The Weekly News – 04/09/17


With 2 of Northern Ireland’s leading races featuring at the weekend it was always going to be difficult for East Down runners to chose between them  though in reality with the present requirement to pre – enter prior to race day to ensure your place, most had made their minds up long ago. Had it not been for this, the weather would certainly have been a major factor in determining the size of the entry for both the Waterside Half Marathon and  the Laganside 10K on Sunday. Not to mention the BK10K, which  initially looked under threat of abandonment in the awful conditions, before an abatement of the conditions kept

the show on the road. Race organiser James Magennis was a mighty relieved man when he saw the incredible field of 74, including some of the best local talent, set off on his newly chosen out and back course along the Tyrella shoreline to Minerstown. It was indeed fortunate that the weather eased when it did, as James had chosen Motor Neurone Disease as his charity to benefit this year,  because this terrible illness had claimed the lives of 2 young men from the area in recent weeks.

The 10K was won convincingly by Newcastle’s David Simpson in an incredible 33.31, and he in turn added a very nice touch by presenting a trophy to Ballykinlar GAC for the first local runner to finish. David said he had a particular affinity with the charity and had raised money for it following the death of his dad from MND, some 26 years ago, at the early age of just 54 years. Second Male was East Down’s Brendan Teer, who certainly chose difficult conditions for his comeback, though it gave him a good idea of his fitness level.  Anyway Welcome Back Benny, you have been sorely missed.

The Women’s10K winner was Niamh O’Connell Murlough AC with East Down’s Cheryl Denvir in 2nd.

In the 5K race Thomas Carson clocked a splendid 18.03 with young Ross Kerr in 2nd. The first Female across the line in the 5K was  Rhonda Brady with Murlough’s Leah Calvert in 2nd.


Barrie  Atkinson made the long journey to Derry on Saturday morning for the Waterside Half Marathon and was rewarded with a 1.17.17 time for 8th place overall and 3rd in the Male Over 40 Category.


Sunday was also the day for the Laganside 10K, which continues to attract large crowds of both runners and spectators. Again the organisers will have been relieved to have avoided the weather extremes of the morning and over 1,000 runners turned out.

First East Down runner home was Catherine O’ Connor, who is rapidly recovering her mojo, finishing 3rd in her category and 4th overall in 38.31, with Niamh Kellett again breaking the 40 minute barrier in 39.52, next to follow. It was good to see old stalwarts Liam Keenan 42.00 and Liam Smyth 43.37 back in the fray again after long spells out due to illness, injury and  family commitments. Kieran McMahon gave his new vest a first outing and will have gone home happy with his 45.52 timing.

Gareth Amos benefited from a late drop out to get his entry and was pleased to have recorded 50.30.


Last Thursday night at the last of the Firmus Super 6 meetings at Mary Peters Track East Down juniors certainly kept up the pressure on the seniors to stay focussed on their upcoming races by producing a series of inspirational and heart warming  performances. Of course Lauren Madine sets the standard for everyone and continued her golden summer with 1st place in the Under 13 Girls 200m and 2nd in the 800m. Emily Burns was 5th in the 600m Minis category with the ever willing Ella Telford in 22nd and remember in these events a fraction of a second can make a difference of several places.


The Boys were equally well served by the 2 Robinson brothers Alex and Ollie. It is worth noting too that Alex is still on the young side even for the Minis age group – we tend to forget just how young some of our members are and how much of a difference even 6 months can make at their tender years. Anyway at the moment Ollie wins the medals and Alex provides the enthusiasm. Ollie was 3rd in the150m and 6th in the Long Jump while Alex had a good go at both and will be worth watching next year. Harry Nelson also represented the Club in the 150m. Well done to them for turning out.


Meanwhile Matthew McGrattan was representing his school and his club as a member of the NI Schools 4 x 400m Relay Team the UK Schools Games at Loughborough. He ran a strong 3rd leg as his team placed 4th in 3.31.96. Well Done Matthew and undoubtedly you will learn from the experience.


On Saturday Lara Proctor- Amos was joined by her Mum Linda to take part in the Pretty Muddy 5K for Cancer Research UK and though allegedly only there to make sure Lara didn’t get too dirty, rumour has it that she enjoyed every minute of it and in fact proved something of an expert at getting down and dirty.


On Friday evening I left Downpatrick to travel to the beautiful, flat county of Fermanagh in preparation for my attempt at running the so called  Stairway to Heaven.  I have always said that you’re closer to God when you’re out running, and certainly it is one activity which causes more requests for divine assistance than any other. So why not put it to the test – if this really is the Stairway to Heaven, more precisely the Cuilcagh Mountain Boardwalk on the Fermanagh / Cavan border at 665 metres above sea level,  then I need to know, for future planning purposes, what it’s like to travel on it. This particular challenge was brought to my attention on the Daye brothers Atlas Running site in July, when it offered 60 people the chance to experience this unique opportunity to run the Stairway. I couldn’t manage to be there on that occasion but as if by magic, wasn’t a second chance offered, by public demand, on 2nd September .I quickly threw my hat in the ring, not wanting to miss out with places being limited to 60.


I hadn’t done any specific training for the steps though I reckoned that ascending and descending the 13 stairs in my house at least once every day for 46 years  should be sufficient.  After all that equates to 235,060 steps so probably that would do. (Yes I know, but I lived in a bungalow before that.) This was based on the information that the stairway was made up of 1.6 Kms of raised boardwalk, 120 stepped sections leading to the main mountain staircase comprising 450 steps over 36 landings. (We’re a clever lot here you know, on the continent they find a scenic mountain and build a cable car or ski lifts to take people to the top – Here we find a mountain and put a ladder up the face of it and say away you go sure the fresh air will do you good and think of the exercise you’ll get!) Wee buns I thought!  Well actually I didn’t think about it at all, to my regret. What the information doesn’t give is details of the 2.5 miles of rough track and very steep climbs to be crossed before you even got to the boardwalk.

Anyway I got there in plenty of time and was informed that the format was to let runners go at 1 minute intervals with me being the first at 12.00 noon. At least I’d be leading for a minute or so.  Though the wind was strong and in my face I set off, foolishly, though accidentally, leaving my bottle of water behind.  There was a lot of people about, mostly walkers and sightseeing visitors, who in fairness were very supportive of the runners as they passed. It wasn’t long before I was overtaken by the next runner and so it continued as I struggled to keep one foot in front of the other, mainly due to what appeared to be gale force winds and gusts which almost blew me off my feet, you know the sort which literally blow down your throat so strongly that you can’t get a breath.  I learned afterwards that Sammy Daye had lugged 50 bottles of water to the summit earlier that day for the runners when they get there.  Note to Adrian/Sammy – leave water bottles at point where the boardwalk begins, if only to eliminate the risk to other users of being mugged for a sip of their water by someone as desperate as I was on Saturday.


Anyway all the usual questions came to mind as I struggled along the boardwalk, like why am I doing this, why couldn’t they make the boardwalk wider, what number comes after 137, as I attempted to count the steps, why has my Garmin stopped recording time and distance, the only 2 reasons why I brought it in the first place and later when I reached the cliff bottom Did they put the handrail or the steps in first? Later when I was at the top the most important question was How am I going to get down again, considering the wind which had tried its best to blow me off the track on the way up was not only trying to blow me over the clifftop, but was going to be behind on the way down. Don’t anyone think it’s easier running downhill with the wind at your back! When you’re clinging to a steep handrail and you’re semi- exhausted from the climb up, then the danger id that the wind will propel you forward than your legs will allow and the result is a visit to the bog. The perfect solution to both the problems is a helicopter! In fact an escalator up and a helicopter down sounds like perfection. The net result of all this getting the wind up is that none of the photos I promised myself on the way up that I’d stop and take on the way down were not taken.

Did I enjoy it? Well I’m glad I did it and would recommend it to anyone who has he bottle for it and wants to do something different that is a real challenge to look out for the next one, probably in July 2018, as the authorities only permit 2 per year. I set out to do it in one hour and made it in 59.23  – so mission accomplished. Best time on Saturday was 34.19 and best time overall between the 2 runnings is Newcastle’s David Simpson’s 28.47 in July. So far only 62 people have completed this particular challenge so if you want to become a member of a small club, which will not increase in size very quickly then ………..


The ALPS 5 and 10K races are next Sunday 10 September at 1.00pm from  Downpatrick Cricket Club.Please support this very worthy charity event which also features a new route through Finnebrogue Estate.  Worth doing for the novelty value alone.

The Mill Hill Mile in Castlewellan is on Tuesday 12th September and anyone wanting to take part in this fantastic event ( and who doesn’t?) MUST register online at before Monday 11th September at 9.00 pm.

Joe Quinn

4 September 2017