Hicks is on ‘Cloud 9’ after Spelga Skyline win

Newcastle AC Notes by Bogusboy

The highlight of the week was the impressive victory of David Hicks on Saturday 1st July 2017 when local mountain runners took on the annual Spelga Skyline Mountain Race in the heart of the Mourne Mountains in County Down; an event hosted by Belfast Association of Rock Climbers & Fell Runners (BARF).

The event, the sixth race of the 2017 Northern Ireland Mountain Running Association (NIMRA) Championship, covered 12.4 miles in distance and incorporated approximately 1,400m of ascent – it is deemed as a ‘long’ race for Championship purposes; a sentiment those brave enough to take on would wholeheartedly agree with.

At the head of the pack, William McKee (Mourne Runners) led early on, but Newcastle AC’s David Hicks came through to secure top spot.  Hicks ran well over the tough course, finishing very strongly, covering the distance in 2:39:59 and winning by just over 2 minutes from the 2017 Hill & Dale champion.  McKee finished in 2nd place, crossing the line in 2:42:03, before his Mourne Runners’ Gary Bailey (Mourne Runners finished in 2:46:42. Seasoned veterans Diane Wilson and Shileen O’Kane secured first and second spots in the ladies race and were joined on the podium by the in-form Esther Dickson, the 2017 Ladies Hill & Dale champion. Other NAC athletes in the race included Pete Grant (5th), Stephen Rice (37th), Paulette Thompson (38th), Bob Brown (47th) and David McCann (48th).


Loughanisland 5.05 – Wednesday 28 June

NAC at Loughsnisland 5.05 mile road race

It’s the only one of its kind in Ireland, so the Loughanisland 5.05 has a certain rarity value. What is less rare are the usual hills that await any Athlete racing on the roads of County Down. 77 athletes took to the line for the race and were led out by in some style by Jack O’Hare, the galloping Landlord; a man who has found a great love of racing in recent weeks. Despite dropping off the early pace and going back as far as fifth, he rallied well in the last two miles and would come home second, 17 seconds behind race winner Brendan Guiney of Beechmount Harriers. He was followed home by other NAC athletes; Francis Tumelty (10th, 31:13), Ronan McVeigh (13th and first Junior, 31:56), Frank ‘The Tank’ Cunningham (16th, 32:46), lesser spotted Paul Watson (19th, 33:24) and Patricia McKibbin 22nd and 3rd Lady overall, 34:07). Well done to all on a testing course.


Jude Gallagher Around the Bridges 10m – Thursday 29 June

NAC ‘newbie’ Nicky McKeag was the only athlete from the club to travel to the Limavady for the annual Jude Gallagher Memorial race. She joined 640 others on a wet and windy Thursday evening in the North West and ran very well, recording 1:18:19 for the 10m course.


Ards Half Marathon – Friday 30 June

While Alice Cooper’s iconic rock anthem ‘school’s out for summer’ was blasting the length and breadth on the country, 734 athletes were doing their final pieces of homework in preparing for the Ards Half. Noel Gallagher was the only NAC athlete on the line and despite not having one of his faster runs (1:35:24), he increased his overall lead in the Vet 35 category of the 2017 Pure Running Half Marathon Series.  Well done also to Murlough’s Hugh Oram who recorded a big PB of 1:34 – a great achievement, but one which will be surpassed on his next outing!


Looking backwards – Saint Martin Vesubie – Le Kilomètre Vertical – by Mickey Flynn

It’s been nearly 20 years since I had to write an essay for Joe McCann. Back then I would have been quite happy to hang up the pen for good, but times change so in the immortal words of David Coverdale here I go again (wonder what my mark out of ten will be this time?).

Realising I was going to miss ‘The Meels’ while on holiday, I toyed with the idea of competing in a race somewhere in France. A quick Google search and translation found the race for me – Saint Martin-Vesubie Le Kilometre Vertical. 1,150 metre climb over 4.5km of the Alps-Maritime. It’s one thing being a keyboard warrior, but actually going to the race and completing is another. I had several concerns and niggling worries prior to the race –

  1. I never ascended this high in one run (ever actually)
  2. The 30 degree heat
  3. The effectiveness of a 5 day diet of a well-known Dutch lager and pizza prior to competing.
  4. Would the altitude have an impact (the race begins almost 100m higher than Slieve Donard finishes)

Unperturbed and unfettered (insofar as one can be for a man from Dunturk!), I took off at 0630 (see how I have gone all continental!) and began the 2 hour drive up into the mountains. Undulating through tunnels, hairpins and cliff faces (cringing every time I met a car – there will be one less wing mirror when this yoke goes back), I finally arrived at Saint Martin; a picturesque French village with a small river running through the main street.

My official start time was 10:17. Competitors start at 30s second intervals, each to applause from the crowd in the centre of the town. On reflection, I think prefer the mass athlete ‘elbows out’ approach of the H&D series. This was more apparent as the ascent went on.  It was impossible to gauge the pace of the race (usually the same Messrs aren’t too far away during the H&D as a guide). A quick glance at the heart rate seemed to help on this one though.

Winding through trails, loose granite and the odd bit of pasture, the terrain seemed all too familiar, although cow bells were definitely a first to hear during a race. In a well-marked out course (no sawdust here) water rationing was aided by the 100m altitude signs. That coupled with a marshal hosing competitors down with water two thirds up, eased worries about the climb or heat anymore. A Joe McCann classic joke, ‘Mercy Buckets’ expressed my gratitude (it never gets old although, it never actually got funny).

Eventually, the mountain opened and the last 200 metre climb was in delightful sunshine. With the end nearing and chants of allez, allez, allez from other athletes descending, the fatigue eased and energy levels increased. I don’t speak French (I don’t even let my funky music do the talking!!!) but allez, allez, allez translates ‘Go, Go, Go’ or ‘Get out of the way (with a few other adjectives thrown in)’

Take note Newcastle AC– At the top of the mountain, athletes were rewarded with, sandwiches, coke, water, biscuits and cheese; lots and lots of cheese. Surely, we could do this for Binnian! Only 4 helicopter journeys required apparently according to one of race director.

Looking back (as always), I could have done a bit better, but it’s all about taking part right? Comparing the results to that back home, I would be confident that some of our top local athletes would certainly be pushing for the podium and as for the Beer and pizza diet prior, It seemed to work just fine!


Looking ahead

Road racing continues to feature prominently in the fixture calendar. Locally athletes have the Ballyvea FC 10K in Kilkeel on 10 July and the Shore 10k, organised by East Down AC (you can be sure of a good feed at the finish). Sea to Sky follows on 14 July in Newcastle and the following week sees the Portaferry 10 mile road race. Bryansford GAC are continuing in their preparations, supported by Newcastle AC, for the very flat and very fast 5k around the streets of Newcastle on Saturday 22 July. With very fast times in the inaugural running in 2016 and a number of top names already confirmed, spectators can expect something very special so keep the date free. Finally a special word congratulations to Darren Swail who can add ‘Ironman’ to the already impressive list of titles given to him, having completed a 3.2 mile swim, 112 miles on the bike and finishing with a marathon in Austria on Sunday. No doubt the Bard will write a song eulogising his terrific achievement sometime soon – and why not!