Fast road racing at the new ‘Balmoral’ with plenty of PBs

Race Report by Bogboy
(Photos courtesy of John Glover)

After many months of lock down it’s brilliant to see racing back again. After a first series of road races around Down Royal racecourse a couple of weeks ago, this Saturday saw a second series of races at Eikon near Hillsborough.

It was a little windy and each 2.5km circuit incorporated 14 corners of at least 90degrees with two hairpins but it was flat and some of the times that were achieved were fantastic.

First up was the half-marathon incorporating 9 laps of the circuit and Newcastle & District AC’s Thomas O’Gorman ran a steady race to come home in 4th in a new personal best of 1:16:28 ( laps of 8:10, 8:26, 8:26, 8:33, 8:33, 8:31, 8:29, 8:35, 8:48 –  the final one including a 10 seconds or so finishing straight).

As casual as you like a new PB for Thomas O’Gorman over the half-marathon.

A mention too for Castlewellan’s Pearse Brogan who ran a great new PB of 1:35:03.

Next came the ‘B’ 5km and 10km races over 2 and 4 laps respectively. Young Newcastle junior – still an under-11 – Henry Houston ran a great new PB of 19:37 – congrats. Also in PB shape was 17-year-old Ruby McNiff running 19:51. Continue reading

Newcastle & District AC’s & Salomon athlete Zak Hanna flies in Italy

Race Report by Bogboy

Racing opportunities have been scarce since lockdown in March and only in recent weeks have opportunities emerged. Indeed a couple of weeks ago Newcastle & District AC’s Zak Hanna journeyed to County Wicklow to race in Ireland’s first mountain race post-lockdown over Lugnaquilla. His winning time of 49 minutes and 35 seconds was only 4 seconds outside legendary John Linehan’s course record and he was over 8 minutes ahead of second place. A week later he covered a time-trial lap of the lake at Castlewellan in 11 minutes and 49 seconds for the 2.425miles distance (4 minutes and 56 seconds mile pace), which indicated he was ready to take on the best in the mountain racing world.

So it was with reasonable confidence that the Salomon sponsored athlete set out for a weekend of racing based in the village of Malonno in northern Italy some 100 miles northeast of Milano. Northern Italy was at the centre of the pandemic in February but things have improved dramatically there and Zak was able to report back that the locals were continuing to take social distancing seriously and wearing masks. The races themselves started with athletes one metre apart on the start grid and having to wear a ‘buff mask’ for the first 200 metres until the field thinned out sufficiently. He was the only person from Ireland or Britain to make the trip and the organisers were so delighted to see him.

Hanna in the cutaway Salomon vest bent nearly double halfway up the ‘Vertical Kilometre’

Piz Tri Vertical Kilometre

Most of Europe was basking in a heatwave (not in Ireland though) and race morning arrived with temperatures already at 30C at the 9:30 race time. The race statistics were scary with 1,000 metres of climbing to be covered in only 3.5km race distance. The ‘wall’ to the finish line had a maximum gradient of an eye-watering 47%.

The finishing ‘wall’ with Hanna passing Frenchman Sylvain Cachard to make it a podium finish;
the race had started over 3,000 feet in the valley in the background.

In the early stages Zak found himself in the leading group of 5 with the cream of the Italian mountain racing scene. It included the ‘vertical kilometre’ specialist Henry Aymonod, one of the best uphill and sky runners in the world at the moment Davide Magnini, former European Mountain Racing Champion Martin Dematteis and Frenchman Sylvain Cachard. At around half distance Aymonod put in a surge and Hanna tried to follow with Dematteis being dropped from the group. Onto the upper slopes Hanna was at the back of the group of 3 in 4th place. Then with less than 100m nearly vertical metres to go, he surged past Cachard to move into 3rd place and crossed the line in 35:14 – winner Aymonod was home in 34:10 with Magnini second in 35:01, with Cachard in 4th in 35:21.

A glorious 3rd place finish for Salomon athlete Hanna.

Fletta Trail – 20km with 1,200m of climb & descent

As a ‘Furlough Pro’ (see Zak’s recent blog published in Fast Running at Zak had taken the opportunity to do upwards of 95 miles a week from his home on the side of Slieve Croob in the Dromara Hills. This would give him the strength to tackle back to back races on weeks like these. So after the lung-bursting steepness of Saturday, Sunday morning at 9:30am brought the challenge of the Fletta Trail over close to half-marathon distance with climbing and descending back to the starting point in the village of Malonno.

Francesco Puppi, the local Italian favourite and 2nd in Patagonia last November at the World Long Distance Championships (and World Champion in 2018) was in the race, fresh after not racing on Saturday. Seasoned Italian international Cesare Maestri (2nd at World Champs Classic Distance in Patagonia in 2019) was also in the field also not having raced the VK the day before.

Hanna (#10, third from left) in requisite mask at start of Fletta Trail.

As the race set off, these two were joined at the front by France’s Sylvain Cachard ‘the bull’. Hanna settled into the next bunch finding his climbing legs quickly and reached the summit of the race in 4th place over half a minute clear of Martin Dematteis.

Hanna cuts a lonely figure on the long climb in 4th place on the Fletta Trail.

One of the best climbers in the field (clearly) Hanna continues to hone his descending skills too and he held on for a long time on the descent in 4th before being caught by Dematteis. It was a brilliant 5th place taking the scalp of the VK winner Aymonod from the day before and many others including Tim Becan from Slovenia (in both the races) who had finished alongside Hanna in the overall World Cup Series in 2019 and Martin’s twin brother seasoned Italian international Bernard.

A happy Hanna in the home straight in 5th place.


  1. Henry Aymonod (Sportification – La Sportiva) ITA – 34’10”
  2. Davide Magnini (Valli Non e Sole – CS Esercito – Salomon) ITA – 35’01”
  3. Zak Hanna (Newscastle AC – Salomon) IRL – 35’14”
  4. Sylvain Cachard (Buff – Hoka One One) FRA – 35’21”
  5. Martin Dematteis (Sportification – Adidas Terrex) ITA – 35’27”
  6. Andrea Rostan (Atl. Saluzzo – La Sportiva) ITA – 36’05”
  7. Luca Del Pero (Falchi Lecco Scarpa) ITA – 36’18”
  8. Timotej Becan (KGT Papez) SLO – 36’18”
  9. Bernard Dematteis (Sportification) ITA – 36’55”
  10. Emanuele Manzi (US Malonno) ITA – 37’11”



  1. Francesco Puppi (Atl. Valle Brembana – Nike Trail) GBR – 1h26’27”
  2. Sylvain Cachard (Buff – Hoka One One) FRA – 1h26’41”
  3. Cesare Maestri (Atl. Valli Bergamasche Leffe – Nike Trail) ITA – 1h28’41”
  4. Martin Dematteis (Sportification – Adidas Terrex) ITA – 1h28’51”
  5. Zak Hanna (AC Newcastle – Salomon) IRL – 1h29’54”
  6. Gabriele Bacchion (La Recastello – Hoka One One ) ITA– 1h30’31”
  7. Alberto Vender (SA Valchiese – Salomon) ITA – 1h30’53”
  8. Luca Merli (SA Valchiese – Hoka One One) ITA – 1h31’26”
  9. Jacopo Brasi (Roddngo Saiano – Mico Sport) ITA – 1h31’50”
  10. Bernard Dematteis (Sportification – Adidas Terrex) ITA – 1h31’56”

Series Results for the McGrady Financial Services Junior XC Series 2019/2020

Series Results 2019/2020

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, unfortunately we have been unable to hold the usual Prize Giving Evening. We have ordered Prizes for everyone who completed the series, and your club will be in contact with you soon regarding the collection of these. We would like to say a massive Thank You to the participants and their parents/guardians for all the support throughout the series – without you all, there would be no series!

We would also like to take the opportunity to thank our sponsors, McGrady Financial Services Ltd for their continued support of the series since its inception in 2010.

We will be publishing details on the plans for the 2020/2021 Series over the next couple of months on the Newcastle AC Website –

Hill & Dale 2020 Challenge


As published on our website last week, whilst lockdown has eased and we can travel to the hills again, the continuing restrictions on races have resulted in this year’s Hill & Dale Series being cancelled.

As promised, to help fill the void, the Series organisers have set up a free to enter five run challenge. The first 200 to complete will receive a 2020 Hill & Dale mug. In a typical year, back at the après-race in the pub, these mugs are much sought after. Please note, that it is only the first 200 to complete all 5 runs after the official start date and time that will earn the mug.

After the 200 are gone – there are no more and the decision of the organisers is final.

The runs selected are as follow.

  1. Binnian –  Summit – any starting point.
  2. Loughshannagh – Carn, Doan, Slieve Loughshannagh and Ott Summits any starting point
  3. Luke’s – Start/Finish Meelmore Lodge – Slievenaglogh – Luke’s
  4. Meels – Meelmore & Meelbeg summits any starting point
  5. Slieve Martin – Summit – any starting point

Runs to be published on Strava with public view entry to count – start date and time: 12:01am Thursday 9 July – finish time, when the 200 mugs are gone. 

Take usual precautions when running in the hills and park responsibly.

If no safe parking is available at your chosen run, please return another time.

Meelmore Lodge has pay and display parking £4 all day which includes a tea or coffee, start point for Luke’s and also suitable for the Meels.

Binnian can be started from Carrick Little track which also has pay parking available.

On completion enter dates you completed the runs here and you need to include the required information including a link to your Strava profile.

Link to Submission Form:

Mugs will be presented in Newcastle during October. Those successful will be contacted via email.

The best of luck and enjoy – all action photographs to the email address are welcome.

Hill & Dale Race Committee

Newcastle AC 2020 Competition Update


Newcastle AC Committee have discussed the 2020 H&D, Ford 5k, Mill Hill Mile, Slieve Donard and Christmas Cracker, after reviewing current advice on Covid restrictions and the lead time required to gain the various permissions.

Unfortunately, we have had to take the disappointing decision to cancel the 2020 Hill & Dale Series. Even back in 2001 we managed to get a few races done in the ‘foot & mouth’ crisis, but this is the first time that the series has been cancelled. There will be a ‘free to enter’ Strava Challenge over 5 races with the first 200 to complete it to receive a 2020 H&D mug, details to follow.

Unfortunately, the Ford 5K scheduled for 4 July is also cancelled.

The Slieve Donard Race has been going since 1946 and this year is due to be the 75th Edition. We are still hopeful that the Slieve Donard Race will take place this year and are keeping a close watch on developments in restrictions. Next review date is 10 July 2020.

We also still hope to host the Mill Hill Mile in September and the Christmas Cracker too.

Karim Jaidane completes the Schools Half Marathon Virtual Event

Well done to Newcastle AC Junior member Karim Jaidane who completed the One Running Movement Schools Half Marathon Virtual Event this week!

This virtual event gives children the opportunity to become familiar with the Schools Half Marathon. They run a cumulative total of 13.1 miles, receiving rewards along the way to keep them motivated. You can sign up for this event online at