Castlewellan Christmas Cracker 2012 Preview

Final Pre Registration List (in alphabetical order by runner 1)

Online Registration is now closed. If you did not register online and still want to race please download this ENTRY FORM and bring it with you.

Race organiser contact : Marty McVeigh –  07880626654

A preview of the 29th Christmas Cracker – by Joe McCann
It just keeps getting bigger!

The Christmas Cracker is enjoying a continued renaissance since it was taken over by Newcastle AC and relocated to Castlewellan in the early ‘noughties’ and remains one of the most unique and popular races in the annual ANI calendar.  Last year 191 teams completed the course, a record entry that looks certain to be smashed this year given the ever-increasing popularity of running in the last 12 months. This year the race will be on Saturday 29th December and is sure to attract athletes from far and wide – many have journeyed to take part in the Sunday morning dry runs over the course.  The race is a multi-terrain event over approximately 10 miles and is suitable for runners of all abilities.

Part of the beauty of the race is that the race is run in pairs, so you are only as good as your partner; a harsh fact of life that I learn every December and somehow forget by the following year.  Runners like Deon McNeilly, Paul Rodgers (when he was a good runner!) Damien Brannigan, Eddie Hanna, Mark Kendall and more recently Audey McVeigh have all been unfortunate enough to have been my partner and all cursed the fact as they hollered from the top of the hills that I should hurry.  My tactic last year of finding a partner who knew little of my diminishing ability and who had an over-inflated view of my ability was a roaring failure as I was punished from start to finish and was rueing the my ill-fated attempt at getting around pain free.  Mr Featherstone has not been returning my recent calls and I, for one, cannot blame him!

Equally fascinating is the fact that, while the race remains around 10 miles in distance, the course is always different and runners have come to expect the unexpected.  Course designer Marty McVeigh has put his usual high level of thought into designing a course that is both challenging and fair.  This year’s route takes in the Castlewellan and Drumee roads before going off road for the first time, taking the lanes to the Dundrine Road.  At this point the race climbs into Bunker’s Hill before going back towards the town.  Runners will enter the Forest Park along the Drumbuck Road, having approximately 4 miles covered by this point.  In the forest, course winds up gradually to the summit of Slievenaslat before turning for home.  The race finishes at the main entrance of the Forest Park and will provide a great vantage point for spectators to cheer their favourites home.







Liam Venney and Brendan Teer

East Down



Brian McCrystal and Gary O’Hanlon

North East Runners



Andrew Christy and Russell White

Corstorphine AC

Predicting a winner of this event has proven notoriously impracticable given the promises that are made and broken in the weeks leading up to the race and due to the fact that many runners keep their fragile alliances close to their chests: paranoia creeps in when one’s partner is observed talking, never mind running with another athlete!  So this year there are no predictions, just facts. 

Top three teams 2011

Hopefully these teams will be in action again and challenged by some of the local talent from Mourne Runners, Murlough AC, Newry City Runners and of course the host club, Newcastle AC.

Online registration is now available on the club website at Registration will close on Monday 24th Dec. Everyone is encouraged to register as soon as possible to help with the smooth running of the event. Payment is required on the day of the race.  Race numbers can be collected at the clubrooms of Castlewellan GAC from 11.30am, with the race starting at 1pm.  There will be refreshments in the clubrooms after the race and the presentation will be at around 3.30pm.

Last Year Newcastle AC had an impressive 22 teams out while East Down had 11 and Murlough 10 (a number they are guaranteed to surpass this year).  Other clubs that were particularly well represented were North Belfast Harriers (9 teams), Orangegrove AC (8), North Down AC (8) and BARF (8).  Equally impressive was the number of unattached athletes forming unholy and unlikely alliances with the shared purpose of enjoying this great event – a feature we hope to see again this year.

Last year saw the continuation of the highly successful Charity Walk organised over part of the course. This proved very popular with both serious and casual walkers, and due to its popularity there will be a similar event this year. Registration is in the Castlewellan Club, from 10.30 – 11.00. There is a choice between a 4, 6 or 8 mile walk, with all donations going in aid of the Neo-Natal Special Babies Unit at the Royal Victoria Hospital.  Last year £1761 was raised for this very worthy cause.  All are welcome and it is hoped that locals will turn out to support this very worthwhile cause.

Castlewellan Christmas Cracker 2012