East Down have plenty of action on a busy week

East Down have plenty of action on a busy week

18 August 2021

THERE is plenty of action to report on this week, which is news in itself. 

It is fantastic to note that East Down AC were involved in multiple live events over the last seven days with members getting back to what they love doing with fewer restrictions than previously. 

On Thursday an enthusiastic bunch showed up at Steamboat Quay by the Quoile for the second edition of the EDAC Staggered Start Race.

This was a members’ only 5K event with times predicted for the runners based on their recent form.

The route went out along the towpath with a turnaround point at the Quoile Bridge and then returned by the main road. The slowest runner was set off first and after a calculated gap the next slowest started and so on until the runner expected to post the quickest time was allowed to go off last.

The idea is that as the quicker runners cover the ground to catch up on those ahead who are moving at a slower pace, the field should gradually converge with the racers finishing in close succession.

This type of set-up works well for runners of all speeds as the slower ones are motivated to stay ahead for as long as possible and the quicker ones have the incentive of being the chasers. The prizes are determined purely by the order of crossing the line.



Janine Murray ran a storming race, working her way to the head of the pack not long after midway.

Once she found herself out in front, she put the boot down and it was obvious that she would not be caught. Given that she ran a personal best by a long margin, it is well deserved.

Ryan McVeigh, over the line in second place, also produced a good run and overhauled all in front bar Janine.

Maureen Kelly, with her typically competitive approach, pushed hard until the very end and managed to hold on to the third podium spot.

The remaining runners finished in quick succession with some aggressive sprinting as they raced it out to the bitter end. All enjoyed the run as well as the refreshments afterwards on the banks of the Quoile. The winners were awarded Teamwear Ireland vouchers for their efforts.


Mile after mile

Stephen Heasley had a good excuse for skipping the club race as he was signed up for an event taking place the following day. The East Antrim Marathon Series team were holding a Friday the 13th six- hour challenge.

It had a simple objective — cover as many miles as possible within a six-hour window. The catch was that the route in Woodburn Forest Park around the reservoir included a very steep hill in the 3.9 mile loop. The runners repeated this as many times as their body and mind would let them.

Stephen set out to do 6.5 laps as that would equate to a marathon, but in his typical dogged fashion once he reached that target he just kept going. Stephen has great reserves of both physical stamina and mental stoicism and this type of event suits him well. When he reached the 50k mark in five hours, he was placed second of the 30 who started out.

In the back of his mind, as well as taking on the six-hour race, he was also clocking miles for a 1000km virtual race that he had committed to  — the ‘Race across Tennessee’, which was to be completed between May and August.

When he called it a day on Friday he was a frustrating 3.5 km short on the 1000km,  but he duly completed the shortfall the next day, so job done. To achieve this he has been averaging just short of 10km everyday since the beginning of May. It is no wonder that we call him ‘Mr Motivator’. Super work, Stephen.


A bit of fizz

Rachel Madine chose well when she was looking for her next challenge. She signed up for the Prosecco Run hosted by Atlas Running in the scenic grounds of Castleward on Saturday.

As the name suggests, each participant picks up a bottle of prosecco at the finish. What is not to like? She was also lucky enough to get a bright sunny morning to make it even more enjoyable. Rachel was happy to finish 106th of the 166 who took part over the 5km trail route and even happier to receive her bottle of fizz.



Also on Saturday, Born2Run were hosting their Dambuster event. Introduced this year for the first time in order to comply with Covid 19 restrictions, the 10 Miler was a fair compromise in face of the difficulties which laying on the usual Dambusters half marathon would have produced.

As it was almost on his doorstep it was akin to a home fixture for East Down’s Gordy Graham, and it gave him the opportunity to have a good strong run with a prize at the end, as opposed to a hard training session on his own.

Therefore it was a no brainer for him to decide whether to run it or not. Knowing that former East Down clubmate Jimmy Sloan would provide the necessary incentive for him to pull out all the stops on the day to see off his Newry nemesis, he duly took on the challenge.

However it proved to be a case of maybe next time as the fast finishing Jimmy duly outlasted our man, coming home as the overall winner, a mere five seconds ahead in 57.06 to Gordy’s 57.11.

Gordy realises that maybe an earlier move might have played to his advantage as perhaps he could have run the finish out of his opponent’s legs. Who knows but either way he had a great race and it keeps things interesting for future matches and a second place puts him on the podium twice in a week so not much to complain about. Great running, Gordy.


Seven Sevens

East Down’s ‘Mountain Man’, Niall Gibney, decided to undertake the challenge that is known as the Seven Sevens — an 18-mile, 8,100ft test of endurance and mountain skills.

The objective is to climb all seven peaks in the Mourne Mountains that are over 700m above sea level following your own route between fixed checkpoints.

However as per the Lagan Valley Orienteer website, “it has come to light that there are in 

fact only six such peaks and for many years this event has been run under a false pretext due to an anomaly on an earlier edition of the OSNI Mourne map.

Slieve Meelmore is actually several metres short of the magical 700m height – exactly how many metres depends on which source you consult. In fact, four of the seven summits have different spot heights on the (2009) OSNI map and some of these are higher so the combined height is now 5,203m which is only 2m down on the previous total.

Whatever way you look at it, it is a considerable challenge and it will remain the Seven Sevens for want of a better name, as that’s what it has always been.

Niall’s target was to finish in under five hours or 4.9 hours and in the event he managed it in four hours 59 minutes and 34 seconds, which is about as close to 4.9 as you can get. It also saw him cross the finish line in 11th place overall, an excellent result in anyone’s book, so well done Niall.


Looking ahead

While it is great to see signs of normality, there are still some events which are not going to feature in the calendar this year.

The burden to comply with even the lesser restrictions is somewhat onerous both in terms of extra red tape and the costs. For that reason it is important to support the races that do go ahead as well ensure that we take individual responsibility when attending.

Well done to the organisers involved in all the races featured in this report and to all the runners who took part. Let’s hope that the recovery of our beloved sport continues in the weeks and months ahead.