World class athletes soak up Annsborough hospitality!

The Mill Hill Mile 2015 by Bogusboy

The challenge of running an uphill mile is obviously one that appeals to many judging by the very healthy turn out for the annual Mill Hill Mile on Tuesday 2 September. This year 115 athletes, ranging in age from 5 to 65 celebrated the first official day of the new school year by running as fast as they could from Annsborough, birthplace of the infamous Gary Cairns and home to world champion Jiggy King (though no-one has yet to uncover what this fighting fit athlete’s best event is!), to the market house in Castlewellan. A large and excited crowd had gathered on the hill and at the finish to cheer their loved ones home and to proffer words of wisdom on how to run faster and climb harder! Michael McKillop was the clear winner on the night, recording a time of 5:27, one of the quicker ascents in recent years. The Paralympian star had too much strength and speed for his nearest challengers and won by 12 seconds, a comfortable margin over such a short distance.  The crowd was left to wonder if three time winner, Brendan Teer would have been able to go with the blistering pace set in the early stages – maybe next year. Andrew Annett continued his excellent return to form with an impressive run to claim second place in 5:39.  In a tough battle he overcame his great rival and great friend Seamus Lynch by 5 seconds. Lynch, who is in the form of his life, worked extremely hard, but found Annett too hot on the night. As the two men warmed down together the words ‘Christmas Cracker’ were overheard – could this be the first official declaration of a pairing for the big race in December? Dromore’s Nigel McKibbin, a regular supporter of the event had another storming run and finished 4th, well within the 6 minute mark.

A new female record

Not to be outdone by an Olympian, Newcastle’s very own Kerry O’Flaherty, who had just returned from the World Championships in Beijing, shaved two seconds of her existing female record and became the first lady to break the six minute barrier (no pun intended!). One NAC member had offered to put a water jump at the Blue Row to make Kerry feel more at home, but alas there was insufficient time to modify the road! Joanne Mills (18th) and Sinead Murtagh (21st) filled the other female podium spots.  In the junior ranks Ballydrain’s Scott McKeag continued his rich vein of form with a very strong performance.  He recorded 6:04, a time good enough for 6th place overall. Laura Gardiner of East Down AC was first female junior – 25th overall in a time of 7:05.

A notable absentee!

One stalwart who was more than a definite maybe in the days leading up to the race was Martin Brogan.  He had been training meticulously for at least a fortnight and was using this event as his final preparation for Ben Nevis. To enhance his performance, he availed of the offer of a pair of never worn shoes, believing that they would give his the same running pedigree as their former owner, none other than the much loved and much maligned Damien Brannigan. Thinking it would be a bit like ‘Billy’s Boots’ from the 1970s classic comic Tiger & Scorcher, Brogan had high hopes. Surprisingly the shoes did have the characteristic of their former owner and Brogan failed to make it to the start line!!!!

Well done to all

Further down the field there were many great performances with many of the younger athletes showing those much older and wiser a clean pair of heels. Equally impressive was the number of parents and children running together and enjoying the occasion, despite the energy sapping nature of the challenge.  Hopefully this aspect of the race will continue to grow in 2016. Charity was the biggest winner on the night. £700 was raised in donations in lieu of an entry fee and Newcastle AC has matched this amount and will present £1400 to Shimna Valley Cancer Fund for Children – a most worthy and deserving cause.