The Seven Seven’s Race – 30th Anniversary

On 15th August 1992 the Spartan Red Sox hosted the very first “Seven Sevens”, with just 15 participants. At the time it was popularly believed that there were 7 mountains over 700m in height and whilst that was corrected in later years by Ordnance Survey, the name had stuck.

That initial day 30 years ago included only four runners; Marty McVeigh, Kevin Quinn (both Newcastle AC), Martin McNiff & Jim Brown (BARF)…indeed Jim remains the current Race Director. It is creditable to note that all four of these pioneers completed the circuit within six hours.

The seven summits which have to be completed in the race are Donard, Commedagh, Bernagh, Meelmore, Meelbeg, Binnian & Lamagan with the course direction alternating annually. The overall course length is 18 miles and covers 2,500 meters of vertical ascent.

This years event was an anti-clockwise affair and took place on Saturday 6th August with 73 runners putting their toe to the line – Newcastle AC had five competitors.

Newcastle AC’s Mark King, Pete Grant, Rachel Wallace, Alan Ritchie & Gary McEvoy prior to the start.

Given the firm ground conditions and favourable visibility the day had all the ingredients for a fast race, the only downside for the participants being the higher than comfortable temperatures.

The race started at a blistering pace with the overall winner, Adam Cunningham (Mourne Runners) leading the way from start to finish. Adam’s time for reaching the summit of Slieve Donard was an eye watering 43 minutes with an overall finish time of 3hrs 48 mins. His control of the race was a masterclass, with his position never under threat.

The race for Second and Third place was an absolutely electric affair with Timothy Johnston and Paul Pruzina putting on a classic battle over the full distance….the time difference and margin in ability between the two was literally only the time taken to “clock-in” at the top of each summit. However, in the end it was Johnston who had the edge with a margin of only seconds over Pruzina.

1st =  Adam Cunningham, 3h 48m 47s
2nd = Timothy Johnston,   4h 09m 47s
3rd = Paul Pruzina,              4h 10m 28s

The competition between the ladies was well contested, with magnificent results for the first three;

5th =  Alice Flint (BARF),                         4h 30m 37s
12th = Esther Dickenson (Newry AC),   4h 09m 47s
15th= Martsje Hell (North Belfast),       4h 57m 30s

It was also a good day out for the Newcastle AC runners, with all of the Teammates making the best of the testing heat. Results for the local club were;

8th     =  Gary McEvoy,          4h 37m 03s
13th =  Pete Grant,               4h 57m 04s
37th =  Mark King,                5h 53m 17s

Alan Ritchie retired after the Bernagh checkpoint with Rachel Wallace retiring on Meelbeg.

Overall there were 61 finishers, with everyone treated to a smorgasbord of gastronomic treats by the host club, BARF – Many thanks to all the organisers.

Race Report by Mark King

Hanna still 2nd after World Cup 2 in Austria while O’Flaherty shines in the heat of London

Dromara’s Zak Hanna was in Austria last weekend after his success in the European Athletics Off-Road Championships in La Palma, Canaries. The Newcastle & District AC athlete was participating in the 2nd race of the 2022 World Cup Series after his brilliant 2nd place in the 1st race in the Series in Portugal in June which was followed by a fine 5th in the Canaries.

The Grossglocknerberglauf covers 13.4km and finished high up in the glacier after 1265m of ascent.

Hanna in his playground high above the glacial lake below in the shadow of Grossglockner

Hanna is making a big name for himself globally in the mountain running scene and he was off at the start in a big leading bunch which included 30 minutes track 10000m and 62 minute half marathon Kenyans and Italians. He admits himself that he didn’t feel that great over the first half of the race but in the second half as the going got steeper he felt more limk himself. Overall he finished 13th in 1 hour 17 minutes and 21 seconds and is already looking forward to next week’s even tougher race La Montée du Nid d’Aigle from St Gervais les Bains in the Chamonix Valley in France (Saturday covering 19km and over 2000m of climb).

Going into race 3 of the World Cup Series in France, Hanna still lies in 2nd place behind Kenya’s Patrick Kipngeno. Continue reading

Hanna & Crudgington excel at the European Off-Road (Mountain) Championships

The lesser-known island of La Palma, in the Canaries, was the location for the ‘inaugural’ European Athletics Off-Road Championships with races over the first weekend in July. Most impressivley, the host town, El Paso, significantly affected only a year ago as part of the eruption of the local volano with houses gone forever under the lava.

Newcastle & District AC athletes Zak Hanna and Tom Crudgington were both selected to represent Ireland. Hanna in the uphill only race on the Friday evening and 17-year-old Crudgington in the U20 up and down race on the Sunday morning. Continue reading

Newcastle AC Juniors End of Year Report

Report By Siobhan Grant

As June came to a close and we look forward to what will hopefully be a wonderful summer of laughter and fun, the Newcastle AC Junior Squad reflected back on what has been a very eventful year, from our youngest to our oldest members.

Tentatively returning to training this year with a change of venue at the start of the year to facilitate the Covid-19 restrictions, the Junior Coaches set up camp every Monday Evening at the Flood Lit grounds of Donard Park instead of their staple venue of Shimna Integrated College.

It was lovely to have some form of normality return to life and although the coaching team was always very cautious, our junior members relished the opportunity to get together with their friends and club mates, embracing each and every session. The Year 8 and over Saturday endurance training in Tollymore Forest rolled out again also under the watchful eye of Ian Brannigan.

The Junior training is broken up into three groups each week. Ian Bailey leads the Year 8 and over mountain runners. This year they have utilised every track, trail and pathway in every sort of weather up, down and along Donard Wood from the Granite Trail to Drinnahilly and as far up Donard you can go in 40minutes! This has without a doubt led to notable performances in competitions at home and as far away as Italy with both the girls and boys impressing in all events. Continue reading

Spelga Skyline 2022

The post Hill & Dale tapering was to commence last Friday evening beginning in O’Hares and then with a very brief wait until the next long category Spelga Skyline race held on Saturday 2nd July, the NIMRA championship is starting to edge towards the latter stages. Hosted by the BARFers once again, the gang in purple know how to up the ante ever so slightly. Last year they even got Barra Best on their side for the day to raise the difficulty level. This was the day Ballywatticock hit the news for the highest the mercury level has been here in quite some time, and a reading at the dam not long before the race measured 29C in the shade. With not a breeze either even at the highest point of the race on Meelbeg at 702m, a truly extraordinary effort was required to complete the course. Luckily enough weather wise on Saturday the thermostat stayed in or around half the temperature from the year previous and the rain also took a back seat, leaving conditions favourable to the runners.

The race is what it says on the tin, to traverse pretty much each mountain that you can see in a 360 loop from the car park at the dam, covering 13 miles and 1550m of elevation gain. Firstly, heading up the good quad path to Slievenamuck, descending at Ott Car park to make your own line direct to the west side of the Meelbeg ridge. From the summit the next two are straightforward (almost) along the Mourne Wall to Loughshannagh and Slieve Muck, before crossing the road at the Deers Meadow to traverse Pigeon Rock towards Moughanmore. From here again there is a pathless and tricky section over to Pierces Castle, then familiar ground reimerges on the line of the Hill & Dale route over towards Rocky. Two final climbs lie in wait, a good long run over to Hen Mountain, with Cock Mountain the last obstacle before rushing down below the outflow of the dam at the River Bann and a few steps up to take on before the finish back at the car park. Continue reading

Steffi Warnock Marathon Debut (X2)!

On Sunday 29 May Newcastle AC’s Steffi Warnock completed the Edinburgh Marathon. This was Steffi’s first Marathon and she set a target of sub 4 hours. Steffi had put in months of training, increasing her weekly road running mileage, whilst continuing with CrossFit and mountain running. The versatile athlete initially adapted her training plan to move the traditional long run at the weekend to a Tuesday to make sure she didn’t miss out on the Sunday mountain run! All her hard work and consistent training paid off as she completed Edinburgh in a time of 3 hours 55 minutes and 33 seconds.

Steffi at Edinburgh Marathon

Most people would take a few weeks off after a marathon however Steffi decided to celebrate by running the Mourne Way Marathon just two weeks later. Steffi was at the start line on Saturday 11 June ready to go. Conditions were far from ideal on the difficult, mixed terrain course which starts in Donard Park and follows the Mourne Way through Tollymore, out onto the open mountain from Trassey to Leitrim Lodge before hitting the trails in Rostrevor to the finish. There was a headwind for much of the middle section of the course on the open mountain and heavy showers on and off throughout the day. Steffi had an impressive run finishing 4th female in a time of 4 hours 56 minutes.

Steffi after completing the Mourne Way Marathon