Lynch, Wilson & Not Surprisingly Morgan Victorious…
by BOGBOY – the original and the best 🙂
It is mid-June and the weather is beautiful – the spring was warmer than average and the signs are positive for the summer. Another 160 runners turned up for the 9th race of the 2014 Hill & Dale Series – escaping from the normal routine of daily life to challenge themselves on another unique and hilly route – every race is different from the others.Thanks first to Ivor Pritchard for the car parking facilities, which helped keep the Rostrevor Road clearer than it would otherwise have been. I could mention Frank Morgan for organising this but won’t, as he appears later in the report. Thanks also to Barry Wells who counted all 160 runners through the summit of Cock before they turned to retrace their steps back to the start at the Hen Track via the summit of Hen Mountain. Also thanks to Paddy McCartan and Danny O’Boyle for manning the Hen Summit and providing lots of encouragement for runners on the way out and also ensured that all 160 runners made it home inside the hour mark.
The start of any race tends to be a cavalry charge before settling down and Hen & Cock is no different – except that although a short climb, Hen Mountain is steep and within a minute the gasping of the lungs can be heard back at the start line. 159 runners took the direct line and Mourne’s Willie Marks too a circuitous one heading first towards the left before looping back round towards the main field. When they came together, shy of the first summit, he was up in the top 15 in a race being led by Rathfriland’s Seamie Lynch.
Lynch was a member of the victorious Newcastle Junior cross-country winning team back in the winter and has continued to progress well over the past few months but faced a quandary pre-race – to race or not to race? Well he wasn’t really that bothered, he was definitely racing much to the angst of his Northern Ireland Team Manager, Anne Sandford, for the Home International at Keswick which was only two days later. While many runners wouldn’t race for two weeks before a ‘big one’ Seamie obviously considers two days is fine… Angry words exchanged and watched on by his weekend international colleague, David Steele, who took the ‘sensible option’ and didn’t race, Lynch set off on his quest for a virgin Hill & Dale victory (“I know easy points when I see them”).
The story is short – he led from gun to tape (well whistle to Joe McCann abuse) – 17 minutes and 36 seconds via Hen to the top of Cock and back home inside 11 minutes to win comfortably from Mourne Runners’ William McKee.
Barry Wells’ Cock ‘summit stats’ reveal some interesting things (for train spotters)…Lynch only led by one second from McKee (obviously Sandford’s words still ringing in Lynch’s ears) but it was 52-year-old Deon McNeilly in 3rd only 4 seconds down (these days it is the faster descents that leave his hamstrings unable to keep up with the younger ones) and Barry McConville (‘Not the Sunday Run’ having never run this quickly before) tucked in behind him. In fact Sam Herron and Neil Carty were 5th and 6th all within 7 seconds of Lynch.
One look from Lynch at the crowd stalking him and ‘best be hung for a sheep than a lamb’ he took off down the steep grassy gulley descent of Cock and the rest is history.
Just over three minutes behind Lynch at the summit of Hen in around 20 minutes and 50 seconds leading lady and already Hill & Dale 2014 Series Winner Dromore’s Diane Wilson arrived in 16th place and turned to come back just inside 13 minutes once again demonstrating great powers of descending backed by great endurance.
One quick ‘shout out’ for Newry City Runners; Eimear McCracken – urged on by her club mates who have become regulars hunting in packs at the Hill & Dales, Eimear was Wells’ last visitor turning in 160th place at Hen in 38 minutes and 11 seconds and gained a place on the way back to come home in 57 minutes and 35 seconds (inside 20 minutes – take a walk up there and come back over Hen to the Hen Track and realise what is being achieved by each and every competitor). A well-earned ‘first-timer’ mug awaited in Hilltown.
Meanwhile the well-oiled finish-line crew sailed close to the wind. On one side of the finishing funnel flanked by pop-up banners were Frank Morgan and Mary Knight – it seems like Morgan has been timing with his trusty old watch for decades – in fact he has – not a timing chip on sight, the only chip that Frank will allow anywhere near him comes with fish – and this used to be his pre-race meal. Anyway back to the present and the routine is simple – Frank reads out the time of the finishing runner and Mary writes it down – in this case 160 times.
On the other side of the funnel were Joe McCann and PJ McCrickard and you guessed it PJ’s job is to call out the numbers of the finishing runners and Joe writes them down – simples… Unfortunately McCann tends to have the attention span of a flea and as a typical male is not a great multi-tasker. He is never short of providing words of encouragement but more often ridicule to the runners as they arrive back and whilst often raising a smile or two, this is not conducive to the task in hand.
Suddenly it became apparent (at a momentary lull in arrivals) that Morgan and Knight had 125 finishers recorded but McCann and McCrickard only had 124 – oops. The race director hadn’t bothered installing the finish line photo-finish technology so there was no way of checking back. “It’ll be fine, you’ve just missed a time in the rush earlier, your reactions and eyesight are not what they used to be Frank”, said McCann, “we can slot it in the results, no problem”. Now McCann is nothing if not persuasive and he even had Morgan believing he might be fallible.
Meanwhile back at the Steele Luxury Motorhome Race Headquarters (no expense spared) McCrickard Junior already had matters in hand – on the sheet ending 120th place (with 121st on the top of the following sheet) there was an extra number – the error was obvious – who were we ever to doubt Frank? In fact, did we really ever doubt him? McCann’s inability to count, write, concentrate or all of the above was there in black ink for all to see at the bottom of the page – well at least all can see now…
Prize giving and post-race food this week returned to the hospitable Downshire Arms in Hilltown where the quest for the limited series 2014 Hill & Dale Series mug remains as competitive as ever. With two mugs available for series ‘first timers’ unlike in the recent elections counting was swift and the quota was soon reached with a third candidate coming up on the rails just too late – he hopes that maybe next week he might be luckier after the Meels – impossible though that it’ll be a first-timer mug.
Thanks are also due to Mary, Kerry, Shirley and Anna who looked after registration including sorting the junior race out too. Thanks to Darragh McCrickard, who week in and week out produces very quickly the number check for the summit marshals and an accurate set of results. Also big thanks to Tony Steel whose trailer continues to prove invaluable to the slick running of the series.
Next week is the Meelmore/Meelbeg race (why is Meelbeg the higher of the two?) organised by the Steele Clan with the oracle McBurney to be consulted as to whether it is anti-clockwise or clockwise. Registration at the Happy Valley from 6.15pm.
Hen & Cock is Race 9 of the Hill & Dale series and takes place on Thursday 12th June. Details are below.
* There will also be a junior race for post primary athletes only. Route will be to top of Hen and back down. Appropriate footwear is essential. Details here.
– Senior Race Registration is from 6:15pm at Hen Track Car Park near Hilltown.
– DO NOT PARK IN THE TOURIST CAR PARK – parking is in field off the Hen Track (turn left off Rostrevor Road up Hen Track and parking is off to the right behind the first property.
– Race Route is as follows: start on open mountain just through gate on Hen Track (J233277); climb to Hen Mountain summit (checkpoint J245275 and then proceed to the summit of Cock Mountain (checkpoint J253268 and then back to summit of Hen Mountain (checkpoint J245275) and finish back close to start.
– Race starts promptly at 7:30pm
– Pub is Downshire Arms, Hilltown
– As this race is run partly on open mountain, please bring full body cover including, compass & whistle. There will be a pre race check.