ANDREW IS THE YOUNGEST WINNER OF THE SLIEVE DONARD RACE
YOUTH HAS ITS DAY
19-year-old Andrew Annett became the youngest winner of the Slieve Donard race when he trotted through the Frank Morgan memorial finishing gantry in a time of 55.37. In doing so he denied Deon Mc Neilly his elusive 10th win in the race but with years on his side Andrew could become the first person to make it to 10 wins. This years race was also the 1st in a 5 race All Ireland Championship, hence the field included over 30 runners from the South (IMRA). The Ladies race was won by first timer to the event, 25 year old Caira Largey, who also set a new course record of 64. 56 and also finished in 18th place overall.
The race, as it has for most of its life, kicked off from the Newcastle Centre, where the music being supplied by “Elvis” Keaveney had kicked off an hour before the race, entertaining runners and spectators alike.
The 135 runners were sent on their way in almost perfect race conditions and many were keen to show a turn of speed for the locals as they raced down the main street towards Donard Park. The early climb up through the forest to the Ice House starts to sort out the wheat from the chaff. It is at the Ice House that the first big decision of the day has to be made – to go by the Black Stairs or by the longer but better running via the Saddle. Deon and two of the visiting IMRA runners, Ian Conroy and Brian Furey, holder of the All Ireland race series title, headed for the Saddle. The first runners to go by the Black Stairs included Andrew, David Mc Neilly and Stevie Cunningham, who holds the course record. As it has turned out so may times in the past, the “stairs“ was the choice of most of the field.
THE HIGH POINT
Back at street level the crowd were able to view the runners on their early part of the climb and while many were still just at this early stage, news arrived to say the Ian Conroy was first to the summit in 36.55. The first 4 places to the top included the 3 guys who when by the Saddle, so it would seem that sometimes longer is better, the odd man or should it be boy, in this quartet was Andrew who had made a trouble free journey up by the Stairs.
This journey, from sea level to the highest point in Northern Ireland, is less than 3 miles but the difficulty can be gauged by the fact that only 7 runners beat the magic 40 mins.
UP AND DOWN
So what goes up must come down, but in the case of 1st to the top Ian, via a route that only he knows where he went, or does he. Like many runners over the years he went walkabout and managed to drop down Eagle Rock and also drop down to 94th finisher. This same guy arranged in February to take some of his fellow Dublin runners on a recce over the course. Not sure how this went nor not sure if he was able to drive himself back home. With 50 minutes on the clock, 62 runners were recorded through the top. Included in this group were the first 3 Ladies, headed up by Ciara Largey, 17th at the top in a time of 42.55.
If Box Hill is the place to watch the Cycling event at this year’s Olympics, then the area around the Ice House is the location for Slieve Donard event and that’s where the crowds had made their way to. You see them going up and you see them descent the Black Stairs. Also this year the music from the Newcastle Centre could also be heard by them and the runners, all adding to the excitement of the event.
BACK ON THE STREET
With the spectators at sea level now looking for the returning runners, it was Andrew who came into view, with a big smile and over 1 minute of a lead, on his way to his perhaps 1st of many wins in this event. A sub 1 hour run, up and down, most certainly puts you in the top fell runners club and this year 6 runners managed this. Next home was Stevie Cunningham, who with a descent time of 17.24, yes that is from the top to the Centre, was winner of this category. Deon, now in his 50th year, took 3rd place and had there have been a 1st Local Runner prize he would have won this, just like he did in his first run in 1980, but does he need another Hill and Dale hat!
The ladies 1,2,3 were Ciara, then last year’s winner Shileen O’Kane and then Diane Wilson, both running for Lagan Valley and finishing 37th and 46th overall. With just over 2 hours on the gantry clock all runners had returned to base. Some were bloodied by not bowed.
Some of the more interesting finishes included, BMX bike boy Nathan, just managing to keep the contents of his stomach to himself, unlike last year. For anyone finishing in the first 101 places they now have the claim to fame that they beat the man who stood on the top of Everest, Dawson Stelfox. Perhaps you stood about too long on the top of Slieve Donard Dawson. Then our man Elvis, on hearing the 125th finisher, Johnny Cash, being announced to the crowd, had “ I fell into a ring of fire “ blasting out for Johnny’s arrival.
ITS GOOD TO BE OLD
Within the main race there is a “beat your age to the top“ category, to see who was successful, you can work this out for yourselves by checking the results sheet. I can tell you that the youngest runner Nathan at 17 didn’t quite make it, perhaps in 2042, nor did the most senior man on the day, 63-year-old Ricky Cowan.
With 33 teams in the race it was Mourne Runners that took the team event just ahead of the organising club Newcastle AC. The other local club, Murlough AC had their “screamers” on duty at the finish line and they were able to drown the music each time any of their runners came into sight and I can tell you many of them are not a pretty sight!
FAMILY FUN CHALLENGE
This year while family and friends waited for their beloved ones to return from the mountain they had a chance to partake in a 1 mile fun challenge along Newcastle’s promenade. 76 participants lined up just after the main race left the Newcastle Centre. There were some very fast juniors and some sleeping toddlers being pushed along by their Mothers. One 3 year old showed she has inherited the Quinn genes as she pulled her Granda Joe around the course by the hand. Thanks to Michael Hazzard all the young runners were rewarded with a Free Pass to Cocos’s Adventure Playground where they can burn off some more energy. The older juniors were rewarded with a Hill and Dale cap that many top fell runners have shed blood, sweat and tears to win. Some participants also availed of Mauds offer of a large ice-cream cone for £1. £136 was raised for Mary Murray House, Newcastle which cares for adults with complex and profound learning needs and physical disabilities. Well done to everyone who took part and helped out.
Thanks to the Avoca Hotel for hosting the post race presentations and “finger buffet”, also to Elvis for the music and all those that helped on the day, see you all next year.