Christmas Cracker 2020 Update

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It is with great regret that Newcastle AC announces the cancellation of the annual Christmas Cracker Pairs Race. Unfortunately, the health restrictions, which are in place for the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, make it impossible for the club to safely manage the volume of competitors that normally take part.

We look forward to welcoming runners to Castlewellan for the 2021 Christmas Cracker.

Christmas Cracker 2020 Update

It is with great regret that Newcastle AC announces the cancellation of the annual Christmas Cracker Pairs Race. Unfortunately, the health restrictions, which are in place for the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, make it impossible for the club to safely manage the volume of competitors that normally take part.

We look forward to welcoming runners to Castlewellan for the 2021 Christmas Cracker.

What a Cracker as McGrady and Barrington triumph on the Playrock

The Castlewellan Christmas Cracker by Bogusboy

It was one of the best kept secrets in history. Even his wife did not know the course. His close friends and running colleagues tried every trick in the book to ascertain the route for the annual Castlewellan Christmas Cracker, but uncharacteristically the Prophet remained tight-lipped and taciturn. The usual platitudes and prosaicisms were thrown out by way of appeasement, but they threw no light on the course that has been in the planning since January 2019. Phrases like, ‘there is something for everyone’, ‘there will be a few good climbs’, ‘we will go through a field or two’ and ‘I still have a few ditches to clear’ served only to add intrigue and mystique to the potential route.

From 11am, parking spaces were snaffled up as the growing crowds made their way to collect their numbers, totally unaware of what lay ahead, another unique characteristic of this now iconic event. When we go to races we usually know what lies ahead as it will be the same as the previous year: not so with this one. This led to great speculation at registration and the passing of spurious rumours, ‘I’ve heard it is Foxes green first’, ‘Bunker’s Hill is the first climb’, ‘the gates at Niall King’s place are open and that can only mean one thing!’ Those unwise enough to listen were tormented, while the more sanguine took it all in their stride realising that what would be would be.
The atmosphere in the GAA club was electric and filled with excitement as every little corner became a changing space and in the middle of all of this Stevie Rice had set up a stall and had created a monopoly on udderrmint – an essential for the discerning runner! With space at a premium, one team had pre-booked the VIP changing facilities in Ned McCartan’s front room. Here the gracious, ebullient and effervescent host provided valet parking, bespoke carb-rich pre-race food, handed out warm fluffy towels and proffered words of wisdom and encouragement. The 5* package was completed with optional dog therapy – petting Socks!!! Continue reading

Four hundred teams registered in less than a week

An update on the 2019 Christmas Cracker by Bogusboy

The Castlewellan Christmas Cracker has become one of the most eagerly anticipated events in the NI running Calendar. This year, within one week of going live, over 400 of the 750 team entries have already been snapped up. Before long, the event will sell out and disappointment will reign supreme as many will miss the opportunity to take part in the most colourful spectacle of the festive period. Our advice is simple, book now to avoid disappointment. Please note that teams can be amended closer to race day if circumstances change for a registered team.

Why has this event become so popular, one might reasonably ask? I can recall travelling to Comber in the past (and finishing second with my erstwhile running partner Damien Brannigan) when there were very few teams taking part, despite the unique paired format of the race. However, since the event was re-invented and rebranded with a Newcastle AC twist, it has quickly established a cult status. There is certainly something for everyone. It is a fair test for the elite athletes, an opportunity for inter-club and intra-club bonding, an excuse to get some dubious fancy dress out and overall a great day of craic that ends with a bit of festive socialising.

Part of the charm is the unique opportunities afforded by Castlewellan to host an event that can be totally different every year and provide a few surprises. The Forest Park has the potential for a myriad of routes and retains the perennial element of surprise. This year’s course has already been decided and according to my sources will include ‘a few hills’. The Prophet has been spotted clambering over ditches, talking to local farmers over 5 bar gates, cutting back brambles and strimming lanes for a number of months. I have bought him coffee and scones in a stealth move to ascertain information that I can share with two types of people – those who ask and those who don’t!  Alas, my best efforts have been in vain and he is being extremely guarded and tight lipped and just chuckles dismissively when I make suggestions as to where we might be going. ‘Sure, you’ll enjoy it more on the day’ is the now industry standard reply to my persistent pursuit for information.

If previous years are any barometer, we will find ourselves in places that we never though feasible and we will enjoy every minutes of it. There will be a great atmosphere as the market town is festooned with colour and costumes of all varieties. We look forward to seeing everyone for what promises to be a great race – as long as you have an entry!!!

Online Registration and Full Race Details