More races than you could shake a stick at!

Newcastle Athletics Club Running Diary by Bogusboy

NAC athletes have been competing here, there and everywhere in the last two weeks. Below is a round up of all what has been happening on the roads, in the parks and in the hills; evidence of the eclectic blend of athletes that make up Newcastle & District Athletics Club!

Cookstown Half Marathon – Sunday 30 July

With victory in the V35 category of the Pure Running Half Marathon series virtually assured, Wonderwall made the trek to Cookstown to strengthen his grip on the prize. With some good form demonstrated in Tuesday sessions and Thursday ‘Tempo’ runs, confidence was high. He turned in one of his better performances of the year and was consistent for most of the race, coming home in 20th place overall n a time of 1:31:13. While this is a ‘below par’, it shows a level of improvement from more disappointing shows at Lisburn and Ards in June. His next outing is in Groomsport on 12 August. The Cookstown Half was won by Steven McAlary in 1:15:43.

Crawfordsburn 5k – Wednesday 2 August

The in-form lean racing machine, Jack O’Hare was the only NAC athlete in a massive field of 329 for the annual Crawfordsburn 5k trial race. This eclectic mix of undulating forest trails, promenade and grass has been a perennial favourite for many Newcastle runners, but on this occasion the names that were etched in pencil were erased, leaving O’Hare to plough a lonely furrow. However, undeterred by the lack of companionship, he produced another fine rune, recording 18:38 and finishing a highly commendable 8th overall. The 329 starters were led home by North Belfast Harriers’ Mark McKinstry in a speedy 16:16.


Carlingford 5k – Friday 4th August

An almost flat and traditionally popular road 5k in the picturesque Norman village of Carlingford on a sunny Friday evening – what more would any runner want? Over the years this has indeed become a ‘go to’ August race attracted high quality at the front and the masses. This year there were 466 finishers, countless spectators and a carnival atmosphere.

The ‘Michael Fearon & Kevin Marron” road race, organised by Glenmore AC, starts on the lough front on the Omeath side of the village and heads out the road towards Greenore before turning around 2.5k onto the old road to head back towards the village with the finishing 400m being along the narrow streets in the centre. The red and yellows from Newcastle & District AC were very well represented, not least at the front by Zak Hanna, only 5 days after representing Ireland at the World Mountain Racing Championships in Italy. Hanna, although not fully recovered, aimed to break 16 minutes ‘on the flat’ for the first time and wasn’t disappointed coming home in 10th place overall in a new personal best of 15:55 out sprinting Eskander Turki of Monaghan.

Rostervor’s David Hicks, winner of the Spelga Skyline earlier in the season, also showed his flat strength finishing in 25th in a personal best in 16:54. Kieran ‘Miley’ Morgan was next home in 44th in 17:45 with Collie Murtagh close behind in 46th in 17:47. Brendan McQuaid was next in 55th in 17:55 having worked hard with Morgan and Murtagh throughout the race. Frank Cunningham was 74th in 18:28 and Stephen McNally 79th in 18:33, both sneaking inside 6:00 mile pace, demonstrating more progress for both of them.

First of the Newcastle ladies was Mari Troeng, 18th woman home in 20:24 (chip time) with Sam McNeilly not far behind and just outside her PB, 20th woman in 20:23 (chip time). Making an excellent return to racing since becoming a mother Sinead Murtagh was 21st women in 20:37. Rita Devlin made up the Newcastle women in 44th in 22:28. There were another 3 club brave hearts – Patrick Higgins, white as a sheet, like he’d seen a ghost, struggled home in 157th in 20:47 and promptly fell over. There were good runs for Martin Duggan in 248th (23:26) and Gary McIlhennon in 386th (28:32). North Belfast Harriers took the men’s team prize with 57 points, Dromore AC were 2nd with 95 points and Newcastle 3rd with 122 points. Newcastle Women also took 3rd place in a much closer race with 104 points behind Drogheda & District AC (95 points) and Dromore AC (96 points).


Junior member Ronan McVeigh also finished in a fantastic 2nd place in the U15 1200m race.


Ards 5 Mile Road Race – 4th August

On the same night Cross Country stalwart David McNeilly was the only NAC runner to take the line in the Ards 5 mile road race. David finished a respectable 4th out of 173 participants. The race was won by Morpeth Harriers’ Taylor Glover in a fast 27:22.

Delamont 10k – 5th August

Saturday saw 50 runners tackle the challenging 10k in Delamont near Killyleagh. Newcomer Harry Russell was the only NAC athlete on the start line.  In his first outing as a Newcastle runner, he came home in 53:31, finishing 15th behind race winner Thanos Tsolakis who completed the race in 40:47.

World Mountain Running Championships – Giir Di Mont Italy – 6th August

Newcastle AC’s Ian Bailey was in International action on Sunday 6 August, racing for Ireland in the World Long Distance Mountain Running Champs in Italy. Despite being Ireland’s only qualifying runner and competing without team support he came in 41st amongst some very illustrious opposition and a field of almost 460 runners.

This year’s Long-Distance Champs took place at the iconic Giir Di Mont race in Premana, Northern Italy over a 32.5km course featuring 2900+ metres of climb and descent (that’s over 20 miles with 3.5 Slieve Donards thrown in!). The race is famed both for its huge and vocal crowds as well as the steepness and technicality of the ground. It was this difficulty that allowed Ian to push home the advantage of years of downhill training on the slippery and uneven Mourne trails. Despite two falls and a nasty ankle twist he came through mostly injury-free to finish in 3:59:49; many others weren’t so lucky with blood and broken bones keeping the medics and helicopters busy.

Luckily for Ian, the promised 30-degree heat and stifling humidity was replaced with black skies and biblical downpours at the 20km mark, giving a new lease of life and evaporating the sluggishness that had blighted him over the first two mountains. Grinning like a man who revels in dismal conditions and river-like trails he picked up numerous places in the last 13km, putting in split times over that last ninety minutes that would have placed him around the top 10.

As with most International races, the endurance test doesn’t end until the athletes get home and Ian had to endure a closing ceremony where many were in high spirits, fuelled by spirits, a four-hour bus journey and an eight hour wait at Milan Bergamo airport before reaching Kilcoo at 2am and being up for work at 8. International competition isn’t all glamour!

Ian would like to thank IMRA, the Irish Federation for taking care of logistics and funding the trip as well as Newcastle AC for some additional financial support. Particular thanks must also go to Anna for putting up with the endless training schedule and hours spent repeatedly running up and down Donard. Ian will be back in action looking to regain the course record at the Garmin sponsored Mourne Skyline in October and is planning to be back to international duty next year in Poland.

Mallusk Harriers 5m Road Race – 11 August

A hugely encouraging 313 runners took the line for the Mallusk Harriers 5 Mile Road Race on Friday evening. Two Newcastle AC athletes made the trip up the M2 o take on a hilly 5 miler. In a most unusual turn of events North Down AC athlete Dennis Scott and Finn Johnston of Hercules Wimbledon AC broke the tape together and shared the victory in a manner akin to the inaugural London Marathon. David McCann was 42nd overall in 34:10 and mountain goat Mickey Flynn was not too far behind in 56th (35:58). Well done also to Dan Power of Murlough who was most impressive in running 33:25, a time good enough for 34th place.  All that intense coaching from Dad Michael is really paying off. Regrettably Michael’s coaching has nothing to do with running!

Slieve Croob Challenge – 12th August

The Slieve Croob Challenge is the newest event on the NI running Calendar. Just over 100 walkers and runners took part in the 10k that begins with a 396 metre ascent from Finnis to the summit of Slieve Croob via Dree Hill. The upside of the race is that the second half is all fast downhill. Newcastle AC’s Zak Hanna used his local knowledge to great effect and won comfortably. Frank Cunningham took a break from the flatter road races and was rewarded with fifth place. Lesser spotted Prophet bandaged up the war wounds and made a rare racing appearance. Sinead Murtagh completed her second race in 8 days and Jim Patterson also made a rare outing in a club vest. Joanne Foster of East Down was the first lady home.

Irish National Triathlon Championships – 12th August

Mullingar, home of Niall Horan and Joe Dolan, was the venue for the 2017 Irish National Triathlon Championships. Newcastle athletes Luke and Rory McMullan completed the 1.5k open water swim, 40k bike ride and 10k run. In a field of over 500, Luke finished 33rd and Rory was 154th. Well done to both.

Groomsport Half Marathon – 12th August

81 competitors took the line for the Groomsport 10k and a further 138 entered the half marathon. Among this number was Norman Smyth. He was very impressive, running 1:30:41 and finishing 16th overall in the illustrious company of Ballydrain’s Norman Mawhinney, a man that seems to pop up on every results sheet, regardless of distance, terrain proximity. They say timing is everything in racing. Newcomers to athletics clubs are always told to get there in good time, thus allowing time for ablutions and a good warm up. Wonderwall obviously missed this page of the manual and turned up two hours late! Thankfully there was a precedent this week in the form of Isaac Makwala, the Botswanan sprinter. The officials generously allowed Wonderwall to start, albeit very late, and like Makwala was involved in an individual time trial. Wonderwall stuck to his task well, despite the lack of colleagues on the road and came home in 1:35, the 28th fastest time of the day. The race was won by Joe Malone in 1:18:11 and Jillian Redpath was the first lady in 23rd overall (1:34:40).

The Seven Sevens – 12th August

One of the tougher challenges in the NI athletics calendar is the Seven Sevens. Starting and finishing in Donard Park, athletes have to pass the check points at Donard, Commedagh, Bernagh, Meelmore, Meelbeg, Ben Crom and Lamagan in that order. The race is over the 7 peaks above 700 metres in the Mournes. Newcastle was well represented with three in the top 10 including race winner Seamus Lynch (3 hours 51 minutes) and David Hicks who ran Lynch very close and finished just over 30 seconds behind in 3:52. Colm Murtagh was 7th in 4:19 and Pete Grant just missed out on a top 10, finishing 11th in 4:29. Further down the field Stevie Wallace was 20th (5:16), Dominic McInerney 23rd (5:20), Mark King 26th (5:21), Grace Neville 35th and 5th lady overall (5:35), Ryan McDonald 42nd (3:40), Stephen Graham 48th (3:46), Mari Troeng 57th and 8th lady overall (6:01), Ronan Barr 64th (6:10), Tadgh McNamara 80th (7:10)  and Eamon Mallon and John Gilroy finishing hand in hand in 96th & 97th in 8 hours and 1 minute. As well as the 112 runners in the race, over 300 completed the walk challenge that ran alongside the run.

Lecale Way 10k – 12th August

With so many races on offer this weekend, none of the NAC posse made it to the Lecale 10k. Richard Coey of Bally drain led the 70 athletes home in 42:21 and Karen Wilson was first lady and second overall in 42:55.

Lurig Mountain Race – 12th August

Newcastle had no representatives in the Lurig Mountain Race in the Glens of Antrim. However, a record 366 took the line. Hill and Dale stalwarts Jonny Steede (27:55) and Shileen O’Kane (34:22) were the race winners.

Dublin Rock and Roll Half Marathon and 10k – 13th August

The fifth annual Rock and Roll Dublin races took place over the weekend. The event doubles up as the Irish Half Marathon Championships and attracts a large field. In all over 10,000 competitors took to the line in the various events. The Half Marathon started from the quayside at 8:30am on Sunday. Three Newcastle athletes were involved. Kris Fegan and Joe McCann both recorded 1:35, while Rita Devlin was not too far behind in 1:44. With The Riptide Movement headlining the post-race party in Phoenix Park, there was a great atmosphere.

Monaghan Town 10m and 5m races – 13th August

Three Newcastle runners also made the trip to Monaghan town for the 10m and 5m races.  These events are perennially popular with 193 completing the 5m and a further 414 in the 10m race. In the shorter event, won by Running Coaches’ Dermot Mathers (27:14), Gerard McAuley recorded a PB (32:48) and finished just outside the podium places in 4th overall. Gerard was delighted not to have made the podium as he feared the step may have been too high for him. John O’Higgins saw the benefits of his recent hard training with 5th overall in 34:41. The 10 mile race was won by Project Africa athlete Freddy Sittuk (52:56). Newcastle’s Kieran Morgan recorded a massive PB, finishing 14th overall in a very fast 61:46, averaging 6:10 per mile for 10 miles.

Gymco Feile 10k – 13th August

On a day full of opportunities for running, 403 participated in the Feile 10k in West Belfast. Noel McNally was first him3 in 36:01, while Caroline O’Hare of East Down was first female home in 29th place overall (43:14).

Racing ahead

This week sees the Rathfriland 10k on Wednesday evening and the iconic Laganside 10k is but three weeks away. The Mill Hill Mile takes place on Tuesday 12 September and online registration is now open on the Newcastle AC website ( This year PIPS is the nominated charity and all proceeds from the race will be donated. Perhaps the most exciting running news is that parkrun is coming to Castlewellan. With 24 events already established throughout Northern Ireland, the closest being in Rostrevor, runners, joggers and all walkers will have the opportunity to avail of a timed 5k each and every Saturday starting on 23 September. More information to follow so watch this space.