Hip hip horray for Andrew
by Fat Boy Slimmer
The Rocky Race is the penultimate race of the 2011 Hill and Dale Series sponsored by Up and Running. The race started on the mountainside at Leitrim Lodge and was run in an anti clockwise direction. It included the summits of Altnataggart, Pearse’s Castle and Tournaman Rock before the final climb and the fast descent of the eponymous Rocky and then back to the start.
Compared to awful conditions of last year, the weather was perfect for racing, only spoilt by a shower just after the runners set off, but importantly visibility was good. One hundred and fourty nine souls pitched up for the start, with many who had completed weekend events including the Camlough Triathlon, Mourneway Event, or the Lisburn 10km or Half Marathon the night before..runners can no longer say there are not enough events on now!!
The start of the race is fast before the field climbs steeply alongside the edge of Kilbroney Forest before rejoining the main track heading for Altnataggart. One of the great things about the Hill & Dale series is the wide variation in each of the 11 races and also the variation within each race itself. This week the ground covered included smooth track, rough bog and tussocky terrain, gentle and steep climbs and descents.
Buoyed by victory last week, Alan McKibbin led the field up the wall at the start and on to the main track with recent birthday boy Andrew Niblock and Neil Carty hot on his tail. Deon McNeilly had a more conservative start than usual after his marathon exploits the previous weekend but had a great battle with David O’Flaherty around the route.
Andrew Niblock had his best run of the season so far, this is his first victory of the 2011 series from Alan McKibbin with Neil Carty third.
In the ladies race there was another victory for Shileen O’Kane, extended her winning streak to 10 consecutive races, and no doubt will be going for the clean sweep next week. Anne Sandford had another good run to finish 2nd in the ladies race with a fast finishing Diane Wilson a close 3rd.
Behind the leading five male runners, Mourne Runners, Sam Herron had another fantastic run in this years’ series finishing in 6th overall, matching his position at Loughshannagh Horseshoe. Sam commenced the 2011 series knowing he was in good shape after excellent performances and times at Jimmy’s 10km, Slieve Bearnagh and Mourne Peaks. The quiet man from Kilkeel has continued his good form with consistent performances throughout the series and must be one of the most improved runners this year.
Newcastle’s Eugene McCann has been doing some sterling recruitment work around the Hilltown area bringing a number of new runners to the series over the last number of weeks. Eugene’s vehicle aka the Mourne Rambler Bus arrives full on the Thursday with passengers fully briefed on what awaits them. He nearly briefed one of his new recruits too well as Eugene was only 30 seconds ahead of them at the finish line.
One of the “fastest” finishes of the night involved a “sprint duel” between Mourne Runners Noel Michael Douglas, and Newcastle AC’s Joe McCann to the finish line. Joe had promoted himself as “Director of Entries” and ironically failed to enter himself for the race! Then, after receiving a lot of “abuse” during registration due to his performance in last weeks’ sprint finish race, he decided to don his club vest and shorts and tackle the Rocky Race. Before entries commenced, Joe had been discussing the finer points of his recent training program with summit marshal Jim Johnston (UK Athletics Coach Level 4) to see what he could do to improve his performance. Jim advised Joe to sit further back from the table. Back to the sprint, it was Noel who won the battle to claim victory, winning by a short head from Joe. Rumours that both had been told by the Summit Marshal on Rocky that the Hilltown Chippy Van was at the finish line are totally untrue and unfair.
And finally…At next week’s final race in Donard Forest Slim Jim Brown is going to run the race in his famous boxer shorts (they did appear by accident at Loughshannagh Horseshoe earlier in the series) for charity. All monies collected will be donated to charity for building homes in Kenya. Former Hill and Dale winner Adrian Philpott is taking a team of builders out and they do the work for free. There will be a donation tin at registration next week, so all please give generously.
Many thanks to all the runners, registration helpers, summit marshals, finish marshals, parking marshals, photographers and Greenan’s Bar, Kilcoo for their hospitality.
Next week is the last race in the 2011 series with the Donard Forest race. Race organiser is Damien Brannigan. Runners please remember full body cover and registration is from 6.30pm in Donard Park. Showers will be available after the race in the pavilion and the Series Presentation venue is O’Hare’s Bar, Newcastle.
Fat Boy Slimmer