Costorphine AC claim maiden Hill and Dale victory as Simpson is simply the best.
David Simpson, who last competed in the Hill and Dale as a junior made a long awaited and triumphant return to the series, claiming a decisive victory at the McVeigh Classic. Despite being hotly pursued in the early stages the former Willowfield runner who now runs for Costorphine (an Edinburgh based club, founded in 1986), opened up an unbridgeable gap to record a victory by 12 seconds from Andrew Annett (first Junior) of Mourne Runners. As predicted last week, Annett is an up and coming starlet and his achievement in this race is all the more remarkable in light of the fact that he completed the Mourne Peaks five days earlier. Many of his Mourne colleagues understandably thought it best to sit this one out given the exertions of the previous weekend, but the fearless Annett has certainly laid down a marker, visibly showing his intent to do well in the series. Neil Carty had a fabulous run to take third place (and first veteran) and show that there is still plenty of racing left in his legs. Dale Mathers (first V45), who had also completed the Mourne Peaks, just about held off the challenge of Simon Taylor, who made a very welcome return to the series and they finished fourth and fifth respectively. David McKibbin was the best of the Newcastle runners in sixth and demonstrated that he still has the desire and talent to be a real contender this week. Unusually the top six represented six different clubs. Newcastle had eight (the number could have been 9 had Sean Donnelly completed his membership form – the boss, who was significantly behind him, will surely be having a quiet word!) in the top 20, but that could all change next week if there is are more of the Mourne Runners in the field.
O’Kane takes an early lead
Shileen O’Kane took full advantage of the absence of some of her rivals and was a convincing winner of the ladies race – I add convincing as she convincingly beat me!!!
In a fine display of determined and consistent running she had more than two and a half minutes to spare over Newcastle’s Anne Sandford who ran very well to win her category (LV45) while claiming second place overall. Tyran McCoy (first LV35) was a further minute back in third place. Shileen as usual fared better than husband Donal, who when issued the number 111 last year claimed it was the word ‘Ill’. This year Donal was issued number 112 and while he may no longer be ‘Ill’ his performance and time would indicate that he still has one foot in the Emergency Room!
The bit with the facts
201 athletes (I use the word loosely here) began the race and 196 finished, including the three from Newry City Runners who somehow managed to get lost on the course – silly boys! Congratulations to all who finished and in particular to those not already mentioned who opened up their account with category victories: Clive Bailey (V35), Dominic McGreevy (V50), Lyndsey Monteith (FO), Harry Teggarty (V50 and obviously benefiting from my tutelage and the aggressive youth policy of Mourne Runners!), Heather Bamford (LV50), and John Adgey (V65). Well done also to Connell Nugent, who finished in a career high 184th! And to the athletes of the newly formed Castlewellan AC who turned out to support the race.
As the competitors were called to the line by Field Marshall McVeigh and the final instructions were issued a whistle was thrown to Lieutenant Frank Morgan to enable him to get us on our merry way. As the whistle landed on the ground and Frank stooped to retrieve it some reprobate who will remain nameless shouted, ‘watch your teeth don’t fall out Frank!’ At this Frank scooped up the whistle and removed the aforementioned teeth to give the assembled field a glimpse of his porcelain chompers! It was a sight to behold and a cause of consternation for many as they began the race!
Pre pre-race revelations
It is traditional on the Monday before the race for Hill and Dale competitors to have a run around the course that will become the enemy within a matter of days. Not being one to disrespect tradition, I dutifully turned up to meet my friends at Hillyard House for a slow jaunt around the ‘McVeigh Classic’ to become accustomed to the hills that I knew I would curse at a few days later. There was no enthusiasm shown by the small gathering of Newcastle AC males present. However a few others who are equally knowledgeable of tradition also turned up. What followed was a run with perhaps the most disparate group I have ever encountered. The unholy fourball consisted of me, out of shape, overweight and unable to climb if my very life depended on it (a fact that would be proven categorically three evenings later!). Second was Anne Sandford who apparently has trained with every club within a 50 mile radius and thought it prudent to train with the club to which she actually belongs before the Hill and Dale articles begin to point fingers (as if a ‘Prodigal daughter appearance would cease the flow of the poisoned pen!). Our next athlete was the evergreen Harry Teggarty, who despite completing the Mourne Peaks Mountain Race on Saturday was remarkably fresh for a man of well over 60. Our final jogger was none other than defending champion Stephen Cunningham. To say that we an eclectic mix is something of an understatement, but we were united in our determination to get around the course without causing too much pain or damage and to ensure that we would all be as fresh as daisies for the race itself. Obviously Cunningham got ‘the fear’ as he failed to register on Thursday evening – perhaps on witnessing the athletic prowess of his unfamiliar training partners he thought that discretion was the better part of valour.
Another Hill and Dale first
This week witnessed another first in the history of the Hill and Dale, the first runner wearing full Annadale Striders kit to compete in a mountain race, something traditionally abhorrent to a club famed for pounding the roads, admittedly with great success! Conor McMullan, the athlete in question, has been a regular for a while now, but has traditionally turned up incognito. Obviously he felt now was a good time to ‘come out’ and declare that a ‘Strider’ has a penchant for the hills. What would deceased Annadale guru make of this unlikely turn of events? Perhaps as a compromise to retain Conor’s enthusiasm we could tarmac the path all the way to the top of Binnian before race 4 of the series!
A heartfelt thank you to all who processed the entries, recorded the results and marshalled the race. Your efforts contributed to the smooth organisation of a highly competitive and successful race. Thanks also to Dave Goddard, our regular photographer who captured the spirit of the Hill and Dale with his usual attention to detail. It was a busy week for Dave, who had spent most of the previous Saturday snapping for NIMRA. Thanks also to Mark Kendal for the meticulous attention to detail in ensuring that the results were processed accurately and efficiently. A particular word of thanks to Martin McMullan of ‘Life’ who kindly allowed access to his premises for the race entries; it was much appreciated on an evening when the weather could have turned for the worse at any moment. We are equally grateful to the staff of Maginns in Castlewellan for the magnificent food that they supplied at the post-race presentation that left all of the athletes and Eugene McCann truly satisfied! With spot prizes and post race food available, runners are encouraged to visit the pub for the presentation and enjoy the atmosphere that makes the Hill and Dale Series unique.
Jerome 23:1 – words of wisdom
Finally, in a new feature to this column, we have the inaugural quote form one of the great minds of the new millennium – the Prophet Jerome McCrickard from Leitrim. When asked for his opinion the race, this 42 year old hard as nails athlete mused stoically, ‘It’s the oul dog for the hard road and the pup for the path.’ What this means exactly no-one really knows, but we all nodded in grateful appreciation at the sagacity of the great man himself! No doubt further words of wisdom will follow in the weeks ahead.
Onwards to Tollymore!
Race 2 sees the action move to Tollymore, with entries taken, as was the case last year, in the Clanbrasil Barn, just off the main car park and not at the Mountain Centre as had been the case in previous years. Race entries will be taken between 6.30pm and 7.15pm with the race starting at 7.30pm sharp on the path just below the main car. Des Woods was the narrow victor over Eddie Hanna last year and this year it should be another hotly contested and close finish as the athletes have to suffer the steep climb up Azalea Walk after 35 minutes tough climbing and steep descending. Please help the organisers by arriving early, parking sensibly and, if registering for the first time, completing the entry form in advance; forms can be downloaded from the Newcastle AC website www.newcastleac.org. Refreshments will be served at the post-race presentation in the Avoca Hotel.