Robbie turns the Clock Back at Binnian
Following the razzmatazz of the Slieve Donard race last Saturday and the weeks’ break from Hill and Dale, it was back to bread and butter with a favourite of some, but not others, Binnian to the Top.
I had concerns leading up to the race….yellow weather warnings issued by the Met Office and Angie Philips broadcasting about apocalyptic weather (she should be more concerned about her make up). Then, via the on line Hill and Dale registration, I received an email from the ether registering a former World Champion (Robbie Bryson) for Binnian to the Top…all is ok again. Then, as I arrive in Willie Marks’ field Billy McNeilly greets Brian McBurney with “What about the magpie. I’m ate out”. Podge and I looked on in bewilderment.
It has been 5 or 6 years since Robbie Bryson last ran a Hill and Dale race and probably 95% of the runners on the start line did not know who, or what achievements this quiet man has to his name. A quick flick through Hill and Dale records show that Robbie still holds 4 of the 11 Hill and Dale records dating back to 1996, including this race in 2003. So why would he drive the whole way from Enniskillen for a 20 minute race? Well, next Saturday is the annual World Masters, hosted in Germany where Robbie will be competing in the V50 race on an uphill only course, so this was ideal preparation for him.
The usual protagonists, Jonny Steede, Stephen Cunningham (although an interested spectator all the same) and Andrew Annett were all absent, due to the forthcoming British Championship race at Slieve Bearnagh. Deon McNeilly was away or saving his legs for the Fred Whitton Challenge in the Lake District on Sunday, so the race was on for a new winner, in this the fourth race of this years’ Hill and Dale series.
On a dry but cold evening, there were 170 runners on the line, ready for the race to commence beside William Marks homestead. Runners were warned that Marty McVeigh was head summit commissariat bedecked in polka dot top especially for the occasion. The runners were also advised that he was in particularly grumpy form this evening, as he had only cycled 200 miles this week instead of his normal 300 miles! It was advised numbers should be displayed clearly as to not incur the mild mannered tounge of Mr McVeigh at the finish line.
And so, off they went at 7.30pm like a stampede of wildebeest up the lane and on past the disused quarry and it was David McKibbin, Ian Bailey, David Simpson (who ignored the ”All Runners” must report to the finish line note at registration) followed in close proximity by Robbie Bryson. After the quarry is where the race really starts; the total distance in this race is around 2 miles but with 2000 feet of climbing and the first mile relatively flat, it really ramps upwards now.
Robbie managed to pull away gradually, amazingly running the whole way, and finishing in 23.32. Ian Bailey and David McKibbin had a good battle for second, with Ian just breaking away after the stile and Ian is now coming into some good form as the series hits the real mountains and had a great run for 2nd place in 24.34 with David McKibbin in 3rd in 25.04.
Some runners really come to the fore in uphill only races. Dominic McGreevy, Gareth Boreland and Clive Bailey, all had a fantastic race. Clive Bailey had his best ever Hill and Dale finish in 4th place overall, which is great to see. Clive has been in excellent form recently after great performances at Annalong Horseshoe and Slieve Donard and this performance will give him added confidence for the rest of the season. Dominic is also accompanying Robbie to Germany and showed a clean pair of heels to many a younger male and female runner and shows the results of eating potatoes by the stone can do for your climbing ability.
In the ladies race, Ciara Largey was also resting up ahead of the Slieve Bearnagh race and so was an opportunity for Shileen O’Kane to go for victory and this she did, with a great run, finishing in 18th place in 27.37. Diane Wilson (more renowned for her descending) had a great climb also and finished in 35th place in 28.46. Gillian Wasson made the long journey from Coleraine worthwhile to finish first LV35 in 53rd place and Anne Sandford had a great run to finish in 55th place.
David Smyth had by far the fastest descent of the evening; even though the race was to the top and treated those at the bottom to a demonstration of fence jumping to enter the field (don’t try this at home kids).
At the finish line Marty McVeigh had many words of encouragement to get you over and away from the finish line, and you can imagine his delight when first time frenchman Jacques Jaffary appeared with his race number on his back, mai non and something about Thierry Henry replied Marty in his finest Castlewellan accent. Jacques handled the situation well.
Many thanks to the summit marshal’s, car parking marshals, William Marks and parents’ for use of the field and back yard and finally Jack O’Hare for the food provided at O’Hare’s bar Newcastle.
Next week, the race series heads for Moughanmore for a 7.30pm start from Deers Meadow. Please follow car parking instructions from the marshals.