Hill & Dale 2009 Race 2

Where is the Mountain Centre?

Welcome to a guest appearance from Bogboy. Over recent weeks and months pale imitations such as ‘bogusboy’ and ‘son of bogboy’ have lit up the pages with prose that only served to demonstrate that anyone can do this job – well almost anyone. It is quite hard to believe but it is already the middle of April 2009 and the year is more than a quarter over and two Hill & Dales of the 11 in the Series are already run.

Despite the organisers’ best efforts to confuse, a record 193 mortals managed to find the registration hut near the Main Car Park in Tollymore Forest Park. With construction work carrying on apace at the Mountain Centre at the other end of the Forest Park, the course and administration had to be redesigned and in the words of the current week’s race director, Mr Kendall, the race was “won in a new record… (pause)… obviously.” 

With Tollymore being at its busiest on Easter Monday, Tuesday was chosen as the day to put the waterproof arrows around the course to guide the masses on race night. On Wednesday, the course was checked again and some signs of sabotage fixed and, you guessed it, on race day itself, it was checked and changed again. All of this led to some last minute route re-design when in one of a dozen Risk Assessments, the organiser fell off the stepping stones into the Shimna River – stupid boy.

After last week’s Garry McLoughlin saga when he turned up very late from Castleblayney and then ran the race anyway only to reach the finish funnel without official number and endure a ‘contre-temps’ with the race organiser, before a group hug at the ‘après-race’ prize giving in Old Toms, draw breath; it was the turn of his town colleague, Frankie Gorman, who had been part of the previous week’s reconciliation process, to repeat the process. The Chief Organiser (le Directeur – he who dishes out orders) seeing Gorman stride out 100 metres behind the other 192 starters, recovered Gorman’s official number and awaited his return to hand it to him in the finish funnel just after the timekeepers but before the ‘number recorders’ – it’s all such a smooth operation and this week without any harsh words.

Meanwhile at the sharp end, the long run from the Main Car Park to the Mountain Centre at the start of the journey was being dominated by four – Mourne’s Des Woods and Eddie Hanna, the eternal bridesmaid (‘Hughes to me you’re everything’) North Belfast’s Neil Carty and Newcastle’s David O’Flaherty. In the women’s race, in the absence of Charlene Haugh, last week’s winner, Angela Speight from Omagh was already stamping her authority on the race.

Into the early climbs and Hanna was looking strong, Carty frisky as ever (but you couldn’t help but think that he was destined for 2nd place) with Woods and O’Flaherty ominous. It is a tough challenge in the Forest – over the space of an hour (and a bit longer for some) the participants cover ground that many of them wouldn’t even dream of doing on any leisurely walk in the park in different circumstances.

It wasn’t long before news arrived back at base of a faller – Wes Kettyle of Mourne Runners, former stalwart of the Annalong Canoe & Kayak Club (ACKC), had not looked too steady on his feet the previous week when he finished 116th in Castlewellan, but recent injuries were catching up and this week disaster struck as he tripped and once again damaged his broken wing – it must have been bad for it takes a lot to keep Kettyle down and he called it an evening and returned directly to the finish line in disappointment – the silver lining was that despite his contract to be the driver this week with his mates, he quickly commandeered one of them saying he was too sore to drive and promptly engaged is one or two consoling ‘swallees’ – just as well birds have two wings.

Talking of ACKC, once again Davy Hughes, the only surviving member, having refused to make the move to Mourne Runners, came home in 179th in just over the hour declaring once again that he would find at least two mates and lead a team home before the end of the Series. We will watch carefully…

An exciting race had developed at the front and when they emerged with around a mile to go, visible from the finish line in a deep cut in the forest, it was Woods who led by 20 metres from Carty and O’Flaherty a further 10 metres back. It also looked like Hanna had been dropped. O’Flaherty might have been favourite, with his more youthful legs and his recent victory with a swift descent at Gullion. However, Woods is tenacious and he had the bit between his teeth and Carty just loves coming second, so when the three reached the bottom of the Azelia Walk, Woods was to be the clear winner. He drove hard up the last climb to come home in 36 minutes 16 seconds, 7 seconds clear of Carty with O’Flaherty a further 4 seconds behind.

Meanwhile in the ladies race, Omagh’s Speight was well clear coming home 27th overall in 43 minutes and 34 seconds, adding a victory to last week’s 2nd place. BARF’s Shileen O’Kane was second and first LV40 in 45 minutes and 48 seconds in 50th overall with Ciara Largey from Fermanagh ‘O’ only 5 seconds behind in 3rd.

Meanwhile one of Mourne Runners’ most recent signings under their youth policy, Noel Douglas came home in 67th and 4th V50 – however, it was noted that he was still wearing his Newcastle AC shorts – head v heart? Just getting a bit more wear out of them?

No sighting this season yet of Damien Brannigan who has gone into a longer post-St Patrick’s Day hibernation than ever before. If anyone sees him, please make sure he knows the series has started, at least before his race Rocky comes round.

Talking of recent sightings, this week’s award for furthest travelled goes past the Blayney Boys to Nicky Pell, the erstwhile proprietor of Café Crème who popped over from France just to do the race and partake in some après-race refreshments in Macken’s Bar at the Harbour and even pick up a quality spot prize into the bargain

Finally it was also great to see John Taylor back in racing mode. By the look of things it was a real shock to his system for by the time he made it to the steep Azelia Walk finish he was seen in a state of delirium running, sorry barely moving, in the wrong direction unable to find the finish – don’t worry John, it’ll get better from here if you keep at it.

Next week the tour moves to Kilbroney Forest in Rostrevor – please turn up early – also remember to return your number after the race, unlike Fr Joe McCann, who after naming and shaming in last week’s report, forgot to return his own number this week… another stupid boy…