Brian shows plenty of ‘Steel’ as he romps to victory ahead of a posse of fast finishers

Newcastle AC Club Notes by Joe McCann

Newcastle athletes have been training diligently since the turn of the year and so there was a great sense of expectation and waiting for the much talked about 5 mile handicap race. It would be an opportunity to gauge improvement and benchmark performance against the standards set over the same course just before Christmas. On that occasion Barry Wells emerged victorious, but having won on the last outing he was sure to be heavily handicapped and thus his chances of retaining his title. Barry did post a credible 33:08, but on this occasion he would finish 14th.

Jerome proves the naysayers wrong

There had been a lot of talk about who would beat who and some athletes were taking the race so seriously that they had rested up over the weekend and were literally chomping at the bit (sorry PJ!): It would be wrong to mention names, but Jerome McCrickard knows who I am talking about. Jerome and I were paired together, both confident that we would triumph over the other. In fact such was my confidence that I assertively predicted that I would not even have to run my hardest to see him off! Why I abandoned my usually restrained, reticent and taciturn demeanour remains an unfathomable mystery. Jerome left me trailing in his wake at the Rock Pool and steadily opened a gap on Shanslieve Drive that I could not bridge. In fact the harder I tried the worse things got and the further my adversary for the evening forged ahead. By the finish we were in different parishes! To make matters worse the more heavily handicapped athletes passed me by in a steady stream, further demoralising an already broken man. To give credit where it is richly deserved Jerome took over a minute of his best previous time recording just less than 31 minutes for the 5 mile loop; an impressive stride forward in anyone’s book. I was left to rue my false confidence with enough egg on my face to make a family sized omelette. As one would expect Jerome was magnanimous in victory and refused to gloat, which is a great testimony to this sagacious athlete. I am not sure that I would have done the same, but then again I may never have the opportunity to find out!

The top men are flying

Further up the field things were very tight. Steele who has not been running much (not sure how many actually believe that!) was in imperious form and scythed through the filed like the proverbial knife through hot butter. One by one he picked off those ahead and by the Castlewellan Road out on his own. With 15 seconds to spare over Donnelly, who had ran superbly well himself, Steele was a convincing winner. Thankfully I did not take his email of the previous evening seriously when he informed me that he was aiming to run 6:50 per mile! By the afternoon of the race that has been lowered to 6:20 per mile and when he got to the start line he realised that he had forgotten his mask and had to declare his true potential. On finishing only 14 seconds behind his brother David in actual time, he questioned his sibling rival as to the necessity of running as often and hard. David refused to dignify his brother’s comments with a reply. McNeilly recorded the fastest time of the evening, 27:48 and looked impressive as he majestically strode past me in Marguerite Park. He made me look as if I was not moving (which with the benefit of hindsight I probably wasn’t!). In all 10 athletes dipped under to 30 minute barrier and the handicapper mostly got it right as the first 10 of the 19 athletes on parade were separated by less than a minute. Our guest runner, Gary McElhennon, currently of Murlough AC ran very well, posting a time of just over 36 minutes and was pleased with his night’s work. He was, however, spotted by several of his male club mates (themselves out training along the Castlewellan Road), who looked incredulously as their man came pounding towards the finish at great speed.

Thanks to the organisers

Thanks to all who turned up to help out, in particular Paul Fegan and Paul & Andrew Watson who were starters and finishers and who with guidance and support had the results processed by early Saturday evening!. They were ably assisted by Billy and his apprentice Frank, who was cheerful as usual! There were some spurious non-starters on the night. Recent recruit Declan Rice had volunteered for an extra shift at work to avoid racing and Podge Rodge bought a virus on the internet! The next event in this series will be a 5k race on Tuesday 6th March, where Jerome McCrickard will be so heavily handicapped that he will finish last and at least 2 minutes behind me no matter how well he runs! No doubt he will have to attend to a busted cement beg and will be rendered incapable of running.

Newcastle AC 5 mile handicap – Tuesday 7th January 2012 – Official Results

Position Runner Finish time Actual time
1 Brian Steele 41:54 28:54
2 Brendan Donnelly 42:09 29:39
3 Brendan Quail 42:16 28:46
4 Deon McNeilly 42:18 27:48
5 Damien Brannigan 42:19 29:19
6 Marty McVeigh 42:31 42:31
7 Eugene McCann 42:35 29:35
8 David Steele 42:40 28:40
9 Eamon McCrickard 42:49 29:49
10 Jerome McCrickard 42:53 30:53
11 Brian Wilson 42:55 32:10
12 Marty McMullan 43:10 34:10
13 Mark Kendall 43:04 28:34
14 Barry Wells 43:08 33:08
15 Aidan Brown 43:20 29:20
16 PJ McCrickard 43:37 31:07
17 Joe McCann 43:44 31:44
18 Charlie McAlinden 45:08 35:08
19 Gary McElhennon 45:10 36:40

A Valentine’s treat for Sam at Victoria Park

Brendan Donnelly, who had performed very well in the 5 mile road race, allegedly contacted the object of his heart’s desire and offered to take her out for the day to Victoria Park in the run up to Valentine’s Day. Enamoured by this loving gesture, Sam replied positively assuming that Victoria Park was a newly appointed boutique hotel, a new and highly rated restaurant or maybe even a trendy new wine bar accepted. One can only imagine her disappointment when she discovered that she had to bring her ‘gutties’ rather than her heels! As events unfolded, it transpired that Brendan meant the Victoria Park 5k run held weekly in Belfast. To cut a long story short both ran very well in favourable conditions, recording PBs for the distance; Sam was 4th lady home in 22:02 and Brendan crossed the line third in 18:22. Mindful of the fact that they were in the capital, Sam insisted that they do a bit of shopping. Regrettably Brendan was very tired shortly after the shopping began, claiming he was spent from his exertions in the race and really needed to go home. At this point Sam sharply admonished him rightfully observing that she had worked as hard as he had done in the race: the shopping continued and Brendan kept quiet! One wonders where Sam gets her assertiveness from. Both have now realistic goals for their next outing: Sam need only improve marginally to break 22 minutes, while Brendan is capable of sub-18. However his priority in the coming days will be ensuring that his affection is proved beyond reasonable doubt on 14th February!!

Hill and Dale Series races confirmed for 2012

Following long and protracted negotiations at their recent meeting the Newcastle AC Race Committee are proud to announce the fixtures for the 2012 series. The series will begin on 12th April and there will be three races before a week break for the Slieve Donard Race, which this year has been moved to 5th May to facilitate its inclusion as the opening round of the IMRA Championship. There will be a lot of interest in this event as many top fell runners from the length and breadth of the island will be descending on the town to compete against the local favourites for what will be a stunning spectacle. Plans are also afoot to organise a family fun run challenge on the same day to add to the occasion. There are also emerging plan for other activities to highlight and celebrate a great day for the town and local running. Further details will be revealed as the plan becomes more definite. Watch this space for information. The Hill and Dale resumes on May 10th and continues until the 11th and final race at Donard Forest on 29th June. As usual races will start at 7:30pm sharp, with registration closing at 7:15pm. In the current economic climate the committee agreed a freeze on price increases with entries priced at £7 for registered athletes with NIAF affiliated clubs and £8 for unattached athletes. The juniors fee with be £3 as prices remain unchanged for the third successive year.

Junior Hill and Dale

In keeping with the club’s commitment to developing young talent there will be three races for juniors throughout the series. These races will be open to Primary school pupils from P5 upwards and Post-Primary pupils. These races will be on 12th April at Castlewellan, 24th May at the Monument race in Tollymore and 7th June at Millstone in Donard Park Newcastle. The entry fee will be £2 per race and races will be at 6:45pm to allow for completion before the main Hill and Dale senior event. Courses will be designed by the Race Committee following the NIMRA and IMRA guidelines and to ensure their suitability. Our thanks to Toscano Pizzeria who have generously agreed to sponsor the Junior Hill and Dale series. More details will be available in the coming weeks.

Date Race Estimated Distance/Climb Registration
April 12th Castlewellan * 5.5 Miles / 1,080 feet Castlewellan Forest Park Main Car Park
April 19th Tollymore 5 Miles / 900 feet Tollymore Forest Park Main Car Park
April 26th Slieve Martin 4.25 Miles / 1,740 feet KilbroneyPark, Rostrevor
May 10th Binnian 2 Miles / 2,000 feet Head Rd, near Annalong
May 17th Moughanmore 3.25 miles / 1,560 feet Deer’s Meadow
May 24th Monument * 4.5 Miles / 1,600 feet TollymoreForestMain Car Park
May 31st Loughshannagh Horseshoe 5 miles / 1,700 feet Ott Car Park
June 7th Millstone * 4 Miles / 1,500 feet DonardPark Newcastle
June 14th Rocky 4.25 Miles / 1,600 feet Leitrim Lodge onSandbank Road near Rostrevor
June 21st Meelmore and Meelbeg 3.5 miles / 1,800 feet Happy Valley Car Park onTrassey Road
June 29th DonardForest 4.75 Miles / 1,080 feet DonardPark Newcastle

Junior News

Well done to all our athletes who competed in the District Schools’ Cross Country Championships at Delamont Country Park, Killyleagh on Thursday 2nd February. Fortunately the races were run on a dry, warmish day. However the incredible amount of muck on the course made it very heavy and consequently demanding, particularly for those running later in the afternoon when the course was heavily trampled by the earlier athletes. Nathan McComb (St. Malachy’s High School), Patrick Sheridan (St. Patrick’s Grammar School), Dearbhla Magee (St. Malachy’s High School), and Ellen Finnegan (Assumption Grammar School) ran exceptionally well and have qualified for the Ulster Schools’ Cross Country Championships to be held in Mallusk on 22nd February. We wish them the best of luck on a day when All Children’s PS will also be competing.

Minis (1st year) Boys: Ross McCrickard, Jack Lenny Girls: Jade Casement

Minor (2nd year) Boys: Jack Quinn, Aidan Hawkins Girls: Eilis Doyle, Niamh Doyle, Catriona Doyle

Junior (3rd year) Boys: Conor Jones Girls: Anna Rogan

Intermediate (4th & 5th year) Boys: Patrick Sheridan Girls: Derabhla Magee, Ellen Finnegan

Senior (6th & 7th year) Boys: Nathan McComb

Congratulations also to the numerous athletes from the local schools who performed extremely well in these championships, but who are not affiliated to a club. Newcastle AC has places available for post-primary athletes and anyone interested should contact the club secretary Martina Hawkins through the club website (

Junior XC Series

The final race of the McGrady Financial Services Junior Cross Country Series will take place on Saturday 18th February in Tollymore Forest Park. All junior club members are encouraged to come out and enjoy the experience of taking part. Those who have competed in three of the races so far are reminded that you need to finish at least 4 out of the 6 races to complete the Series and receive a great end of series prize. The series prize-giving will take place in Shimna College on Monday 12th March at 7pm. Once again parents are asked to arrive in plenty of time to make sure that children are registered in time to complete the warm up and stretching prior to racing. Parents are also encouraged to stay until the end of the racing to offer their support to all of the children taking part. Registration will begin at 10am with the first race at 11am. A full report and photographs will appear in the next issue.

Other club news

This week the Saturday Sojourn to the mountains was a less well attended affair. As Eugenehad not posted his intentions (apparently he is resting after many weeks of arduous training) it was left to the ‘Big Fella’ to gather the troops. He managed to round up Eamon and David O’Flaherty for a trot around the Mournes! Eamon was extolling the virtues of his new waterproof socks, which regrettably were impotent against the up to the knees boggy hole which he inadvertently found himself ensconced, much to the amusement of his compatriots who were lamenting such extravagance on a pair of socks! The Sunday 10am run has grinded to a halt. This week only Pocky turned up and bemused by the apparent apathy among his club mates, got back into the car and disappeared, muttering under his breath as he planned his own individual run. Just as Pocky was departing the rest of us were returning from the 8:30 run which was a scenic trot out to Keel point, then on to Maghera, before returning to DonardPark. As usual Deon and Eamon (do they ever feel tired!) were leading the charge, while I, as usual looked after the slower runners at the rear of the field! This appears to be my new role in the club. Still all ended well as Audey generously sprang for the tay as we traded anecdotes on our week’s training. Audey claimed he had enjoyed two great runs with Mad Dog McGreevy (who if rumours are to be believed is flying) during the week. On top of that he and Pocky had to gather up a tenner between them to ensure that Dominic had enough petrol to get home! Dominic has not been seen since and Audey’s wallet is still suffering from withdrawal symptoms having been opened twice in the one week! Thanks to ‘Hen’ who is now offering a taxi service to club members. He arrived at 10am today and offered his services to anyone in need of a lift home. Rory McMullan availed of the offer and ‘Hen’ cheerfully set off towards Castlewellan to perform his new duty.

Lots to look forward to

There is much racing in the weeks ahead with the Darragh Cross 6 mile race, Jimmy’s 10k, the Leitrim 5 mile race (more on this in the near future), the Castlewellan GACAC promoted ‘Spring Lake’ and the Born to Run 10k and half-marathon at Castleward. With all of these local races and more further afield, there is no excuses for the ‘maybes’. After consulting the calendar and marvelling at the variety of races on offer, my good friend Damien replied in typical fashion when asked if he would be competing, uttering one simple word, ‘maybe’.