Higgins sets an impressive PB in Dublin

NAC notes by Bogusboy

The second event of the Cross Country series was held in Kilbroney Forest Park in Rostrevor on Saturday 28 October. NAC representation was thin on the ground. The main event was won by Foyle Valley AC athlete, who withstood the challenge of Andrew Annett to win by 16 seconds. Seamus Lynch secured fourth place, just under a minute behind the winner in a race of 147 senior men. In the Ladies’ race, Dromore’s Rebekah Nixon beat her club mate Laura Bickerstaff by 11 seconds to claim an impressive win. Donna Daly was the only NAC lady on show and finished an extremely credible 48th in only her second race on the country.

In the even age junior race, Newcastle’s Ronan McVeigh (8:55) had an impressive run, finishing 13th in a very competitive race where a minute separated the top 27 athletes. The race was won by Oisin Kelly from Cranford AC in 8:21. Ronan was the third scorer on the Down team that convincingly won the inter-county title with Donegal second and Cavan third.

Airtricity Dublin Marathon

The Dublin Marathon has grown considerably in recent years. Several factors have been cited for its increased popularity. Undoubtedly one of the main factors has been the move from the last Bank Holiday Monday in October to the Sunday before it. This has enabled those wanting to take part in a big city marathon to plan their trip better, organise their accommodation and remain in the city on the night of the event without having to make their ways home in preparation for work the following day. However, it would be wrong to assume that this is the only reason. The event is extremely well organised and skilfully managed from registration through to the Expo to race day itself. This year, the 38th edition of the race was a great event in conditions that few could have predicted in the weeks leading up to it. NAC had several entrants, but alas injury was to claim some victims. Entering a marathon is not something contemplated at the last minute.  For most it is at least 6 months before the race. A lot can happen in this time, clearly evidenced by the fact that Dublin sold out all 20,000 places, yet just under 16,000 crossed the finish line. For those that did in the red and yellow there were mixed fortunes.

Name Position Time
Patrick Higgins 50 2:39:40
Frank Cunningham 766 3:07:15
Kieran Morgan 891 3:09:17
Norman Smyth 905 3:09:53
Michael McKenna 981 3:11:11
Gerard McAuley 1006 3:11:49
Noel Gallagher 1100 3:14:22
Niall King 1134 3:14:31
Joe McCann 2294 3:29:27
Kris Fegan 3573 3:40:04
Charlie McAlinden 3947 3:43:16
Ruairi Donnelly 5628 3:55:27
Rita Devlin 6058 3:58:26
Claire McStravock 9340 4:20:22

Higgins proved to be the star of the day, recording an impressive PB and dipping under 2:40 for the first time. Improving with each event, he got his pacing just right, averaging just over 6 minutes for each of the 26 miles! No doubt he will be looking to improve further in London in the spring time. Frank ‘The Tank’ Cunningham was next to break the line. Using the well instilled mantra of ‘discipline, discipline, discipline’ throughout he came home in just over 3:07 to improve on his existing best be 3 minutes. Kieran ‘Miley’ Morgan was next home and by his own admission ‘had a bad day’. This is regrettable as he had trained well and was certainly in shape to break three hours – alas, the marathon is the cruellest of tests and the unimaginable can all too often happen. Undeterred, Morgan is committed to continuing his progress in London in April 2018. In similar vein, Norman Smyth was in better condition that his finish time suggests, but illness in the week of the event slowed him down. In contrast Michael McKenna and Gerard McAuley both recorded impressive PBs, showing how much it can depend on how things go for you on the day. Both were on cloud 9 for very different reasons. McKenna took 11 minutes of his time from last year; while McAuley was delighted not to end up in the ‘meat wagon’ like he did in Liverpool in 2016.


Wonderwall does a ‘Wonderwall’

Noel Gallagher leaves nothing on the road is a well-known adage. This event was no exception as WW crossed the line in his usual manner, totally spent and looking like he might drop to the ground if there was another step to run. Following the baked beans diet helped him improve his London 2017 time and he is already planning how to arrive in London as late as possible for the 2018 Marathon and leave as soon as he can when it is over. Hot on his heels was Nail King, a genuine contender for the Man of the Match’ award, which on general consensus was awarded to Higgins (much to the chagrin of McAuley!)! Running with McKenna for a considerable number of miles helped him to achieve a great PB. When asked to explain his motivation he explained that he was afraid it might rain and ‘Mick’s tan might run’. He wanted to be there to support a colleague in the event of unexpected trauma. McCann was next and despite declaring at half way ‘there’s a big second half in me’, faded in the closing stages as the miles took their toll on his long-standing hip injury. If the marathon had been 21 miles, he would have been grand!!! Fegan and McAlinden were separated by a matter of minutes. Fegan had missed some vital long runs with the club which put paid to his chances of achieving the time he is capable of. Similarly McAlinden missed 5 weeks in the middle of the training block. Both gave it their best shot and got to the line in one piece. Cha was heading up the road to walk a dozen dogs that night as part of his recovery programme!!! Ruairi Donnelly was debuting over the distance and went really well for 30k. Alas, the later stages took their toll and he hung on to finish in 3:55 – a time well below what he can achieve in future marathons.


Girl power

Rita Devlin took one for the team and was on pacing duty for Murlough’s Fionnuala Simons. She was metronomic in her diligence and as the pair come home in just over 3:58, comfortably inside the 4 hour target. Newcastle’s contingent was completed when marathon newbie Claire McStravock crossed the line in 4:20, a fine achievement in her first marathon. 26.2 miles is a tough challenge and everyone deserves praise for their application to training and their best efforts on the day. For most, it is now a case of resting for a few weeks before getting ready for the Seeley Cup on 25 November. Then, when the Christmas festivities are over, training for London 2018 begins in earnest as those fortunate enough to have an entry aim for faster and better.


Support is everything

The crowds in Dublin were amazing and the support they give to all the athletes is outstanding. However, there is nothing better than turning a corner and seeing the face of someone you know and hearing them cheer you on. We would like to thank those, too many to mention (and at the risk of leaving someone out!) who joined us for the weekend or came down for the day to give us a shout. We are humbled by the efforts of our fellow Newcastle AC athletes and those from neighbouring clubs who shouted and roared to the point of being hoarse to inspire and motivate us, often at times when we were feeling the pressure; this genuinely makes a great difference and enables us to lift ourselves.


Christmas cracker

Online entries are now open for the extremely popular Castlewellan Christmas Cracker (www.newcastleac.org). Entries are lined to 600 teams of 2 for the race which takes place on Saturday 30 December. To avoid disappointment, book your place before they are all gone.