Castlewellan Christmas Cracker

Three days after Christmas Day traditionally brings the Castlewellan Christmas Cracker, organised by Newcastle A.C., a Club which knows a thing or two about organising races over difficult terrain. This is a ‘race’ of sorts in which competitors run (or otherwise) in pairs, which can be all male, all female or mixed. Apparently, this year there will be 203 male teams, 118 female teams and 129 mixed teams.

While time over the finish line is the final decider there is also an interesting combined age category element to the Cracker by which prizes can be allocated amongst the age groupings. This year, like last, I am pairing up with Liz Leitch for the Cracker. Our combined age category comes to 110, the vast majority of it supplied by me! So, Liz and I will be running in the Mixed 100-119 category on the day. The trouble with Liz is that she usually produces a little injury prior to the Cracker which, she says, will slow her down. Then, predictably, on the day, she runs like blazes and I end up exhausting myself trying to stay with her! Indeed, last year I had to take to my bed early after returning home from the Cracker! I am not sure what will happen this year! Time will tell!

Entries closed some time ago and it is expected that some 450 pairs will take to the roads, tracks and trails around Castlewellan village and the beautiful Castlewellan Forest Park on the day. The route is about eight and a half miles long and is not a straightforward one. This is drumlin country at its best, but it is also the foothills of the Mournes and the route involves at least two significant climbs, one over Slievenaslat (272 metres) itself. However, some way or other most of us will make it to the end for the exceptional post-race spread laid on by Newcastle A.C. in the local GAA clubhouse.

Well, the race was run in fairly benign conditions, very dull with a little wind but certainly not cold. Base layers were not needed. Orangegrove distinguished itself as a Club in terms of some of the outfits worn by many of its runners, as the accompanying photographs will testify. Some of the ladies looked particularly fetching and it was difficult for us males at times to concentrate on the difficult enough task of running up a mountain. There was a great Club turnout too (well over thirty), not only of runners but of cheer leaders and supporters in addition for what was one of the fun events of the year and we are very grateful for the efforts of those who took the trouble to dress up in the true spirit of the occasion and for those, like Antra Balcuna, who encouraged us to do so, some more successfully than others! We also thank Newcastle Athletics Club for a very well organised ‘race’ and for the great vegetable soup in the GAC clubhouse thereafter. Some of us had more than one bowl of the tasty stuff!

The following are the OAC results from the 2015 Castlewellan Christmas Cracker:

Male 80-99 Robin Montgomery/(Colin Simpson) 65.24
Mixed U80 Andrew Acheson/Antra Balcuna 72.30
Mixed U80 Michael O’Donoghue/Anne Moore 74.09
Mixed U80 Ian Grant/Lyndsey Tyro 75.20
Mixed 100-119 Brian Todd/ Liz Leitch 76.27
Female U80 Julie McKimm/Pauline Bayliss 79.04
Male U80 Darren Houston/Rodney Corrigan 83.24
Female 80-99 Trudy Brown/(Kathy Aiken) 83.35
Mixed 80-99 Jonny Weston/Carolyn Beattie 84.25
Male U80 Martin Doherty/(Paul Doherty) 90.55
Female 80-99 Lisa Fleming/(Cathy Fraser) 91.39
Mixed 80-89 Lisa Rodham/Reg Sanlon 94.20
Female U80 Verity Cornford/ Kerris Hamilton 94.31
Mixed 80-89 Ian Wilson/ Eleanor Acheson 96.34
Female 80-99 Melinda Wilkinson/ Sharon Corken 97.04
Female U80 Sarah Malcolmson/Anna Rankin 97.37
Mixed 100-119 Gerald Harvey/Jill Holland 98.13
Female U80 Jenny Powell/Alison Hall-Thompson 98.20
Female 80-99 Linda Carson-Craig/Mairead Napier 105.00

The male pairing (Male U80) of Andrew Monaghan (Lagan Valley AC) and Eoghan Totten (Newcastle AC) won the race in 50.54. David McNeilly (Newcastle AC) and Shalene McMurray (Newcastle AC) won the mixed pairing (Mixed U80) in 59.29. Denise Logue and Amanda Perry (Female 80-89) won the all female pairing in 68.54.