The annual Mill Hill uphill mile race takes place on 7th September 2009. The race, which has been ran every year since 1987 with the exception of 2001, is the brainchild of local running stalwart Marty McVeigh who was born and bred on the same slope as the runners will tackle. The race begins in Annsborough and requires the athletes to negotiate the steep climb to just past the library in Castlewellan. By the time the runners have completed the measured one mile climb, they will have climbed a total of 90 metres at an average gradient of 6%. At the steepest point around the halfway mark the gradient is 10%.
Since its inaugural running in 1987 there have been some notable winners and some outstanding performances witnessed. The initial winner was Mark Kirk, the Northern Ireland Champion miler at the time who clocked an impressive 5.28 in a race where 8 men broke the 6 minute barrier, still a record for most sub 6 minute finishers. Robbie Bryson then recorded 4 wins in the next 8 years, punctuated by victories for Andrew Callan, Adrian Philpot, Derek Melville and the most significant of all, the first win of Deon McNeilly. Indeed Bryson can count himself very unlucky not to have 5 wins. The 1994 race saw Bryson finish runner up to McNeilly in a time of 5:16, the second fastest time in the history of the event. McNeilly was at the height of his form at that time and had been earning a growing reputation as a quality international competitor. McNeilly had competed in similar races on the mainland and still holds the record for both. He set an impressive record of 5 minutes dead for Mill Hill to beat Bryson convincingly. However controversy surrounds the time as the winner claimed to have recorded 4:59 on his own watch. Official time keeper Mickey McAlinden, an upright and conscientious member of the community recorded 5:00 and so that is what the record books record. McNeilly’s time is so impressive that no-one else has been within 30 seconds of it in the last 10 years!!! Deon went on to carve out 5 further victories, the last of which was in 2002. Despite not competing for the last three years, it would be imprudent not to rule out a record breaking seventh victory this year for the ‘Peter Pan’ of Newcastle AC. Deon also holds the veteran record with a time of 5:38. The magnitude of this is evidenced by the fact that only 5 other men have broken the 5:30 barrier in 21 races. Records are there to be broken and there are many local athletes running well enough to challenge the current best times. Rumours abound that if a Mourne Runner can break 5:30 McVeigh himself will trade in his red and yellow vest for a blue and yellow!
Newcastle AC’s Alan McKibbin has been the recent dominant force in this event with six consecutive wins, starting in 2003. However his winning time of 5:56 in 2008 was the slowest winning time in 21 races and offers some hope to his main rivals. Added to this is the fact that McKibbin has done little racing or training due to the complexity of injuries that have bedeviled his career in recent years. Notwithstanding these facts, it is widely known that McKibbin is an outstanding competitor and when the whistle blows he is a tough man to beat.
In the ladies race the exploits of Kerry Harty are equally impressive. With a remarkable 10 wins and a course record of 6:15 set in 2008, where she took many notable male scalps in finishing third overall, she would be odds on for an 11th title. Unfortunately a fairly serious injury has cut short her track season and prevents her from defending her title. Is the record vulnerable? If Ciara Mageean, the brightest young star on the Northern Ireland running firmament takes the line, then the answer is yes. It is just a tragedy that Harty and Mageean will not be able to compete against each other.
Everyone is welcome to participate in this unique race. Entries will be taken in the Upper Square from 7pm on the night. Entry is £2 and £50 will be presented to male or female winner who manages to break the existing record.
See link below for Results from 1987-2008.