A preview of the 32nd Christmas Cracker race by Bogusboy
It sold out almost as quickly as Beiber – extra places were secured and went within minutes and many are disappointed as they will have to spectate. 450 teams will take to the line for the 32nd Christmas cracker pairs’ race on Monday 28th December. The market town will be awash with colour as 900 competitors, many of whom will ‘dress for the occasion’, take to the streets. Rumour has it that Stevie Rice and Martin Brogan were tactically holding off to see if they could get a discounted price after Christmas Day – sorry lads, no such luck this year. The race has grown exponentially 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. In 2014, 353 teams completed the course, building steadily on the numbers form the previous years. This year there are 203 male teams, 118 female teams and 129 mixed teams.
The race itself is a multi-terrain event over approximately 8.5 miles and is suitable for runners of all abilities and levels of experience. The course changes from year to year and this edition has been described as ‘plenty of opportunities for good running, a few testing climbs and a great course for spectators.’
It’s a fair test of running
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 invariably forget by the following year. It is not a lesson lost on my current running partner, who is half the man he used to be! Equally fascinating is the fact that, while the race remains around 8-9 miles in distance, the course is always different and runners have come to expect the unexpected. With Commandant McVeigh having plenty of time to ponder the most arduous and painful route possible, he has certainly a few surprises up his well-worn sleeve. They say (who exactly are ‘they’ – one of life’s great mysteries!) that he has been uncharacteristically benevolent this year and the course, while undulating, is more than fair.
They’ll be hard to beat!
Last year’s winners were McCluskey and O’Hanlon are returning to defend their title. In 2014 they came, they ran, they won and they enjoyed the local hospitality so much that they stayed with the Prophet until mid-February! Both men have encountered mixed fortunes in 2015, For Gary, 2015 has unfortunately been an injury plagued year and he missed a lot of running between march and September. He did begin the year in style in February by breaking the Irish 50k record and in the process registered the 2nd fastest time in Europe (2.59.19 for 50k!). More recently
Gary was in Doha, Qatar, representing Ireland in the world 50k Championships where he performed very well. In the middle of the year Gary ran 68 minutes in this the Dublin City Half Marathon, finishing 5th overall in a field of 8,000 and followed that up by running 2.25 in the Dublin City Marathon, finish 12th overall in windy conditions in a field of 15,000. Brian has been equally successful winning many high profile 5k’s and 10k’s throughout the country with a best time of 15.15 for 5k and 32.18 for 10k In late November he was selected as Louth Senior Athlete of the year for the 2nd year running. Arguably his greatest achievement this year was selection to run as part of a 6 man Irish Masters team in the recent British and Irish Masters International in Santry back on November 14th, competing against England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Brian was the third scoring member of the Irish team that won the gold medal.
They wont get it all their own way!
While McCluskey and O’Hanlon are the obvious favourites, it would be foolish to assume that they will win. Local men Seamus Lynch and William McKee are winning races most weekends and both have very strong partners – one such pairing could cause an upset. The outside bet could be Eoghan Totten and Andrew Monaghan. Both young men are in great form and while they have not been competing much locally for obvious reasons, they could have a say in the outcome. The ‘fast’ course will suit them and the watching crowds can expect a bunch of runners at the head of the field in the early stages, which makes for exciting racing.
Race numbers can be collected in the clubrooms of Castlewellan GAC from 11.45am, with the race starting at 1pm. There will be refreshments in the clubrooms after the race and the presentation of prizes will be at around 3.30pm. The best vantage point for spectators will be in the vicinity of the Spring Gardens as there will be opportunities to view your favourites on at least two occasions. From there spectators will have time to make their way to the bottom of the Ridge Walk for another look before heading back to see the conclusion of the race. Come out on Monday and witness what will be a spectacular occasion.