And now the end is here!

Bogusboy bows out where it all began – The Seeley Cup

The Seeley Cup is one of the most firmly established events in the NI running year and is arguably the most important race for individuals and clubs alike. Reaching the 1000 entry limit well in advance is evidence of the popularity of the event and the undoubted kudos it retains in an era where there are a myriad of races available weekly. In recent years NAC participation has been considerable and this year was no exception – a few of us are stalwarts of 20 years or more and have secured a perennial seat on the ‘Maybes’ bus. At the sharp end of the race on Saturday 25 November, Derry Track Club’s Gideon Kipsang was the clear winner, though his time of 30:39 was nothing overly special to win such a prestigious event; in fact there have been years when the top 10 were all inside the 30:30 mark. One gets the impression he could have ran a quicker time had the need arose. He was joined on the podium by Scott Rankin of Foyle Valley AC (30:56) and Neil Johnston of Springwell AC (31:05). One wonders if the in-form Eoghan Totten might have challenged for at least a podium spot.

For the NAC contingent there were some very impressive performances, with 12 athletes dipping under the 40 minute barrier. David Hicks, a man often more at home in the mountains, showed his prowess on the roads, claiming a scalp or two in the process. He ran an even paced race and judged his effort well to come home in 34:52. He was followed by marathon specialist Patrick Higgins, currently in the late stages of preparing for a tilt at the Lanzarote Marathon in December, who recorded a PB for 5k in the first half before tailing off slightly, finishing in 35:25 – a PB for 10k! As ever, Patrick was delighted with his performance – certainly a man with his glass half full!!! Colm Murtagh was third home, the small matter of 12 seconds behind Higgins. Representing all Sapatans worldwide, Murtagh dedicated his performance to all of his kind and hopes this will be a rallying call for all Spartans to rise up and try to improve their 10k times. Aidan Brown had a good day and worked hard to ensure a sub 37 minute finish, impressive for a man who has missed several weeks after surgery. Brown has a reputation for punching above his weight in the things that matter most! Francis Tumelty was the only NAC in the 37 minute bracket and was satisfied with his time of 37:38.

Thick and fast
In the two minutes that followed, a clondike of red and yellow vests streamed steadily across the line. Byrne and Donnelly were almost inseparable – well insofar as one second can separate and were followed in rapid succession by McKenna, Cunningham, McNally, Murdock and Carson, all of whom managed to beat the magical 40 minute mark, the universally accepted benchmark for a ‘very good’ 10k. Paul Watson was just a shade outside this with a time of 40:04. However, this marks good progress this autumn for an athlete who is beginning to find his running legs again after a long spell on the bike.

First of the ladies
Mari Troeng was the first of the NAC ladies over the line in in 41:12, a time that indicates something of a return to form for Sweden’s greatest contribution to Newcastle since McCleary’s garage stopped importing Volvo cars! Newly crowned Energy Manager of the Year Ciaran Og Mussen was next in and said that he ran efficiently, carefully balancing the competing challenges of conservation and consumption to maximise his output – sounds like a boy making an acceptance speech if you ask me!!! Oggy was followed across the line by Sam McNeilly who took at least 2 minutes of her PB with a stellar run that at last is indicative of her untapped potential. John O’Higgins recorded an impressive PB, despite not being able to attend many club sessions recently. Ashlene Mussen, still recovering from the exertions of her fine performance, was third NAC lady across the line, holding off the challenge of Paul Rodgers, a man with a 31:13 to his name in this race back in the days of yore. Stevie Rice was just a little further back and showed how the mountain men can take well to the roads when they want to. Patricia McKibbin and the Prophet followed closely as the clocked ticked towards 44 minutes. The Prophet, complete with iron lung, plastic hip, rubber knees and a few screws loose won the award for the ‘most injured man ever’ – a title he is sure to retain in 2018 as no-one could ever be worser!!! When asked for his thoughts on the race he revived an old favourite that earned him his name, ‘Sure its the ‘oul dog for the hard road and the pup for the pad.’ Rita Devlin, another with big miles in recent times was next and Joe McCann, altruistically pacing completed the scoring for the men and women in red and yellow.

Position First Name Last Name Gender Category Chip Time
60 David Hicks M M35 00:34:52
72 Patrick Higgins M MO 00:35:25
78 Colm Murtagh M M35 00:35:37
124 Aidan Brown M M35 00:36:50
133 Jack O’Hare M M40 00:37:12
162 Francis Tumelty M M45 00:37:38
197 Paul Byrne M M45 00:38:48
200 Ruairi Donnelly M MO 00:38:49
213 Michael McKenna M M35 00:39:14
225 Frank Cunningham M MO 00:39:10
238 Stephen McNally M M35 00:39:23
251 Philip Murdock M M45 00:39:41
254 Niall Carson M M45 00:39:44
262 Paul Watson M M50 00:40:04
325 Mari Troeng F FO 00:41:12
339 Ciaran Og Mussen M MO 00:41:27
355 Sam McNeilly F FO 00:41:47
379 John O’Higgins M MO 00:42:30
380 Ashlene Mussen F FO 00:42:47
393 Paul Rodgers M M50 00:43:07
399 Stephen Rice M M45 00:43:15
408 Patricia McKibbin F F35 00:43:42
436 Jerome McCrickard M M45 00:44:09
498 Rita Devlin F F40 00:46:11
577 Joe McCann M M45 00:47:19

Any word of the Landlord?
Much maligned and often lambasted in this column, Jack O’Hare (aka The Galloping Landlord) was the victim of a severe injustice….his name did not appear on the results. Battling through an arduous training programme for at least two weeks and firmly putting his toe on the line, he was bemused when his name failed to appear on the results sheet and his great effort in finishing in 37:12 ostensibly went unrewarded. Moreover, many of his club mates were left wondering if he ever left the cosy chair beside the fire. Thankfully, Jack had not travelled alone and there is photographic evidence that he was indeed in Belfast at the appointed time and did indeed cross the line in the time claimed! All ended well when O’Hare was added to the results in 133rd place, much to the chagrin of those who were pushed down a place by his late inclusion! The naysayers were proved wrong and attempts to call him ‘Sicknote’ are being held in abeyance.

Even the Rocket has heard of the Armagh 10
Often our heroes disappoint us and it is a real treat when they live up to our expectations. After the Seeley some of us adjourned to Kaffe-O for some artisan Nordic coffee and a wee treat from our favourite unfranchised outlet. There we joined City of Lisburn AC stalwarts, after hearing that Paul McCullough found the wallet he lost in 1981, and some of Eamonn Christie’s training group. In the midst of that eclectic Motley Crue was none other than 5 time World Snooker Champion Ronnie O’Sullivan. The Rocket is in great form at present and perhaps surprisingly was spending the weekend as a TV pundit after a shock exit from the tournament. He is now a ‘regular’ at the Ormeau Road Coffee House and was more than willing to stop for a chat and have his photo taken with the NAC and MAC posse. While the McCann household have divided snooker loyalties – some like Trump, others Selby and others still Hendry, O’Sullivan is a firm favourite with the only male McCann in the post Higgins and White era – we were more than pleased to meet Ronnie. He was the perfect gentleman and his enthusiasm for running was not lost on us. He was slightly bemused when the tale of the Armagh 10 began and was quickly ushered out of the building under some spurious pretext!!! Jack O’Hare invited him to Newcastle for a run during his next visit, promising him some great Co Down running, followed by some great Co. Down hospitality.

Armagh JFK Memorial Marathon
In his own words he had ‘ran like a 3 legged donkey’ in the Dublin Marathon. Ruairi Donnelly took to the roads of Armagh aiming for a run steady to get things back on track, restore a little confidence and regain the feel-good factor about running. So on a Wednesday morning he set out to complete the Armagh JFK Memorial Marathon on 22 November. The organisers used the same course as the Armagh Marathon traditionally run in August – 2 laps of the mall followed by 4 laps of a 10k course with each 10k loop being half hilly and then half flat.

An 8am start with persistent wind and rain led to some sections of the course being flooded. That said, Donnelly reported it was enjoyable as any marathon can be! Apparently there are loads of these types of marathons organised during mid-week, with this one having been accredited and measured by ANI – £20 to enter and all proceeds going to charity. Ruairi exorcised the demons of Dublin with an extremely credible 3:19:26 (Splits: 10k: 48.51: half: 1.40.51, 30k: 2:23:16). He was pleased that his race management was much improved under the tutelage of Wonderwall (a man who managed to run one second per mile slower to record 3:00:26 – it would be wrong to sign off without mentioning this one last time!!!).

The end of this chapter
Frank Herbert said, ‘there are no endings. It is just the place where you stop the story.’ Someone else will pick up a tell a different story or the same story in a different way. An ending is not a bad thing. It just means that something new can begin…….

O’Flaherty Secures Silver and Selection for EuroCross & Men secure Division C Gold at Irish Cross-Country Championships

Bogboy reports from Abbotstown

Traditionally it’s a tough day on the calendar, only for the tough and expect the unexpected. Abbotstown on the outskirts of Dublin is the site of the National Sports Campus that includes a permanent cross-country course that is a true test. The wet autumn meant that conditions were muddier than last year and the day itself came at the end of a week when temperatures had plummeted indicating the onset of winter – Sunday didn’t disappoint as north-westerly winds drove already low temperatures to a feel below zero and as the afternoon progressed the rain started too.

Junior Championships
“How can a fall wreck months of preparation… gutted #ontothenextone” is how 18-year-old Patrick McNiff commented on Twitter not long after his race had finished prematurely in the 4,500m 3-lap course. A leading bunch of about 10 big-hitters had pulled away from the 200-strong field and has they entered the 2nd lap McNiff moved towards the front to ‘stay out of trouble’ feeling strong and waiting for the right time to strike. Disaster struck as he was clipped from behind and fell heavily effectively ending his race. It was his most devastating encounter with the unpredictability of sport but he will learn from it and is already looking forward to next year when at 19 he will still be eligible for the EuroCross Junior Cross-Country Championships.

Senior Women
After a solid month at altitude in Font Romeu in the French Pyrenees, Kerry O’Flaherty had run her best ever IAAF Cross de Atapuerca in Burgos in Spain a fortnight ago and went into a very competitive women’s race knowing she was in the shape of her life. The women were covering 4 times the longer 2000m lap to give a total of 5 miles (8000m) and after the 2,000 plus juvenile competitors had been over the course, the ground was soft to muddy in many places. As with the Junior Men a group of about 10 had broken away from the field by the end of the first lap, reducing to 7 by half way. The group included last year’s champion from Kerry, Shona Heaslip, Olympians Lizzie Lee (marathon) and Michelle Finn (steeplechase) from Cork and Fionnuala Ross from Armagh AC (now based in Scotland and recently setting a 74-minute PB for the half-marathon).

At the end of lap three O’Flaherty tested the bunch and took Healip and Lee with here as she pushed on to try for victory. With around a kilometre to go the runners scale a short muddy climb and it was here that Heaslip stole a gap from O’Flaherty with Lee starting to struggle. It was the decisive break with Heaslip pulling slowly away to win in 28:31 with the Newcastle woman 7 seconds behind in 28:38. A solid 2nd for the 2nd year in a row for O’Flalherty who will now be part of the Irish team for the European Cross-Country Championships in Samorin in Slovakia on the 10th of December.

1 28.31 Shona Heaslip An Riocht A.C.
2 28.38 Kerry O’Flaherty Newcastle & District AC
3 28.44 Michelle Finn Leevale A.C.
4 28.51 Lizzie Lee Leevale A.C.
5 29 Fionnuala Ross Armagh AC
6 29.13 Ciara Durkan Skerries A.C.
7 29.16 Laura Crowe An Riocht A.C.
8 29.22 Teresa Doherty Finn Valley A.C.
9 29.4 Maria McCambridge Dundrum South Dublin A.C.
10 29.43 Claire McCarthy Leevale A.C.
11 29.53 Linda Byrne Dundrum South Dublin A.C.
12 29.54 Bethanie Murray (U23) Dundrum South Dublin A.C.

Senior Men
Last year the Newcastle & District AC men came too the silver medal in Division C and came back this year to go one better and gain promotion to Division B. Eoghan Totten led the team fresh from autumn PBS over half-marathon (67:21), 10k on the road (30:38), 10miles (the Armagh 10 in 50:32) and 3000m 8:32 during the NI & Ulster Road Relays. Full of expectation, it wasn’t to be for him – in the high field he was baulked badly at the start and always seemed to be playing catch-up and was very disappointed to come home in 27th place (33:22 for the 10k).

Behind him, Seamy Lynch who has recently been finding great form on the mountains again had a very solid run from start to finish coming home in 43rd place (34:16). David O’Flaherty, currently preparing for the Lanzarote Half-Marathon in a fortnight’s time, came home in 80th in 35:43 with Zak Hanna making up the scoring 4 in 97th in 36:25. This was good enough for the men to win the Division C title and earn promotion to Division B for next year – congratulations.