East Down AC Runners Still Lead In Front Of Covid-19

A report of the craic and the runners of Down AC determined to beat Covid-19 by Alison Carroll and Joe Quinn.

A report of the craic and the runners of Down AC determined to beat Covid-19 by Alison Carroll and Joe Quinn.


East Down AC runners ready for an autumn 10K run.

Given the lack of organised events, it might be assumed that there would not be much to write about this week but EDAC members have contrived to keep themselves busy.

Even with the tighter Covid-19 restrictions announced coming into the weekend, there was still the opportunity to get out and stay fit while staying safe, and many chose this option.


Way back 12 months ago, Gavin Hynds who is well known for his love of the mountains,  had set his sights on the Mourne Skyline event which was due to happen at the weekend past. Right up to the last minute it seemed that this high profile race had a green light.

The organisers were 100% committed to delivering an event within the legislation which would be safe for all involved and were making many changes to enable this to happen.

At the 11th hour however it was announced that it was to be called off. The closure of all hospitality from Friday 6pm withdrew accommodation as well as catering for competitors and the race team alike.

Gavin Hynds running in the Mournes pre-lockdown.

The potential for impacting the emergency services at a time of crisis was cited as a major factor as well as the fact that a large mass of people would be brought to the town of Newcastle when infection rates were higher than previously and it all weighed too heavily on the organisers for them to feel that they could go ahead.

The financial blow as well as the disappointment after months of work serves to underline that they did not take the decision lightly and the runners’ comments on social media showed their support. Hopefully the event will find a way to happen in 2021.


Back to Gavin who had been training on gruelling sections of the route on a weekly basis for some time. He was primed for action so he decided that the only option was to head out nonetheless and tackle the full 35k with 3370m of climbing.

It is designed to test even the best of mountain runners taking on Bearnagh and Meelmore not once but twice! It also includes Loughshannagh, Meelbeg and Commedagh and just when runners are literally on their knees with fatigue, the final climb is Donard.

Janine Murray who completed her virtual London Marathon with Stephen Heasley as her support crew.

A suiting finish for an epic race. Gavin chose to believe the weather forecast and set off in good spirits early on Friday. The sobering reality was that it turned to heavy rain with slippy conditions underfoot but he often relishes a bit of hardship and so he kept at it till the end.

Going solo it was never going to be a race but he was still pleased to finish in 6 hours. His post run comment is worth a share. “I had done a lot of tough hours up there in the past month so I wanted to do it – just for me.

It is disappointing the race didn’t go ahead but totally understandable . At the end of the day it is just a race and lots of people are missing a lot more, the mountains will be there next year” We would all do well to have that mindset.


Another EDAC member who missed out on a chance to take part in an event was Janine Murray. She was due to take part in London Marathon 2020 initially back in April before it was postponed and then in October when it was finally pushed on to October 2021. 

After it seemed that there was to be no event, she eased back the long miles and indeed in lockdown did very little as she picked up an injury and so decided that it was an appropriate time to rest up.


When London Marathon then offered the chance to do a virtual run with a 2020 medal and t-shirt as a reward, she jumped at the chance despite only having 6 weeks to be marathon ready.

With less than ideal preparation, she was unsure if she would complete the full distance but with the back up of her running buddy Oonagh Breteche in training and on the day plus the support of EDAC’s very own Mr Motivator aka Stephen Heasley, she set out on Saturday to do the 26.2 miles on a 2 lap route around Downpatrick.

It went better than she could have hoped and Stephen got so caught up in keeping her going that he ended up carrying even though his shift was done! Another marathon under the belt for him too so a double bonus.

The last 6 miles were definitely a challenge but they got the job done. Well done Janine and kudos to Stephen and Oonagh for their part in getting her there. She will have to do it all again as she still has a place in 2021 but maybe now is not the time to mention that!


So far all the EDAC challenges have been lucky with the weather and so it was for Race 1 of the second series. Sunday morning dawned drizzly and grey but by 10am there was a clear sky with a stillness in the air. Perfect for a weekend run.

The EDAC challenges are aimed at keeping a competitive edge to training as there are fewer events to attend.  To keep it open, the finish times are age graded which means that it is not necessarily the quickest runner that gets the prize.

It also means that if you cannot attend at the set time, you can still submit a time based on your own watch.


To align with the permitted 15 per session, there was a group of early risers who went off ahead. The 10K started and finished at the Club rooms going out via the Belfast Road to the Annacloy junction and back along the Inch Abbey loop.

Those who have gone that way will know that there are several rolling inclines as well as false flats on the main road so it is tough enough. It was chosen mainly for safety with only one road crossing required. It was also supposed to be simple to follow.

There ensued a hot debate as to whether one direction is harder than the other since the early bird group went anti clockwise in error. Never trust an out of towner to lead the way is the lesson to be learned….Coach Paul Burns was deaf to their pleas to have their times decreased to allow for what they believed to be a disadvantage.

His only suggestion was to go and rerun it in the opposite way and resubmit a time. Unsurprisingly no one took him up on that!


Either way it would not be classed as a fast route so the fact that Dee Murray crossed the line in 40.01 is impressive albeit slightly annoying that he so narrowly missed sub 40 minutes.

He was still pleased though as he has put himself top in the age graded rankings. Hot on his heels in that table is Sharon Madine who flew round as one of the first group.

Declan Teague earned himself 3rd age graded place and with the top 3 on 77.97%, 77.64% and 77.22% respectively it is going to be a great fight for top dog! 

Mention must also be made of Roisin Gaffney who made her first appearance back at club after an absence. She has obviously been training under the radar as her time has put her 4th. Go Roisin! All who took part enjoyed the craic and look forward to race 2 (5K TT) on 29th October.


Joe Quinn, left, with the late Robert Miskelly.

It was with great sadness and not a little shock that I learned of the death last week of my good friend and dedicated fellow runner Robert Miskelly.

I don’t remember exactly when I first met Robert but it seems like I’ve known him all my life. That was the  effect he had on people who met  him, such was his personality and interest in everyone. He joined East Down AC 6/7 years ago and was an enthusiastic member, always willing to take part in any races, especially those where he could run as a member of a team and he was ever supportive and encouraging to everyone.

His main reason for joining was he said, because of the craic and camaraderie which he had noticed from the outside. He was not a runner for all of his long life, he only took up the sport relatively recently but he was a fit and active man for long before that.

Indeed it was only in more recent times that he had to call a halt to his running activities, under doctor’s orders. He was a keen cyclist who was noted regularly completing a gruelling circuit around the roads near his home in Raffrey. 

Robert also took pride in doing 50 – 100 squats every morning just to keep himself supple! I had heard that he wasn’t keeping too well but he never complained or admitted to me that he was anything other than waiting for the all clear from his GP to get back to his beloved running again.

The last time I spoke to him in person we met up in a local coffee shop for some refreshments, when his enthusiasm for getting out for a run was as undimmed as ever.

Robert was indeed an inspiration to me and to all the other Club members who met him, and I was always happy to give him his place as the oldest active member of the Club, a position which I happily conceded to him when he first joined and which I now must assume again! 

It came as a shock to his family when he passed away just a few days after being discharged from hospital where he had spent 2 weeks recovering from a lung infection.

Unfortunately, his condition deteriorated rapidly afterwards, though I was not surprised to hear he faced the prospects of his death with impressive courage, and he departed peacefully in his sleep early on Wednesday morning.

So it’s farewell old friend, you’ll be greatly missed, until we meet again on God’s great running highway in the sky.

Sincere condolences are offered to Robert’s brothers and sisters and entire family circle at this very sad time by everyone connected with East Down AC. A donation in lieu of flowers will be made by the Club to Robert’s favourite charity. RIP.