Northern Ireland crown is lifted by East Down ladies

Northern Ireland crown is lifted by East Down ladies

9 October 2019

THE NI & Ulster Relays, masterminded by Orangegrove AC, was held on a Sunday for the first time and despite fears that this would impact the entry, a huge crowd of athletes descended for the event. 

The weather gods were also kind as conditions were far better than the day before.

This day always kicks off with junior races and their enthusiasm is an appropriate warm up act. EDAC was ably represented by runners in several age groups. 

In the primary girls’ race Kelsey Murray and both Lily and Kari Foster took part with Kari surviving the scrum to get a second place. Alex Robinson had a similar jostle for position and looked to be on course for a third place, but the final surge saw him relegated to fifth. 

In the U-13 race Ollie Robinson was unfortunate to be on the back foot at the start and was playing catch up throughout, in the end coming home in sixth place.  

Also in U-13 race, Jodi Foster managed a heroic third as despite being boxed in on the final straight, she somehow found a gap. Emily Burns was 16th out of 35 in the same race. 

In the U-15 race Kirsti Foster was well ahead to take the win by 15 seconds. Lucy Foster also ran extremely well to get third. Lauren Madine was ninth. Mackenzie Murray was in the U-17 race and despite being young for that group, had a decent run in 15th place.


Ladies’ masters

With the younger runners off in search of refreshments, the circular path was clear for the masters women to take the stage. 

The attraction of the relays is the team element. Three runners in the ladies and four in the mens’ teams, who each cover 3380 km (just over two miles) with the A runner handing over to the B and so on. 

The A runner for EDAC was Clare Carson and she paced it well to hand over to Cheryl Denvir. As usual, Cheryl put in a strong effort, leaving Sharon Madine, who had never done this event before, to finish the job. 

She was unfazed and stuck to the task bringing the team home in 17th slot out of 48 which pleased them and the cheerleaders no end. The winning team overall was North Belfast Ladies.


Men’s masters

Next up was the men masters. With marathon training and injury decimating the men’s availability, they were only able to field two teams overall on the day, but with good sideline support and great efforts all round the A Team managed a creditable 10th out of 51 teams. 

The order on the day in the EDAC A team was Paul Lloyd, who went out with the intention of hanging on as best he could to the likes of Mark McKinstry, who was the fastest masters’ split of the day at 9.49. 

A tall order indeed. Paul was followed by Martin Willcox, who every year says it is not his thing, yet returns for more. He gladly handed over to Davy Foster who lapped it up  — literally, being a bit of a track fan. 

That left Neil Curran who went out like a whippet and gained a few places en route with the fastest EDAC men’s split of the day (11.07). The B team of Kevin Kelly, John Smith, Seamus Savage and Dee Murray gave it their best shot too.

Credit has to go to Dee for filling in the last leg due to a couple of cry offs. Considering that he had ran 20 miles on Saturday, he produced the fastest leg of the foursome, clocking 12.42 for his two laps. They were 47th team of 51 and rightly proud of their collective efforts.


Senior ladies

Excitement was ramping up in the EDAC camp as the senior ladies’ race approached. Last year the EDAC team came third and I commented then that “the only way to top that performance is to go one (or perhaps even two) better next year!” 

This year’s team included Sinead Sweeney, who having graduated and left QUB AC ,was running unattached until she joined EDAC earlier this year. She had in fact been on the top podium spot last year in her last race for QUB, so this all added to the pressure for this year’s line up.

The nerves were biting as Catherine O’Connor waited in the pen as first leg, but once the gun went it was clear that she was in fine form. She was in the lead by the time they came round after the first lap and coming in to swap she looked confident and strong and left the team perfectly poised by squeezing out every last second to the line. 

Caroline MacNabb as the middle runner had a mental battle ahead as she was pitted against Rachel Gibson, of North Down AC. Knowing Rachel’s abilities, Caroline prepared herself to be reeled in, but also had to concentrate on holding off other attacks. She ran out of her skin to minimise the damage caused by Rachel, who in fact ran the quickest ladies’ split of the day (11.08).

As they came to the changeover, Rachel had edged a slight gap and Sinead Sweeney hit the track like a bullet with her eyes focussed on Erin McConnell, North Down’s last leg runner. 

The danger would be to try to close the gap too quickly and then suffer, but Sinead kept her cool and ran the first lap, arriving back at the crowds just as she went up on Erin’s shoulder. 

The second lap she let rip and her decisive move took her into the lead where she ran to the line looking stronger than every step. In the end the gap was a decent 18 seconds clear for a championship win. 

For those who will never attain those speeds the next best thing is watching a race like that unfold and the cheers when Sinead crossed the mat showed how tense it had been. 

A great day for the club. Sinead ended up with the second fastest split which was praiseworthy indeed, but she paid testament to the team as a whole, acknowledging that it was a race of tactics, grit and confidence in equal mix. 

It was lovely to see all three teams on the podium showing respect to each other — North Down holding on to second and City of Lisburn, who just edged Newcastle AC off the last spot to take third.

EDAC ladies also had a B team, which performed admirably as they managed to get eighth slot out of the 30 teams taking part. 

Katie Neary, in her inaugural performance for the club, ran well as their lead runner and she handed over to Edie Carroll without a hitch.

Edie pushed herself throughout before Joanne Foster kicked up her heels and ran the final leg. It was gratifying to see two of our teams able to be in the mix and bodes well for cross country when numbers are needed to field a squad.


Men’s open race

In the men’s open race EDAC were sadly without a team and North Belfast went on to win it to add to their masters’ men and masters’ ladies triumphs. In addition to this clean sweep it should be mentioned that Mark McKinstry (winner at Jimmy’s 10 in 2018 and 2019) not only set that fastest masters’ split, helping his team break the course 

record for masters, but also ran in both the masters and the senior.

A sign that his form is good for the season ahead. So, why can’t East Down field a competitive team to at least attempt to emulate the ladies, who are putting us all to shame? Answers on a postcard please, or by email to me at .  All suggestions will be considered. 

Orangegrove deserve praise for the handling of this mammoth event. They have it down to a fine art and the races ran smoothly without a hiccup. Well done to all the volunteers who pulled this together.


Dune Half Marathon

Away from the madding crowd there were other events taking place. Dune Half marathon – an event where the route starts in Newry and ends in Dundalk with a few lumpy bits on the way. 

This is reportedly the last time this event will take place due to restrictive legislation and the associated costs which is sad to hear. Donal Smith and his daughter Kelly headed off to tackle this tough hilly course and reported back that it was just as challenging as they had been told, but an enjoyable event nonetheless. 

This strikes me as odd as when I ran it a few year’s ago, in the opposite direction, it was uphill all the way. Or perhaps I wasn’t in as good shape as I thought I was either? Donal had to let Kelly away with a second strike in the family rivalry when she finished ahead of him by around two minutes. She took 1.57.55 to his 2.00.03, but Donal was happy to be so close to the sub two hours and will content himself by knowing that he did his best on the day. Well done all.


69 for Phillip

On Saturday morning, at 9am to be precise, Phillip Vint, in the sedate setting of Lusk outside Dublin, took the first steps in what was to become 3 hours 31 minutes and 32 seconds later, his 69th completed marathon. 

No podium placing for him on this occasion, just the satisfaction of completing what is his last long run prior to his assault on the Dublin version at the end of this month. Given that his hamstring problem, which caused him to abandon the Belfast Half two weeks ago, returned to cloud his day, giving him reminders from 18/19 miles onwards, this was a considerable achievement. 

So, well done to him and Helen who undertook the half distance and completed in 2.06.46,both commendable times on what was described as a hilly course. 

Roll on Dublin, a sentiment which many in the East Down AC family are echoing with increasing intensity, as it has been a long hard summer/autumn of seemingly endless training. Good luck to all of them. If it’s any consolation my training for another bout of spectating has been interrupted as well, so we all have our demons to face come the end of October.


Waggie races

An event with a difference was the Waggie Races at Castleward. Niall Gibney, with son Finn and dog Lola entered as a pack and pulled off a podium spot, coming third. Niall has the papers ready to sign Lola up to the club and has even bought her an EDAC buff in anticipation!


Bog run

Also going for the novelty angle, Niall’s daughter Orla along with Jocelyn Wright and her mum Maureen took part in the Bog Run for Cancer Fund for Children which was held in Castlewellan. 

Despite the fact it was a fun event, the EDAC trio couldn’t help being competitive and came home second, third and fourth females as a result. A worthy cause and a great way to spend a Sunday. Just hope that mud and make up came off in time for Monday morning.


County Down 5k

The word is out that entries for the Co Down 5k time trials, which will take place on Sunday, November 17, round the Grove area in Downpatrick are already open. 

The idea is that entrants consider the time it will take them to run the distance and then decide which category to enter, ie elite, under 18 minutes, the 18 to 25 minutes category, or the over 25 minutes category.

It obviously depends a lot on the runners honesty, but is very good fun at the same time, as well as presenting everyone with a considerable challenge. 

So, why not come along and give it a go? The post race refreshments are also well worth the entry fee. For more information contract Andrew Telford on 07771 985042.