East Down AC Looks Forward To End Of Lockdown

East Down AC runners are champing at the bit to get involved in racing again for the season.

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East Down AC runners are champing at the bit to get involved in racing again for the season.

No sign of life.

Sunday 14th March 2021 as well as being Mother’s Day should have been the date for East Down AC’s annual flagship race – the Jimmy’s 10 writes Alison Carrol and Joe Quinn.

However, anyone looking out for the colourful spectacle of runners forging down Market Street on Sunday morning would have been sorely disappointed. Normally the St Patrick’s weekend and Jimmy’s 10 race day coincide and the town of Downpatrick welcomes a multitude of visitors to take part in the festivities.

Saintfield Striders in 2019 at the Jimmy’s 10K. ( Photos by Keith McClure.)

The popular road race is the culmination of months of planning with over 1000 people thronging the East Down Athletics Club Rooms eager to pick up their numbers, to discover what colour the t-shirt will be and hoping they might get a peek at the tables groaning with post race treats.

It is an action packed day where runners of high calibre might be out to snatch a prize or score a personal best time while others might be running their first 10K distance or perhaps raising money for charity or just be taking part for the sheer joy of running in a big crowd.

With a relay event on offer as well it caters for those who are not quite ready for 10K and there are also many who walk the course. Something for everyone! It is extremely hard work to organise but seeing the smiles of those taking part and hearing the cheering onlookers makes it all worth while. 

First lady over the line in 2019, Kerry O’Flaherty.

One Year ago

Roll back to the same weekend in 2020 and it was a bleak day in the history of the race. Just like yesterday the place was deserted. Jimmy’s 10k has been in the calendar since 1999 and has taken place every year since with only 2 hitches.

Foot and Mouth in 2001 and an ‘out of the blue’ snow day in 2018 caused postponement but only by a short space of time. The pandemic that struck in 2020 totally overshadowed these minor interruptions.  Covid 19 had been appearing in the headlines for a few weeks by then but initially  it seemed to be a remote problem confined to China and other places overseas yet suddenly it was on our doorstep and a very real threat.

The powers that be were issuing bulletins to inform us all of what restrictions might be imposed and yet it still seemed as if the race would go ahead as there was no direct order to cease. The race committee met daily and then had almost hourly gatherings as the situation closed in. When schools and work places were told to prepare for closure and the government was using the word lockdown, it was decided that it was best to communicate to all that the race would not take place.

After doing all the hard work, it was a bitter pill to swallow but taken in the context of what some had to face in their lives, it was just a fact of life and a line was drawn.  We all hunkered down and waited for the storm to pass.

On the podium in 2019 were first, Patrick Hamilton (Slieve Gullion Runners), second, Mark McKinstry (North Belfast Harriers), and third, Aaron McGrady (EDAC).

Life as it is now

Little did we know then that a year later that we would still be under orders to socially distance, to work from home if possible and to avoid unnecessary journeys  etc. We would have found it hard to envisage how work and home life would be impacted and that sport would be universally curtailed.

Initially we had rolled over all the entries from the 2020 race to the corresponding date in 2021 but in December it was obvious that a race in March would not be feasible.

We took a decision to push the date back in the hope that a race in 2021 would still happen. At that time, we chose June 6th as the new date but the recent “Roadmap to Recovery” has caused a rethink.

Signs of recovery

The good news is that with the uptake of the vaccine and the fall in numbers regarding infection rates and hospital cases, things are moving in the right direction but by stalling for a couple more weeks, we feel that there will be further easing of limits.

eWe are awaiting the next Executive update in the hope that club training might be able to take place in the not too distant future and that competition will follow and so we have rebooked a date for Jimmy’s 2021 – SUNDAY 20th JUNE. All 2020 entrants have been carried over and EDAC greatly appreciate the understanding of the runners and other clubs. We know that it is not ideal that changes are made and we all prefer certainty and being able to train for a set goal, but we are trying to make the best out of a difficult situation. Racing has been thin on the ground in the last 12 months so organisers and athletes are equally keen to get back in action.

Runners pictured at the turn of the Jimmy’s 10K in 2019

Happy memories

2019 seem distant now but the photos in the archives remind us of the good times. That year was a bumper entry and the race was a huge success. We have to hold on to those memories for now and tell ourselves that we will enjoy it all the more for the long wait.

Our club is very excited at the prospect of hosting old friends and new and it will be a happy day for all concerned. Once all the deferrals are accounted for, It is hoped that extra places will also go on sale. These will be advertised here in the Sports Section as well as at:

www.eastdownac.co.uk

and on the EDAC Facebook page so keep an eye out.

Time to pay your dues

Membership – The Athletics Northern Ireland Year runs from April to April and as an affiliated club East Down Athletics Club membership renewal is now due for 2021/22.

All current members should have received their sign up emails and are asked to return forms and fees asap. The club would also like to encourage all those solo runners who have taken up the activity or found new enthusiasm to train during lockdown to consider joining up. New senior members are of course welcome at any time not just during the renewal period. 

Despite not being able to meet at present, EDAC club members have kept in touch via social media and training plans as many feel that remote guidance helps to keep them on track. This is valuable encouragement while group meet ups are suspended.

Annual membership for Seniors is fantastic value at £30 per year. This includes the ANI sub which offers insurance cover as well as reduced entry into races. You are also eligible for discounted EDAC kit and when racing for the Club in team events, your entry fee will be paid for you, so you get a lot for your money!

Club nights in normal times are coach led on Mondays and Thursdays with options for extra training including circuits throughout the week.

East Down as a club is very inclusive and welcomes runners of all abilities. Distances from 5K to ultra marathon are catered for as well as cross country, track events and mountain running. whether you want to compete or keep fit, we will help you to find your niche. J

unior membership is capped due to athlete coach ratios but there are occasionally intakes especially for post-primary athletes. To find out more email Donal Smith at membership@eastdownac.co.uk .