This Week’s News


On Saturday morning the Aurora 10K took place in Bangor and Martin Willcox was the only East Down runner to take part, turning in a time of 37.03 to claim 15th place overall and win the Over 45 category.  What made this victory all the more laudable was that the weather could not have been worse.  The wind and rain certainly deterred me from travelling – and I was only going to watch!

The conditions were such that many were heard to remark that they wouldn’t put a dog out in such weather.  Lucky I suppose that none of East Down’s runners are of the canine, four legged variety, as that would have meant that the hardy breed of  long distance fanatics who traditionally make their way to the North Antrim at this time of year would not have had the satisfaction of completing one of the genres most challenging events, the 26 Extreme Causeway Coast marathon.   The event offers a 10K, Half Marathon , full Marathon and Ultra Marathon distances and is usually extremely well supported. In spite of the weather this year was no exception and 16 runners from the county town made their way to the windswept coast to tackle whatever nature could throw at them. 


Here is how our first finisher Declan Teague described his experiences of the race.

“It is one tough course and yesterday was brutal as heavy rain and strong to gale force winds on cliff top paths, rocky beaches, sandy beaches, dung spattered fields, a visit to the knee deep sea for 50 metres or so, very slippery wooden paths through sand dunes and a little bit of tarmac. No part of it is flat, constantly leg sapping up and down and you just don’t get into a rhythm. One minute cruising downhill, the next cursing up a hands on knees stepped climb. The ground conditions in places were treacherous with many of the paths turned to mud (especially on the way back).  I was forced to slow at times to keep footing and I saw several falls.  As an indication of just how tough things were last year 23 people broke 4 hours in the marathon this year only 6 people managed it and the winning time was 10 minutes slower.”

Declan crossed the line in 4.11 in 16th place as an indicator of the difficulty of battling the elements, a superb effort by any standards, and also crossed another one off his bucket list. I have a bucket list too and the number one item on it is to make sure to stay indoors when it’s wet!

Raymond Milligan was another who was debuting at this particular challenge and must be over the moon with his time of 4.33, while Stephen McCartan, back on the distance rota after a frustrating spell on the sidelines, would have settled for 5.07 and a place in the top 100 beforehand. Keeping up the Ladies side of the argument was another debutante, Clare Carson, who completed in 5.27 along with Stephen Heasley and Mickey Cunningham.  Mickey’s wife Linda only tackled the marathon distance this year having completed her first 50 marathons a few weeks ago, coming home in 6.04 followed by Helen Vint 6.09, Simon McGrattan 6.14 and Sean Sealey in 6.18, a man who on completing his first marathon said “that was far enough and never again” 


Joanne Carson on her debut appearance in “this sort of thing” doing remarkably well to finish the half marathon in 3.04 while as ever the inspirational Bernice McCann and Eithne McGrattan made light of the conditions to finish in 4.01. 


Pride of place  however has to go to our Ultra competitors Oonagh Brétéché and Michael Cultra who spent over 9 hours and 41 minutes Yes NINE HOURS in the wind and rain.  Admittedly they had covered 40 miles by the time they finished so if that doesn’t make my decision to stay indoors because of a shower of rain look a bit on the wimpish side I don’t know what would. Superb application and well done to everyone.


At the other end of the spectrum, both age and weatherwise, Sunday afternoon in Castlewellan Park was sunny and warm for the opening round of this year’s Junior Cross Country series – and to their credit the children were out in force to take full advantage.

All the parents and coaches should be proud of the efforts made by all the children, from those beginning at P3 level to those who are about to leave the junior ranks, who tried their very best – an old adage that you can’t do any better than your best comes to mind – and who ran their hearts out and then supported their clubmates vociferously until they had finished their aces.  And if any further inspiration was required by these young hopefuls then surely the presence of Newcastle’s Rio Olympian, Kerry O’ Flaherty would have provided that. 


It is difficult to single out anyone from any of the competing clubs for special mention such was the level of commitment from everyone but I was hugely impressed with our own Lucy Morgan, who has progressed by virtue of dedication to regular training, to be a highly competitive and valuable points gatherer for her club, and Matthew McGrattan who epitomises the value of following a controlled training plan and who analyses his races and thinks out his strategy for improving his future performances.  While clearly a sprinter by choice he nevertheless has married his sprinting speed to the different requirements of longer distance running and looked strong and in control throughout his race. I believe his future lies in middle distance running. 


East Down AC will be in Victoria Park next weekend for the NI Relay Championships this weekend but for all those who will not be there and want to run while supporting a good cause there is the Jog Around the Bog in Peatlands Park (off Junction 13 on the M1) for the Guide Dogs for the Blind Charity.  A great venue – I believe the miniature railway will be in operation on Saturday too – with great refreshments, a unique medal and plenty of mud to soften the way!!  There is indeed a prize for the runner who finishes with the muddiest legs, though the mind boggles as to how this will be judged!

After that we can all concentrate on the Gr8 Dundrum run on 8th October and the brand new Red High 10K on 15th October, online entry is open at


Joe Quinn

26 September 2016

This Week’s News


The fourth running of the Belfast City Half Marathon on Sunday morning saw the fourth different start location, though only marginally different from last year, a little further back along the Ormeau Embankment to try to avoid last year’s disruptive “lapping” of back markers by the frontrunners.  In the event a potentially disastrous situation was avoided –   but only by about 5 seconds as the leaders exited Ormeau Park just after the tail-enders passed the gates, running in the opposite direction. 

Barrie Atkinson 1.18.14 was first of the large East Down squad to cross the finish line, a spirited effort and one which indicates a return to full fitness is not far away.

Declan Teague, 1.27.21, while not in pb mode was nevertheless in fine form and may have suffered from the absence of company to maintain a pace when the field broke up in the second half. Raymond Milligan 1.33.02 looked strong throughout, enjoying what appeared to be an injury free run.

Gareth Kelly also showed good form and the benefits of sticking to a structured training plan, his 1.35.37 nearly a minute quicker than last year’s timing while David Smith’s 1.36.35 improved his 2015 time by over a minute and a half. The ever reliable Michael McKeown clocked 1.38.42 while James Magennis 1.40.42 maintained his recent consistent form. 

Gavin Hynds, 1.42.05 only just stayed ahead of his fast finishing clubmate Gareth Fegan 1.42.18 and Ian McCracken 1.59.13 would have been happy too with a sub 2 hours total, which was probably his best race for some time and a real morale booster.


Niamh Kellett has been in pretty good form recently, taking 3rd place in the Killyleagh Half 2 weeks ago and improved her last year’s time here by almost 2 minutes in 1.30.19 and taking a top 200 place overall.  Paula Savage cruised round in 1.58.16 to set a new PB

Clare Forster might have been disappointed with her time of 2.00.06, just failing to dip under 2 hours by 7 seconds, but this was a good run from her and must give her the confidence to break through next time.  Sharon Carew, who hasn’t been in competitive mode for quite some time finished in 2.13.24 and while by no means her best, she still had 700 runners behind her. 


The race marked an Erskine family first with Ellen, running the distance for the first time ever, aiming for a sub 2 hour time. In the company of her very experienced Dad Jim, she comfortably achieved her target, recording 1.52.33 and looking fresh as a daisy at the finish. Well done.


The superb pacing of Andrew Telford and Mick McCreesh should be noted  as they brought their respective groups home within seconds of their target times.  Mick pacing the sub 1.45 aspirants clocked 1.44.21 and cajoled many of his followers into new pbs while Andrew 1.59.28 performed similar heroics with the sub 2 hour contingent, even to pulling one of his charges out of the crowd inside the last mile as she tried in vain to give up.  Well done you guys, Who would have thought just a few short years ago that you would have attained this status? 


With 128 entrants this year, 13 more than last year and including 29 from East Down, this unique event continues to grow in popularity.

There were some super performances, most notable of which was James Smyth’s 4th place overall in a magnificent 6.02, followed closely by Paul Burns whose 6.10 won the Over 40 award. Matthew McGrattan turned in a great time of 6.22 to take second in the MJ16 category, with Owen Edwards third in 7.02. Lauren Madine 7.30 won the FJ10 category with Mackenzie Murray 7.33, and Kirsti Foster 7.48 taking the honours in the J12 categories respectively. Oliver Robinson won the J10 category in 8.10 while Jodi Foster 8.10 took the FJ8 title. Roisin Gaffney was the top lady in the F50 category with a 10.17 clocking. 


The beauty of this race is that everyone can have a go at it, as demonstrated splendidly by the Foster family, meaning Mum, Dad and their 5 daughters all reached the top long before I did.  Thank goodness their little boy isn’t old enough to take part yet, though no doubt he’ll be there next year to slip me further down the pecking order. I managed to knock 19 seconds off last year’s time, yet somehow lost 9 places in the process.  Given that my target time was 12 minutes, I’ll have to do a lot of work on my pace judgement for next year.


Next Saturday’ morning brings the popular Aurora10K in Bangor, with the Relay Championships in Victoria Park the following weekend.  By their nature the Relay races are not mass participation events and while virtually every club in the country and beyond will be represented by one or two teams, that only amounts to 6/8 athletes per club.  


Why not try out this excellent alternative, an off the roads 10K called “Jog around the Bog” a multi terrain race on the same date as the Relays in the scenic and beautiful Peatlands Park near Dungannon, starting at 1.00pm. organised by Guide Dogs for the Blind, in conjunction with East Down AC, which will involve something different while helping support an excellent cause.

If you are free, not participating or watching at Victoria Park, please come along to this event.  Excellent refreshments and a special medal are provided – and it’s only up the road., exit at Junction13 off the M1.

Online entry is open at


Joe Quinn

Thursday night senior training sessions

Departing EDAC Clubhouse at 7:15pm sharp:

15 Sept 5K Time Trial (also 3K option) – Downshire

22 Sept Hill Training (12 X 1 minute effort – sets of 4) – Knocknashinna Hill

29 Sept 1 mile – 2 mile – 1 mile (Tempo pace)

6 Oct Intervals – 6 minute effort, then 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 (recovery is half of effort)

13 Oct 8 X 800m with 90 second recovery

20 Oct 10min@10k pace + 15 min@5k pace

27 Oct 4 X 1 mile with 1 minute recovery (Tempo Pace)

Each training session will begin with a warm up of 15 mins slow jog and finish with a cool down of 15 mins slow jog back to the clubhouse and on the night we will divide into groups of runners of similar ability.

This Week’s News

From a weekend when athletes were spoilt for choice as to venue and distance to run, last weekend was the opposite, certainly in terms of “local” events, with the only race on offer being the Micky Annette Memorial 10K, which perhaps suffered from the feeling among the busier runners that this was a weekend off for drawing breath before the final run in to the Dublin Marathon.

Be that as it may, it might be a good idea for the local clubs to re-consider the dates for their events next year, to enable the maximum benefits for both organisers and participants.

The progressive and froward looking RGU Club took advantage of the lull to some extent, with a hastily arranged “Parkrun” type run around the perimeter of their grounds and pitches, over a distance of 5K to mark the end of their Festival Week and while numbers were low, the RGU Club Secretary Colm McNeill said he was happy enough with the numbers who turned up and the historic connection, but he has no plans to make it a weekly event.. The race was won by East Down’s Mick McCreesh in 21.46 followed by 2 RGU stalwarts, Danny Carville and Paul McAlinden who tied for second place.

However there is no shortage of races of all descriptions in the next few weeks beginning with the Mill Hill Mile on Tuesday night, though by the time you read this, it will be history and plans will already be afoot for the 2017 event.

On 1 October the NI and Ulster Road Relay Championships will be held in Victoria Park, Belfast, beginning at 11.00am. This is one of the most popular events on the road running calendar and rightly so, last year attracting record entries. But by its nature it is not a mass participation event and while virtually every club in the country and beyond will be represented by one or two teams, that only amounts to 6/8 athletes per club. I accept that many more will attend to spectate and support their runners but the vast majority of club members will do neither. So here’s an excellent alternative, which not only will get runners out but will involve something different while helping support an excellent cause.

Guide Dogs for the Blind are organising an off the roads 10K called “Jog around the Bog” a multi terrain race on 1 October the same date as the Relays in the scenic and beautiful Peatlands Park near Dungannon, starting at 1.00pm.

Just by way of some background: Guide Dogs is a local charity who aim to get people with a visual impairment out and about on their own terms. It costs £32,400 to train a guide dog partnership. This covers the first two years – from birth to graduation. After that, it costs £12,800 to support the working partnership. So your support is vital.

Although providing guide dogs is the core service, a dog is not for everyone, which is why the organisation launched “My Guide” which matches a trained sighted guide volunteer to someone with a visual impairment in their local area, assisting them to get out and about and visit the places they want to regularly.
This reduces the isolation faced by many people with sight loss. More recently Blind Children UK have become part of the Guide Dogs family.

So if you are free, not participating or watching at Victoria Park please go along to this event. Excellent refreshments and a special medal are provided – and it’s only up the road., exit at Junction13 off the M1.
Online entry is open at and it is fully supported by East Down AC.

The following weekend it’s the Gr8 Dundrum Run – another multi terrain race, which participation in the Jog around the Bog the previous week will provide an excellent warm up for and enhance your chances here.

A brand new race has just appeared on the running calendar with the announcement of a 10K road race, incorporating a 2 x 5K Relay, to take place on Saturday 15 October from the Red High School grounds, beginning at 12.00 noon. Online entry will be open at in the next week as it is anticipated that it will attract a big entry.

It’s hard to believe but the preparations for this year’s Griddle 10K, rightly billed last year as Co. Down’s MOST challenging 10K, are already under way. The date for the 2016 edition is Sunday 4 Deember.

So get these event dates into your diary together with the Cross Country races in Kilbroney Park on 22 October and the Comber Cup on 29 October, 2 other Cross Country League fixtures in early November and the Dublin Marathon on Sunday 30 October ( first time on Sunday this year) and everyone should be fit as fleas come the Seeley Cup race on 26 November, though I’m practically exhausted just listing these great races.

Joe Quinn
12 September 2016

Downpatrick RGU ‘Park Run’ – Saturday 10th September:

As a one off, and as part of the RGU Festival week end, the RGU has organised a 5k Park Run for this Saturday morning (10th). The run will consist of 5 and a bit laps around the perimeter of the Club  grounds.  Everyone, young and old are invited to participate.  There will be no charge, no registration and  no official   timing. The start will be close to the main gates.  The run will commence at 9.30.

If you require any more details ring Colm on 07815 839630.

This Week’s News


In the absence of comments about our juniors in recent weeks, you could be forgiven for thinking that they had all gone on holidays or into hibernation while awaiting the results of GCSE’s etc.  But nothing could be further from the truth. To their credit, most of them have been following training schedules which mean that they’ll be fit and ready to go when the new cross country season begins in a few weeks time. If further evidence is needed then look no further than the recent Super 6 meeting at Mary Peters Track where the East Down squad won 5 medals – 4 Gold and 1 Bronze, with the following performances:-

Mini Girls – Lauren Madine, 1st  in 600m and 1st  in Long Jump (3.71)

U15 Girls – Edie Carroll  1st 800m (2.29)

U17Boys – Matthew McGrattan – 3rd 200m (25.07)

Senior Women – Laura Gardiner – 1st 800m (2.20)

Congratulations to all of them and to all our juniors who were involved in the pressure cooker of GCSE and A level examinations, not only for staying sane throughout the process but for producing some truly eye catching results, while also maintaining their fitness. Healthy minds in healthy bodies!!


On a typical September Sunday afternoon, scorching sun and wind free atmosphere, well over 1000 runners of all abilities took to the roads around the Ormeau and Laganside Embankments  for the 2016 Laganside 10K. Only a small contingent from the county town actually took part this year – perhaps they knew about the weather? – but whatever the excuse was, they surely missed an opportunity to record a new pb. I positioned myself at the back of the 45 minute pen, hoping that perhaps some of their speed would rub off and magically transform me. All worked well for the first 30 metres or so but when we crossed the start line I was quickly brought back to reality, for not only did the 45 minute runners leave me behind but the 50 and 55 minute and, I suspect, a goodly number of the 60 minute squads as well, flew past.  I wasn’t left alone by any means though as there were plenty of others running at my pace, the sun was out and I was happy just to be there. There was one particularly significant moment though, I actually passed Brendan Teer before halfway!  I never thought I would write that in a race report. Ignore the fact that Brendan was spectating as he slowly re-builds his fitness, it sounds great and is factually correct. An ultimate return of 62.09 was acceptable enough on the day, though Brendan would have been finished in half that time had he been running.

Andrew Telford was the first East Down runner home, recording 40.19, an excellent result following some months of injuries, and Gavin Hynds next in 43.16 also setting out his stall for the season ahead.  Tom “Mick McCreesh” McClean was more than happy with his sub 50 time, clocking 49.08 in what could only be described as a confidence boosting effort.


The only complaint I have was that there was no water left at the 8K mark when I got there.  Another reason to stick with the 45 minute guys perhaps?  


The Mill Hill Mile in Castlewellan is on Tuesday 13th September and those wanting to take part in this fantastic event ( and who doesn’t?) MUST register online at before Monday 11th September at 9.00 pm.  There is no charge for doing this,  the entry fee is a donation on the night to this year’s charity Shimna Valley Cancer Fund for Children. 


The next local race after that is the Gr8 Dundrum Run on 8 October. There was also great news this week that the first fixture in this year’s Cross Country League programme, the Bobby Rea Memorial, which includes the Ulster and NI Even  Age Group Championships, will be held in Kilbroney Park Rostrevor, in my view is the best venue in the country on Saturday 22 October. Expect a huge turnout from the local clubs as well as from clubs throughout Ulster.

Joe Quinn

5 September 2016

This Week’s News


The day for the first ever Killyleagh Half Marathon and 3 person Relay arrived bright, sunny and warm. Not ideal conditions from a runners point of view but the slight breeze did help to keep the participants reasonably cool, but nonetheless grateful for the shade provided by the trees and hedgerows.  The race was the brainchild of John Huddleston, the man who first initiated the popular 5 Mile race which is now in its 13th year.  To mark this anniversary and to debunk the unlucky 13th myth he came up with the idea of having a 13 (.1) mile celebration race – all in the cause of his favourite charity the Alzheimers Society. What he’ll come up with in another 12 years I leave to your imagination!

Local shops and businesses came on board with generous sponsorship to enable the organisers East Down AC to provide unique medals to all the finishers. The route was typical Co. Down terrain, which means a little undulating and while described afterwards as tough enough, everyone enjoyed the experience.  Anyway who wants flat and boring?


The race was won by North Belfast’s Neil Carty, in 1.20.51, a man  more often associated with the mountains, but who was glad of the heat and the dry underfoot conditions of this location closer to sea level.  Second was fellow mountain runner Newcastle’s Jonathan Scott in 1.21.25 and third was long time leader and former East Down junior star Aaron McGrady 1.22.31 now living in London. 


The first Lady home and in 4th place overall was another runner more associated with the rigours of mountain running, Acorns Karen Alexander in 1.23.49, followed by Newcastle’s Patricia McKibbin in 1.30.02, closely followed by East Down’s Niamh Kellett 3rd in 1.30.20, a splendid run by both these athletes.

First Over 35 was Tracey O’Donnell with Letitia Fitzsimons taking the Over 45 prize. Cheryl Denvir looked in good form again taking just 1.44.31 to complete the route. Clare Carson finished in exactly 1.50 while Liz O’Hagan and Patricia Galloway finished in just over 2 hours with Cathy Burke and Helen Vint., just 2 minutes further back. And no significant distance event would be complete without the never say die attitude and achievement of the inspirational Bernice and Eithne.  I take my hat of to both of you, sorry that should be cap, but you know what I mean.


Declan Teague was the first of the East Down contingent to finish, clocking a superb 1.26.47, taking 5th place overall and the first in the Over 45 category, while Davy Foster 1.29.01 in 7th overall and the last finisher to break 90 minutes collected the first Over 35 prize for his troubles. Gavin Hynds recorded 1.35.28 while James Magennis 1.39 46 ran well to break the 40 minute barrier.  Robert Miskelly completed in 2.27.23, ahead of North Down’s Pat O’Driscoll, his regular nemesis to remark that “he must be on something”.  The truth of the matter is Pat, that you’re more likely to arouse suspicion if you’re NOT on something at our age. 


The following local shops and businesses sponsored the event:-

T M Martin and Son, who also provided the lead car and driver, Lorraine Lawson of Kingfisher Craft Gallery,  Alfie Murray, Butchers,  the Central Bar, Elvis Kirk, Skip Hire and Contractor, Killyleagh Box Company, the International Bar, the Dufferin Arms  Spar Supermarket, Colin Campbell, Serene Skincare, Paul Robinson, Ebanisti, Cabinet Makers and Kitchen Design, Killyleagh Catch Fish and Chip Shop in Catherine St and Wrap and Roll, Coffee and Sandwich Bar, Church St Downpatrick, who supplied the water.


Having managed to secure Friday night, courtesy of Killyleagh’s decision to substitute 13.1 miles for the usual 5 and of necessity, they having to resort to Saturday morning, in order to ensure everyone had daylight to finish in, the Strangford Festival 10K was rewarded with a lovely Summer evening. 


Last year I wrote that I thought the route was relatively flat, as it’s Co. Down where by tradition we don’t do flat at all. Well this year just to check it out I ran it and must offer an apology to those who always accuse me of finding the hilliest circuits around.  It’s difficult to admit when you’re wrong and may well leave an indelible mark on my reputation but I’m sorry to say it’s not flat – it’s practically horizontal!  Admittedly there is one very noticeable hill but it’s DOWN hill at around 8K. So dry your eyes those who imagined it was tough and hilly, I’m on the lookout for a few hills for next year.


The race was won in effortless style by Newcastle’s Zak Hanna in 34.05 using it as a speed session in preparation for some hill work, with East Down’s Gary Cull 42.14  and Dermot Cahill 42. 22 in 14th and 15thi respectively. Lisa Laird was the best of the East Down ladies taking an excellent 3rd place in 44.47. Ian McCracken positively cruised round it in 51.02.  Even though some of us missed the start we managed to pull in at least half a dozen of the early birds, yet somehow, according to the results, there was only one behind me after I crossed the line.  It’s bad enough missing the start but missing the finish!!  I hope they’re not still out there. 


A couple of results caught my eye while delving through the copious results earlier today.  Andrew Telford 1.20.17 and Mark McDowell 1.27.10 completed the Mourne Triathlon in Castlewellan Park on Saturday , in what I believe was their first attempt at this sort of thing.  While I’m tempted to say the lengths some people will go to to avid paying for a shower after a run, I am more inclined to sit back in admiration and say Well Done. 


I really can’t avoid mentioning this remarkable lady.  She had the dubious pleasure of my company last Friday night in Ballyhornan at the end of the Lecale Way 10k and she turned up on Saturday morning in Killyleagh, ran the Half marathon in 2.34 and then turned out on Sunday morning with the 7.00am starters and ran the Armagh Marathon in 5.31, accompanied by two of East Down’s best endurance runners Linda Cunningham and Oonagh Brétéché!! The question I’m asking is, when does she sleep? Super Effort by a lovely lady, Well Done Paula.


And on the subject of Congratulations, Sunday’s effort was Linda’s 50th Marathon,  Well Done from everyone at East Down AC and here’s to the next 50!


I have no idea what’s happening next locally, at this moment I’m not really bothered, just glad to have a break for a few weeks, but I’ll update you next week.

Joe Quinn

29 August 2016