and circuit breakers, event after event has been called off, postponed or made virtual but with a bit of juggling, Athletics NI managed to offer two chances to race in the one week.

It was slightly bizarre as one was a Track and Field Meet and the other a Cross Country race, but as most of us don’t know what day it is let alone which month, this blending of two different seasons seemed acceptable to many.

BACK ON TRACK

The ANI Winter Track Series spread over two nights included a range of distances with EDAC’s Neil Curran opting to give the 3K a blast. He has mostly been training solo since March and was glad of the opportunity to mix with some speedy competitors.

Neill Curran is back on track.

He raced well and was pleased with 3rd place in his heat. He recorded a time of 9.49.70 which is only 5 seconds off his PB for the distance and proves that he remains in good form despite the lack of racing to keep him sharp.

In 2019 his attempts at this distance exceeded the 10 minute barrier so this represents commendable progress overall. Keep at it, Neil!

CROSS COUNTRY

The first Cross Country event of the 2020 Autumn season was also the last of the year. The Bobby Rea Memorial had been scheduled and re scheduled as restrictions rose and fell but finally got away on Sunday past at the Billy Neill playing Fields in Comber. There was a limit on the entries and waves were allocated to permit social distancing. Sadly there were no spectators allowed. EDAC had only 3 runners taking part as the change of date had affected overall attendance.

A contribution to Fountain Foodbank following
the Predicted Time Trial.

THE MEN’s RACE
First to test the underfoot conditions were the Senior men with Aaron McGrady representing East Down. The race got underway after a short period of silence in honour of John McKeag the Ballydrain Harriers stalwart who sadly passed away on Monday past, in his 99th year, RIP. 

Aaron had hoped to fit in this particular race as a marker for his Aform ahead of the Intermediate Championships scheduled for mid – January but now likely to face abandonment due to the lockdown proposed to be implemented for 6 weeks after Christmas.

The race consisted of two laps of 2.2K each, the shorter distance designed, like the division of the runners into waves of up to a maximum of 15 runners each, to prevent mass overtaking to comply with social distancing requirements. However as only half the over 70 entries turned up it was necessary to use only 2 waves.

Aaron was drawn in the first wave alongside the faster runners and though he prefers to start relatively slowly and then set out to catch those in front, he doubted if it would be possible on this occasion so he was well to the fore from the off and came through at the end of the first lap in 4th place.

However he stuck with his pre-race plan and when the runners re-appeared at the end of lap two he was in 3rd place behind Mark Mc Kinstry (North Belfast Harriers) and Craig McMeechan (North Down AC), and comfortably maintained his position until the finish line. He said afterwards that he was happy with how the race had gone and had no regrets about his tactics.

The first three recorded times were 12.04, 12.09 and 12.25 respectively which is pretty hot running on a cross country course that was holding a fair amount of overnight rain. Well done Aaron.

SENIOR & WOMEN MASTERS

The second race was for Senior and Masters Women and East Down AC again had only one representative, the ever enthusiastic Sharon Madine. Sharon started conservatively in the second of the two waves but proceeded to make steady progress and at the end of her 2 laps she had a time of 16.50 against her name and when the results of both waves were combined she placed overall 11th but first in the Over 50 category. Well worth the efforts, Sharon!

MALE MASTERS

The third and final event of the day was for Male Masters and again a sole EDAC runner, the evergreen Dee Murray. Another who seems to have lost none of his competitive edge during the pandemic, Dee simply turns up and runs as hard as he can.

On Sunday this meant that his time of 15.12 gave him 11th place overall and 2nd in the Over 50 Category. Well done Dee. The verdict: in spite of the absence of spectators all who turned up said that it was well organised and they were glad to have taken part. As one of the few interested, official observers, I have to agree with that!

PREDICTED TIME TRIAL

Sandwiched between these two events was the EDAC Annual Xmas Predicted 5K. It took place at the Downshire Estate on Thursday evening.  This is a fun event where runners try to guess how long they will take to cover the distance and then without a watch or other timing device do their best to match it. With the emphasis on accuracy and pacing rather than speed the way is wide open for all to snatch the prize.

Maureen Kelly, tops the table.

MAUREEN’S BIG DAY

The top five were impressively close to their predicted times with 5th place going to Johnny Holmes who was seven seconds out. Deirdre Weatherall and Colin Shields tied for 3rd equal – each with a five second deficit. Seamus Savage was four seconds off his guess which was good going but it would have been hard to beat the winner Maureen Kelly who was a mere one second to the better of her guess. She was delighted to top the table and over the moon to find that her prize was a hamper of goodies as well as a £30 voucher for Bells Supervalu Crossgar. Congratulations Maureen!

END TO 2020 Even though the runners had to be split into waves and social distancing was enforced it was the best that was on offer due to current circumstances and it was a good boost to club morale.

Instead of charging the normal entry fee, members were asked to donate food items which have been duly delivered to the Fountain Foodbank in the town.

All in all it was a successful night for all concerned and an uplifting end to a less than inspiring 2020. Here’s hoping that 2021 brings better fortunes to all.

Wishing everyone a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year from all at East Down AC.