Flying Eoghan takes honours at Mary Peters

Flying Eoghan takes honours at Mary Peters

12 July 2017

I THOUGHT this would be a quiet week and Sunday evening would be free from the usual bashing of the keyboard. Not so.

Firstly, congratulations to Eoghan Totten and David O’Flaherty who finished first and second respectively in the NI/Ulster 10000m Championship on the track. 

The event took place on Saturday morning at the Mary Peters Track in sunny and quite calm conditions in temperatures that were pretty much ideal for distance running. Totten came home in 31:29 to win from O’Flaherty in 32:05, which is a track PB.

In Letterkenny on Friday evening at the fifth International meeting, Kerry O’Flaherty came home sixth in the Women’s 3k Steeplechase. O’Flaherty was on Commonwealth Games qualifying standard pace of 9:54 with three of the 7.5 laps to go, but found herself isolated and came home in 9:59.46 — a second sub-10 minute clocking in a row. 

New club recruit, 17 year-old Patrick McNiff, set a big new personal best over 5000m on the track at the British Milers Club meeting in Loughborough on Saturday.

He came home in 15:15.7 some 30 seconds inside his previous best and hot on the heels of his 8:48.42 for 3000m, a PB by over four seconds, at the Belfast International meeting on Wednesday.

There was a very good turnout for the Greyabbey 10k and 5k on Friday, July 7. 

Just over 200 took part in the 10k race, won by Newcastle’s David Simpson in a quick time of 33:54. East Down’s Dee Murray, now in his 50th year, had an excellent run to finish 3rd (37:52). Nicky McKeag recorded 45:58 to finish 62nd overall and ninth lady – watch this space to see her times improve in the months ahead.

In the 5k, times were impressive. Ronan McVeigh was the only NAC athlete in the field and ran an impressive 18:30, a time good enough for third overall and second Junior behind Aaron Harrison of Ballydrain Harriers.

The Great Rossa Run in Ardboe, County Tyrone, has a 5k, 10k and half marathon — something to whet the appetite of most within the running community. 

This was evidenced by the fact that over 600 people ran the various distances. It was a warm, breezy afternoon on the shores of Lough Neagh. The races had various starting points, but had the same finish line at the Ardboe Parish Hall. 

Newcastle’s only representative was Thomas O’Gorman who finished an excellent fourth overall in a very commendable 1:19:15 given the nature of the course. 

The 16th European Mountain Running Championships was held on Saturday in the mountainous region of Velicka Planina in Kamnik, Slovenia. Newcastle AC’s Zak Hanna travelled over as part of the Irish Mountain Running team after winning the trial race at Slieve Donard. 

Racing the best in Europe is never easy and Zak finished in 53rd place after a hard day on the mountain, with the finish of the race sitting at 1700m above sea level, twice the height of Slieve Donard.

It was another good learning experience for Zak in his first European Championship race for Ireland after racing in the World Championships in Bulgaria last September.

Next on the racing agenda for Zak is the World Mountain Running Championships in Premana, Italy at the end of July, again running on the Irish team. 

At 5.30pm on Friday the intrepid trio of King, McInerney and Wallace, set off on an epic trek in the Lake District. The Bob Graham Round is a 66 mile race to completed in a 24 hour time period. 

Simple enough one might think until one realises that there are a few additional factors that make it all a little more of a challenge. 

Firstly, there is 28,000 feet of climbing along the way – equivalent of eight climbs of Slieve Donard or almost the height of Everest, from sea level.

Secondly, there are 42 different peaks to be navigated over five legs of varying distances and no paths to help guide your way – it is all about decision making and navigation to secure the best line between points to minimise the distance travelled. such are the physical and mental demands that entries are only accepted by a team of runners who can guarantee a support crew or around 20 runners and helpers to be available throughout the event. 

Navigators are necessary to plot the course, guide the runners and set the pace for the team. Helpers were assigned the duties of preparing the food and clothing changes for the runners and navigators during each leg.

As well as running part of the way, helpers were expected to travel between checkpoints and have food and clothing ready.

Checkpoints were used as hand over points and roles were often exchanged – the only constant variable being the three runners who were completing all 66 miles. 

As a safety precaution all runners carried a tracker on their pack which was usually carried by one of the support crew.

As well as monitoring the progress against the agreed target of 23 hours and 30 minutes, it enabled the support crew to effectively plan for the checkpoints.

On Sunday evening King reported that the boys had completed the challenge in 23 hours, 27 minutes and 10 seconds, just under three minutes inside their target. 

Closer to home was the annual pilgrimage to Croagh Patrick in County Mayo attended by Paulette Thomson (1:17 – 4th lady and 1st F40), Sean Rice (1:25) Martin Brogan (1:28) on Saturday in the sweltering heat.

A regular feature of NAC life these days is a visit to one of the 24 Parkruns available throughout NI each and every Saturday at 9.30am. They are suitable for runners of all abilities and are characterised by a great spirit of camaraderie and friendship.

This week Stormont was the chosen venue and Michael McKenna, despite suffering from a tummy bug recorded the fastest time of the morning with an impressive sub-19 run.

Further afield Jack O’Hare visited the Galway event and finished first. Both athletes are firm believers in the fact that such events are great for improving fitness and racing speed and, given their recent performances, few could argue with them.

Saturday also saw 50 runners reaching for the hard rock at the inaugural Stairway to Heaven race up Cuilcagh Mountain in Fermanagh, organised by County Down-based Atlas Running Group.

Ironically, this race climbs to a height of 666m to finish right on the border between Fermanagh and Cavan and will soon be on many people’s bucket list – climbing steadily on 2.5 miles of gravel track before taking to the purpose built boardwalk for over a mile. 

The sting in the tail is the aforementioned stairway which climbs 450 steps over 36 flights towards the top of Cuilcagh. 

Newcastle’s David Simpson, fresh from a win at the Greyabbey 10k the previous evening and managing to get his vest washed and dried in double quick time, toed the line. 

Had this been a straightforward race he would have led from gun to tape. However, in order to allow for the narrow boardwalks and the wealth of walkers who swarm over the area each weekend, runners were set off from the start at minute intervals.

Simpson, sixth starter, easily recorded the fastest time of the day, four minutes clear of 2nd in 28:47. 

Paul Rodgers, these days an occasional racer, remained unalarmed by the bustles in the hedgerow and declared himself happy with 15th place overall.