Castlewellan Christmas Cracker 2022

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UPDATE 30/09/2022

We are waiting on permits from Council for this year’s Christmas Cracker Race.

It will worth the wait, if all goes to plan, this years course will be the most challenging to date.

The course planners are negotiating access to terrain that no human has visited in living memory, let alone runners.

Next update will be available on 7th October.

Stun the legs and play with the head

A Review of the Castlewellan Christmas Cracker by Bogusboy

There was much anticipation in the build-up to race day. Uncertainty in the midst of a new variant of the Covid-19 virus had everyone on edge. Thankfully, the race was allowed to proceed as planned and what a spectacle it turned out to be. Registration had opened months in advance and entries sold out in record time, a clear indication that this race has become a firm favourite for the elite and the not so elite runner. For most, it is the sense of turning up on the day not knowing what to expect. The race has two unique selling points. Firstly, you have to run with a partner and you are only ever as good as your other half. Many alliances come unstuck on the hills and in the mud and friendships are often lost, regained and lost again as the race unfolds. Secondly, and perhaps more uniquely only a select few know the course in advance and they are sworn to secrecy. This is unusual in that most of us go to a race knowing what to expect in terms of distance, terrain and elevation: not so with this one! The only information is that it begins and ends in Castlewellan and it is between 8.5 and 9 miles (8.78 miles this year if my Garmin is to be trusted!

The course this year was a very tightly guarded secret with only those entrusted to assist with the marking on the eve of the race getting any real insight. When asked to describe the course, the Prophet simply stated, ‘it will stun the legs and play with the head’. These words rang in my head as I ran around fields that I never expected to, climbed hills that I never climbed before and at one point, if my eyesight is not failing saw Sherpa Tenzing throwing down ropes and herding a cabinet of Yaks (I chose the more flowery collective noun!)! Continue reading

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.

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