O’Flaherty leads the way for the Red & Yellows in the Canaries

NAC’s Fergal Smithwick (73:04) & David O’Flaherty (72:31) alongside female winner England’s Emma Pallant (73:30) along the beach near half-distance.

On Saturday 9th December a number of Newcastle AC athletes swapped a snow swept County Down for sun, sea, sand and long distance running as they attended the Lanzarote International Marathon 2017, incorporating four different distances including the marathon, half marathon, 10km and 5km races.

In the marathon (26.2miles), Patrick Higgins was Newcastle’s sole representative as DJ Normski, who was due to run in the marathon, was a late withdrawal due to accepting a DJ gig in a club along the Puerto Del Carmen ‘strip’ and didn’t return back to the start line for the 8am start due to an intense set that had the local club scene calling for the Banbridge DJ to spin the wheels of steel into the early hours of the next morning.

‘Fresh’ from his marathon personal best only a matter of weeks ago, Higgins went on to finish a very respectable 13th place out of 601 runners in a time of 2:51:39 over the tough undulating course with temperatures hitting 22 degrees in the second half of his race. Though Higgins had a great race, he was slightly disappointed and decided that only another marathon that day would make up for this, more later!

The half-marathon seemed a more popular (or maybe easier) choice for the Newcastle athletes as five of them lined up for 13.1mile distance. As the race settled it was Fergal Smithwick & David O’Flaherty who led out the red & yellows in the race. In a pre-race meeting they had decided to try and work together and support each other at personal best pace – this they did and after the initial couple of miles found themselves at the front of a group chasing after three early breakaway athletes. They worked hard throughout the race, closing all the time on the 3rd place athlete who had dropped off the front and into the last 5k and it became clear that it would be one of them could grab the final podium place.

It was O’Flaherty who was just the stronger and he picked up the pace, opened a gap and secured 3rd place in a time of 1:12:31 some 1min 37sec faster than his 4th place finish the previous year. Smithwick also finished strongly and was a clear 4th place in 1:13:04, in his first taste of racing over the distance.

Next up for Newcastle AC was the ever strong Colly Murtagh who crossed the line in 42nd place. Murtagh ran a steady consistent race and increased his pace in the latter stages to clock 1:29:09 moving from 50th place at halfway to finish 42nd. Frank Cunningham finished in 79th place in a time of 1:36:52, which in the heat and rolling hills in the second half of the race is a very respectable run. Mari Troeng was Newcastle’s only female representative on the day and did the club proud as she finished as 19th female, crossing the line in 1:41:24.

In the post-race refreshment area, ‘el jardín de la cerveza’, the Newcastle crew were soon found discussing the highs and lows of each of their races along with how their legs ached and pained from the moment they crossed the finish line. Cunningham described the race as ‘hell from start to finish’ due to the heat and hills in the closing stages and claimed his legs felt sore from the moment he crossed the start line, never mind the finish line. Cunningham then claimed the only way to recover was by buying ‘magic tickets’ that somehow transferred into beer at the bar area, actual real life ‘beer tokens’, no one dared to argue and followed suit. Low and behold within an hour or two no one could feel their legs anymore never mind feel any tightness, aches or pains that had been there after the race, Well played Frank! This was obviously the catalyst for Higgins’ second marathon of the day and after some 26.2 Cervezas it was clearly a new PB for the marathon man!

Report by Swampman