East Down AC Runners Tackle Belfast Marathon

Notes from the East Down AC for Sunday 3rd October

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Notes from the East Down AC for Sunday 3rd October

A Marathon Undertaking.

Runners often talk about the “16 week plan” which allows a runner to prepare for a marathon with a gradual build up of miles over an extended period writes Allison Carrol.

Jim Erskine and his daughter Ellen at the finish ine in the Belfast Marathon.

In the case of many of those running in Belfast and London Marathons last weekend, it was more like a 16 month plan as the original races were meant to be in Spring 2020. Due to covid restrictions, both marathons were moved to the Autumn of 2020 but even then only a virtual participation was feasible so most entrants held off until the real thing.

As a result they have had to maintain stamina and enthusiasm in equal measure for a very long time. There was a huge collective sigh of relief on Sunday 3rd October in both Belfast and London as they finally got the chance to prove to the world that they were ready for the 26.2 mile challenge.

Belfast Marathon.

In normal circumstances some have managed to do both London and Belfast in the same year as they are often back to back in April and May but with both 2021 races scheduled for the same date, 3rd October, that was not possible.

The Belfast race started at Stormont Estate and finished in the Ormeau Park with a route that took in many areas of the city including a few unwelcome hills. The day dawned bright and fresh and at times there was heat in the sun. The odd light shower which cooled the runners was welcome at first but as the day went on it became a more persistent mizzle.

The underlying issue was the stiff breeze and whether it was a head or tail wind depending on the direction of travel. Undeterred the runners ran through whatever was thrown at them and most finished with a smile on their face.

Gordy Achieves His Goal.

Gordy Graham does not shy away from laying his cards on the table. He had entered London Marathon for Spring 2021 in a bid to cut his previous time of 2.38 set there in 2019. Obviously with the pandemic that was not to be. He kept on training as consistently as ever and in May 2021 at the Championchip Marathon at Down Royal he managed to shave a few seconds off the London time despite a lack of crowds and the fact that it was run on a lapped circuit. He had by then got over the disappointment of realising that due to an admin error his London entry was not carried over to 2021.

In true trooper form he decided that Belfast it would have to be for his attempt to better his time. He ran a very good half marathon in Larne in August (71.26) which was the confidence boost that he needed and when he lined up in Stormont on Sunday, he was full of intent. He managed to latch on to a group for the early part but as the runners stretched out he was forced to run many miles solo which is never ideal.

Gordy Graham in action.

He admits that he hit a low on the Boucher Road when his pacing was skewed by the wind and the gradient but he rallied to run a strong second half. He was euphoric when he crossed the line in 2.34. He had cut his previous best by 4 minutes and he was 12th overall! There is a strong possibility that this the EDAC Marathon record and research is underway to confirm. For those who like statistics, his average pace was 5 minutes 51 per mile.

Many of us would struggle to run one mile at that speed let alone 26.2 of them. A fantastic performance which is so well deserved. Anyone who knows him, knows that he has an admirable work ethic fitting his heavy training regime round his work and his family.

After the race, he paid tribute to his coach Ryan Maxwell for keeping him on target in the run up to the event. Some would say, “have a well earned rest” but that would be a waste of breath. “Enjoy the buzz,” would be a more helpful comment followed by, “What’s next?”

Declan Teague on the run in Belfast.

Number 68 for Declan.

Behind Gordy but also pleased with his performance was Declan Teague. He was out to complete his 68th marathon only a couple of weeks after the Causeway Marathon. It was a last minute decision to run and as soon as he decided he would go for it, he was afflicted with a niggle in his hip and leg almost as if warning him off.

He typically chose to ignore the omen and was glad that he did so as number 68 in now in the bag. He scored another sub 3.30 (2.28) and it keeps him ticking over until the next one. He hopes to take part in Kildare Marathon in a fortnight. No rest for this man!

Clare Carson and Kevin Kelly had signed up for this race on the original date and clocked many miles in their convoluted preparation. Clare in particular has featured in the EDAC News for some of her crazy exploits involving ultra distances.

She had to pull out in the middle of the Lecale Ultra last month due to injury but she sensibly rested enough to get back on her feet and Kevin carried on his mission with his usual understated approach. Come race day they ran well literally taking it in their stride. They finished in the same time of 3.49 which is a personal best for Clare by 3 minutes and 4 minutes for Kevin. A job well done.

Janine Murray at the Exposition before the London Marathon.

Jim Erskine has done a few marathons in his time having completed his first way back in 1983 but this time he entered at the request of his daughter Ellen who was making her debut. The duo followed the training schedule together keeping each other motivated in the long runs.

They lined up knowing that Ellen would have the upper hand in both youth and speed and but she was glad that her dad was there to keep her pacing on track. His experience paid off in spades. When they parted company at 20 miles, Ellen had enough reserves to finish strongly and Jim knew that he would complete at his own pace.

Ellen posted a time of 3.57. Commendable to break 4 hours on her first attempt. Jim finished in 4.18 just as delighted with Ellen’s performance as his own.

Last But Not Least.

Marathons are not always about going as quickly as you can. For some simply getting to the end is a great result. It proves that you have the determination to achieve your goal. Sam Anderson has come on literally leaps and bounds in her running.

Rachel Madine with her medal from the Belfast Marathon.

She has been a keen attender at training and while she would admit that she is not a leader in terms of pace, she is a great inspiration to others. She went under the radar and took on the Great Manchester Run recently. She didn’t spread the word as this was all part of her plan to do the marathon without making a drama out of her intentions. While this was not her first time doing a full marathon, it was in her words, “the first in a long time!”

Sam took to the roads with the masses and then set her own rhythm. She had to dig deep as the miles went on and was very grateful to meet up with a friend who then encouraged her for the latter half. Her time was immaterial – crossing the line, and knowing that she had done what she set out to do, was her sweet reward. A big congratulations to her for this.

Better With Friends.

Not every runner on Sunday in Belfast was out to do the full route. A popular addition to the marathon is the Relay Event. Rachel Madine, Martin Willcox, Mark O’Connor with the addition of Wayne and Daniel Giles made up a team with each of them doing a section of varying length. Patrick Smith was involved in a team raising money for the Anthony Nolan Trust. They all enjoyed being part of the bigger picture and I suspect some of them might be thinking that a full marathon could be on the cards in the future. It is an addictive pastime!

London Marathoners.

Janine Murray had won an entry into London Marathon at the EDAC draw in December 2019. When her name was pulled out of the hat, she was concerned as to whether she would be ready in time. Little did she know how long she would have to train!

Philip Vint, after the London Marathon.

She did complete 2 virtual marathons close to home but finally 22 months later she arrived in London for the live event. London has all the glamour and the pizzazz with 40,000 runners strung along the spectator lined course. The iconic landmarks that form the backdrop are a sight to behold and those who have run this marathon see it as a bucket list event.

Janine had been training hard and set off with the goal of breaking 4 hours 30 but also to enjoy the atmosphere to the full. She was buzzing with excitement at the finish from the run alone but when she saw her time of 4.18, she was over the moon. She was a great representative of the Club and made full use of the opportunity.

Phillip Vint has done London Marathon many times and yet he would still say that each time is special. This year it was all the more so with the enforced layoff from competition due to restrictions. He was very content with his finish time (3.21) and also delighted that he was able to complete his 70th marathon in such spectacular surroundings.

We as a club are based in Downpatrick but we have some members who live in other parts of the world and we love to keep in touch with what they are up to. Hannah Somani (currently living in Manchester took) part in London.

She ran an impeccably paced race with splits barely wavering beyond a couple of seconds per mile. This metronomic performance earned her a 3.03 finish well within her 3.10 aim and placed 146th out of the female finishers. Super work, Hannah!

Deo Kato works and lives in London so there was no way he was going to miss out. This was not his first marathon but was his first in London and even though he sees the sights on a daily basis, he was blown away by the experience of running on the closed roads of the city and the support of the cheering crowds. He hopes that this will be something that he repeats next year.

Highland Fling For Wendy.

Wendy Finlay at the Lough Ness Marathon.

Wendy Findlay set off to the remote location of Loch Ness for her marathon. She loved the pipers and the Baxter’s soup at the finish but the monster hill at mile 18 wasn’t so welcome! She described the route as undulating but scenic and the weather as you would expect in Autumn in the highlands as fresh but damp.

The marshals were friendly, reaching the start was easy and all in all she had a great day out. She finished in 4.26 after reaching half way in 2.15 setting a negative split in her enthusiasm to reach the finish. She mentioned that her husband John (also a club member) took part in the Festival of Running laid on for the supporters and said that this would be another reason to recommend the event to anyone considering an entry in the future.

Short and Sweet.

With all the talk of mileage, we mustn’t forget that challenges come in many different forms. Neil McCartan is highly unlikely to do a marathon as for him speed is king. He sticks to the track with 1500m his preferred event with races up to 5K the norm.

After leading out the EDAC Team at the Road Relay Champs in style, he returned to Victoria Park Belfast for the weekly parkrun. These events are not races but timed runs open to anyone who registers. Neil was taking part as a training exercise in his group coached by Mark Kirk.

Clare Carson and Kevin Kelly taking part in the Belfast Marathon.

He lead the pack in with a super slick 15.05 for the 5k which was reported later as being the 3rd quickest parkrun time recorded at any of the weekend park runs throughout the UK.

We don’t normally report on parkrun as it is impossible to keep on top of all the activity but this one is worth a mention. Well done for putting EDAC on the map!

Come and Join In.

We are always open to new senior members and have acquired quite a few recently who are glad that they have taken the plunge. We are an all rounder club with members chasing speed, distance and the challenges but we also have a main body who come to training to keep fit and enjoy the good company. If you are interested, please email Donal at :

membership@eastdownac.co.uk for details.