Photos by Paul Fegan
Lynch and Dickson continue their dominance
Hill & Dale Race 7 – Millstone Report by Mud Slinger
While Millstone might appear on paper to be one of the more accessible races in the Hill & Dale Series, the 241 hardy souls completing the course on a balmy evening that brought May to a close might beg to differ. Conditions were humid for this the 7th race out of 10 as clear skies continued to characterise the series to date. In previous years, this race was re-routed due to torrential rain on more than one occasion.
As Race Directors McVeigh and King barked final instructions to a largely obedient field of athletes, Ricky Cowan, a veteran of numerous Hill & Dale seasons, battled his way to the front to ensure he would pace the frontrunners out of Donard Park with his usual aplomb. Cowan was off like the proverbial shot and it took at least 20 yards before Lynch and McKee were able assume their rightful position at the head of the race.
Business as usual
At the sharp end of things, it was business as usual as the aforementioned Newcastle AC and Mourne Runners’ leading men jostled in the early stages. With the series to be fought out between the pair, it was Lynch who would wrest the initiative towards the summit of Millstone and open up what would transpire to be an unassailable lead. He galloped home like a gazelle and won with a comfortable margin of 31 seconds to spare. McKee was never troubled in second place and had 23 seconds between himself and third placed Timothy Johnston. Lynch is now in the ‘box seat’ for the series win and Race 8, the Loughshannagh Horseshoe is one which arguably favours him. However, Lynch is travelling to Kerry to race over Carrauntoohil in the next round of the Irish Championship on Saturday and who knows the impact this will have on his performance – three tough hill races in a week is a big ask, even for the elite fell runners. Will this give McKee an opportunity to put pressure on his great friend and fierce rival? Only time will tell.
Esther Dickson was once again in imperious form as she racked up another win and edged ever closer to retaining her title; it will take something extraordinary to prevent he now. She was 70 seconds clear of this season’s revelation Karen Wilton, who in turn was just under 2 minutes ahead of third lady, Mari Troeng.
Watch out for that tree
Readers of this column tend to like the other stories and snippets that emerge week on week and this week provided a rich vein of material. It all began on Monday when the Prophet just about made it out of Donard Park during the course inspection before he was attacked by a stationary tree. Those who know the Prophet testify that he is not one to exaggerate and subsequently believed him when he reported that ‘you could have put your fist into the hole in my head.’ Many believe the hole has been there for a long time! Such is the teak toughness of the man that he was determined to reach the summit of Millstone until he felt the wrath of a diatribe of bitter invective from McAlinden and sheepishly made his way back to the van to ‘go and get it checked out’. He arrived at club training on Tuesday evening proudly displaying 3 staples on the crown of his head. On seeing this, Wonderwall went looking for a similar tree to see if he could do the same! The Prophet put in a big shift maintaining that the staples were holding his running brains firmly in place! The offending tree was not damaged, but will probably become a national shrine and a place of pilgrimage.
700 Not Out
We all love to hear a story that motivates and inspires us. Last year Kookie was unanimously chosen as the ‘Runner’s Runner’ at the end of the season and received his award to a standing ovation and tumultuous applause. One year later, despite suffering from Parkinson’s disease, the great man continues to be a beacon of hope for all who are fortunate enough to know him. Tonight he completed his 700th consecutive day of running! There is a great lesson for us all in the determination and courage of this man – Keep up the good work Kookie.
What are they doing at this time?
A regular occurrence at Hill & Dale is the late arrival of the Rockets from ‘Blayney. Usually they come thundering along at the last minute (admittedly they have further to travel than most!) and a door is flung open while the car is moving as someone is tasked with the job of getting the crew entered on time. Much to the dismay of the entries team, accustomed to their tardiness, the boys all arrived early and were all registered before 7:15pm. Conall was able to get changed at a leisurely pace and was not trying to get his shoes on as the whistle blew. Francis had time to exchange pleasantries and attend to his ablutions before casually sauntering over to the start area. Both were distraught by the experience and were seen in a confessional type huddle after the event. A statement was issued before leaving O’Hare’s to confirm that this ‘being early malarkey’ did not sit well with them and they promised to be pushing their luck again next week (and probably try to pay their entry fee in the currency of some West African state!).
Thanks to all who helped
As always the Race Directors would like to thank those who were involved in the smooth running of the event from registration through to processing of results. The commitment of the volunteers who stand to post each week and marshal is greatly appreciated. King paid particular tribute to Dominic McInerney and “Race Director in Waiting” (aka Stevie Wallace) for pooling their pocket money for the Lucky Dip sized bag of sawdust used to help mark the course. McInerney was overheard complaining that he was nearly at the end of his communion money! Thanks also to O’Hare’s for laying on what was described as ‘a good feed’!
Race 8 – Thursday 7 June
Next Thursday, 7th June, is the 8th race of the series, the Loughshannagh Horseshoe (Anti-Clockwise). This is the longest and most technically challenging event of the series. Race Directors, McCrickard, Cunningham and McCann have already declared that full body cover is mandatory. Further information for competitors is available on the website – www.newcastleac.org. Please follow the instructions of the marshals directing the traffic and don’t forget to come to Mary Margaret’s afterwards where the craic will be mighty!