A Gallop round the Horseshoe

Newcastle AC at the NIMRA Championship

Saturday 21st May was the staging of NIMRA’s first long category race of the 2022 championship and the fourth out of nine so far this year. Hosted by BARF, the Annalong Horseshoe race has been a permanent fixture over the years and takes in the loop of the six dominant peaks overlooking the Annalong Valley, namely Chimney Rock, Donard, Commedagh, Cove, Lamagan and lastly Binnian’s North Tor, with the start & finish at Carrick Little. With over 20km in distance and at least 2000m of ascent ahead, this would be beyond the limits of quite a few, however 3 fellas who took it on last year were back for similar punishment! Luckily the weather was on their side this time with a largely clear & calm day, with cloud cover limited to the summit tops, and this gave the runners a refreshing cooldown before going back to the warmer climate on the cols as the day heated up.

Pete Grant’s 2021 time was 3hrs 15mins and at present is on great form. A 20th place finish on Slieve Donard last Saturday, just 25 seconds shy of taking his age category, was followed by a fantastic run of his local Hill & Dale at Rocky just 2 days before, coming 16th overall and 1st in the age category. Tired legs were not to prove any bother, and in trying to reel in East Downs Niall Gibney & Newry’s Paul Le Blanc to the finish, Pete came in 15th place with an overall time of 2hrs 54mins, a good 20 minutes off last year. A great week’s work in the bank and that didn’t stop him getting out for a pedal on the bike on Sunday morning either! Continue reading

Was feeling a bit nutty so I ate a marathon for breakfast

Running requires so much effort. Why can’t it be easy?

You enter your first 5k, but no one tells you about having to put in so many training runs, amounting in much greater collective distance than the actual event. But we do it because its claimed to make it easier. Then we push it a bit further, going for a 10k and so on. Join a club or make running buddies and it soon spirals out of control. Next thing you know the rest of your family and “normal” friends label you a nutter.

Guess this is what happened to me, though my brother is as much to blame as any running buddies. His progression to ultras has rubbed off and a few years ago, after working my way up to half marathon races I decided to skip the marathon stage and just go for the ultra. It sounded better in my head and sure if Phil can do them why can’t I. Nothing to do with brotherly rivalry, honest.

And sure if you’re going for an ultra why not do the double marathon, and through the Mournes too for extra fun. So a few years ago I entered and completed the 26 Extreme 52 mile Mourne Way Ultra. Continue reading

European Off-Road Running Championship

Congratulations to two Newcastle AC athletes selected to compete at the European Off-Road Running Championship taking place from 1st-3rd July on the island of La Palma in Gran Canaria.

Tom Crudgington travelled to the Irish Trials in Wicklow, where he won selection to the U20 Team, by a winning margin of 50 seconds. Tom will be joined by three fellow N.I.& Ulster U20 athletes, Sean McGinley, Ryan Smith and Amy Greene, Amy having also won the Female U20 race.

Zak Hanna was pre-selected, based on last year’s International performances and current form.

Zak Hanna will run as the sole Irish runner in the Senior Men’s uphill only race (8.8km, 997m elevation gain), whilst Tom will run in the Junior Men’s race as part of a four-man team.

The Championships also include the classic 12km up & down mountain races as well as a 50km trail race, for both male and female runners with 25 countries and over 200 runners expected to arrive at the volcanic island to battle for the title of European Champion in their respective races.

Young Harry shows how it is done

Report by Siobhan Grant

The McVeigh Clan changed their recent Thursday night routine and swapped watching Daddy at Hill and Dale for the home of Athletics NI at Mary Peters Track for the Firmus Fab Five.

With U11 the youngest category on offer and numbers for the 600m event requiring 2 heats before the overall winners could be decided both Connaire Og and Harry toed the line representing Newcastle Juniors.

The race announcer declared to the spectators that young Harry, who is due to make his Holy Communion at the end of the month, was the youngest competitor in the line up.

Looking across the start line of the U11 race, Harry was head and shoulders smaller than many of the other athletes toeing the line. Yet his confidence soared above those other boys as he left the majority of the field in his dust, just being pipped to the post by hundreths of a second to take second place. Connaire Og showed his determined to not be upstaged to place 5th in his heat. Once the results where collated, it was clear that Harry, at the age of 8, had beaten over 25 competitors, 3 years his senior to take 3rd place overall and Connaire Og secured and impressive 9th place overall.

They say the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, however I have a feeling that these particular apples will grow to be much more spectacular trees, overshadowing the already impressive tree that has grown before them.

No.7 – but more Hell than Chanel!

The “Highland Fling” is a 53-mile race from Milngavie to Tyndrum. The race uses trails (90%) and roads (10%) and covers long sections on the banks of Loch Lomond and through The Trossachs National Park.

“The Fling” is used as a qualifying race for the “Scottish Athletics National Ultra Trail Championship” and as such has certain rules, whereby runners cannot be assisted along the route with spectators only allowed at certain locations. Other quirks in the rules for this race are that no pain relief (ibuprofen or paracetamol) is allowed and neither too are walking/running poles.

On Saturday 23rd April the 15th edition of the run was held, with Newcastle AC’s, Mark King, putting his toe to the line for this his 7th time. Although a veteran of the race, Mark was under no doubt as to the challenge that lay ahead and when the race started at 6am there was a mix of excitement and dread. Continue reading

Sevens conquered by Four in under Six

Whilst NIMRA host the local championship, they also take one leg of the four races that comprises the British championship, and with the long category assigned for them this year what better or tougher event to stage than the Mourne Seven Sevens on Saturday 9th April. With a slightly longer 19.5 mile course involving 2600m of ascent it takes in the seven peaks over 700m (Meelmore just short when remeasured), starting and finishing at sea level in Donard Park. This brought an elite field over from across the water with some top names who are usually plying their trade in Snowdonia, the Peak & Lake districts and the Scottish Munros. Despite a chilly start to Saturday morning, the day stayed bright and clear, but there was an exposure risk on a few of the summits nevertheless.

After coming a fantastic 9th position at the 50KM Maurice Mullins Ultra in Wicklow a fortnight past, Alan Ritchie certainly had the training in the legs for the challenge. Opting for the Black Stairs to summit Donard by 52 mins, he made light work of the first 4 of the 7 and was over Meelmore in under 2 hours. However the crux of the race is the second half travelling down the bog from Meelbeg to Ben Crom Dam, then taking in the full Binnian ridge to the far summit only to turn back and lose the height gained. After a few minutes break on the way towards the final seven Lamagan, Alan made a superb attack on the contour round Cove and the rise over Slieve Beg to reach the saddle at 4hrs 30mins. 22 mins later he was at the pavilion finishing in a great 38th place and 4hrs 52mins. Continue reading