The Hill And Dale Series

Race Six – Millstone By The Big Fella’s Fella

Woods Grinds out a Win on Millstone

In Race Six of the Up and Running sponsored Hill and Dale series on an aptly named mountain, Millstone, Des Woods continued to grind down all 179 runners to record race win number 5. He now lies 1 win away from the 2011 title. To date Stevie Cunningham, the reigning champion has yet to toe the line through injury and illness, so we wish him well for a speedy return.  Unfortunately for Stevie with only 5 races left he can no longer retain his title. The only contenders to Des left are David Simpson, winner of race number one in Castlewellan, Alan Mc Kibben, Newcastle A.C or young Andrew Annett, Mourne Runners, all three would have to win the remaining five races. Will the champion be known next week or will the other competitors still have a say in the outcome.

[caption id="attachment_24021" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="Des Woods with look of steel in his eye as he runs up Millstone. (Photo by Nicky McCrickard)."][/caption] This was a new course approx. 4.7 miles long, about 1500m of climb with a mixture of forest trail and Open Mountain. Beginning in Donard Park it took you on a gradual climb towards Bloody Bridge then Open Mountain over Millstone back past the quarry and a long gradual trail to the finish line back in Donard Park. This mountain has stunning backdrops with Slieve Donard looming over it to one side, the Irish Sea and Isle of Man to the other and a vast view over Co. Down to the front. It is also steeped in history where for many years stonemasons would have chiselled large round stones for the milling industry hence its name.

To win a race it takes a massive amount of focus, dedication and determination and Des Woods this year has bucket loads of it. The grunt in his breathing and the stare in his eyes did not end until he passed the finish line, even though he was well clear. This is text book running were you coach kids to run through the line, not slow down a meter from it.

When it comes to determination, second placed Alan Mc Kibben is beginning to show the form that made him virtually unbeatable for years. After a while out of racing it is great to watch a man that can dig deeper than most. Third and fourth was a massive tussle between Neill Carty and the rapidly improving waterproof David O’Flaherty. Neil just held on to third although David was still not happy with our time keeping, as he felt he was closer than the 1 second we gave in separating them both. It has been a feature this year that there are a lot of people with very close times leaving places very competitive. If you draw breathe at all you may get passed by several runners.

V45 went to Deon Mc Neilly who may be a little disappointed in 9th overall, but considering he had leg surgery a few weeks ago that is still causing him difficulty in descending, it is still a good result. I think if Newcastle are going to challenge Mourne Runners I will have to have a word with Jackie (Deon’s wife) about this D.I.Y. The big fella is too used to pushing a pen and not a wheelbarrow.

Dominic Mc Greevy in 10th overall claimed the V50 category with six wins from six races with his main competitor Jim Brown just one place behind him, incredible for men pushing 55 years of age. If David Cameron hears about these men he will be raising their retirement age to 80. Why they have given John Adgey the bus pass defies me as I think he is quicker than the 6.30pm Belfast express. [caption id="attachment_24022" align="alignright" width="300" caption="Runners at the back of Millstone. (Photo by Nicky McCrickard)."][/caption]

First to register for the race at 6.15pm was Nathan Mc Comb at just 16 years of age he is showing  great potential claiming 18th place and first junior. How long before he is not just first to register but first at the finish line.

The ladies race has also given us a new champion for 2011 with Shileen O’Kane of Lagan Valley A.C, 40th overall, winning six races to date giving her the title. Not only overall champion but V40 as well, though I won’t divulge the ladies actual age. Second lady and again a fantastic run from someone who loves to race all year round on all surfaces was, Ann Sandford, 59th overall. Ann has also won the V45 category with six wins from six; Des must have handed out a few buckets of that determination to other people as well. Third lady in 64th overall was Diane Wilson keeping hubby Brian, 43rd on his toes, although if you look at the height difference, Diane would need to be on her toes.

I did smile when Stevie Cunningham’s protégé, Ross Denvir crossed the line he leapt so far in the air with delight I thought he was auditioning for Swan Lake, though he did nearly land on a duck in the Shimna river.

I have to say as someone who normally runs the races and doesn’t get to spectate too often I applaud each and every runner who stepped up to the line. The battles within battles, trying to beat someone who may have previously beaten them, the grit to complete a very tough race, to achieve a personal goal, well done everyone.

I know these Hill and Dale columns are usually light hearted banter but I don’t want it to diminish the almost professional attitude of a lot of these athletes who train all year round, several times a week, at an incredible tempo with a mix of speed sessions and endurance runs.

When I decided to help with this race I didn’t get a full job description. When Gary Mc Loughlin fell I was happy to hand him a few bandages to stem the blood. I was also willing to give Dennis Rankin a plaster for his posterior which he landed on quite severely. However when Michael Lynch, 13th overall asked me for a pair of tin snips from my van to cut his toe nails, I had to draw the line.

I extend my deepest appreciation to the team at registration, to my marshals dotted round the course, to the timekeepers, water boys (Dean, Myles, Lewis & Eoin), the guys who compile the results and not forgetting the Avoca hotel for their hospitality. Without these people and others behind the scenes we wouldn’t have such a brilliant sport.

Newcastle A.C are going to organise an open juvenile race just before the Tollymore  Monument run for primary 5, 6 and 7 and also a post-primary year 8 – year 12 race. This will encompass part of the main course and maybe the dreaded hill finish. Details will follow over the next couple of weeks.

Our resident photographer, Dave Goddard was unable to make the race so a special word of thanks goes to Mal Mc Cann who stepped into the breach and supplied some fabulous pictures well worth viewing to do so go to and click on gallery for Millstone or any race.

Next week’s race is the famous Loughshannagh Horseshoe which is a pure mountain race. Body cover will be compulsory, registration above Spelga Dam from 6.15pm