Weekend Report – December 20th

Christmas is coming and the goose is getting fat! That may well be the case, but Christmas is also synonymous with the City of Derry Spartans A.C. North-West Cross Country race at Gransha and, more recently, with the Tollymore Forest Park Born 2 Run ‘Run Forest Run’, Tollymore 10k. Meanwhile, the Chairman, Thomas Leitch, was in Co. Antrim on Saturday, near the Sallagh Braes above Ballygalley and Carncastle (Cairncastle), taking part in the revamped Knockdhu Mountain Race.

In recent years there has been a healthy Orangegrove representation at the City of Derry Spartans A.C. cross country race in the grounds of Gransha Hospital on the east side of the river. This is a no-nonsense affair and maybe the way cross country running should be. Apart from a few earlier junior races for primary school pupils, U13s, U15s and U17s, the main adult race of the day of 6k at 12.30, hosting some of the best runners in the country, sees everybody in together, ladies, men, U20s and oldies. And it works very well indeed! There is the predictable festive cheer and the inevitable great post race spread to look forward to, and it is done and dusted by 2pm! The course is interesting too. Following a ‘hell for leather’ charge across a wide grassy area at the start the race settles into a fairly picturesque tour of the hospital grounds. For those who like a section of muck in which to wallow, the back of the course will oblige. Yes, it is all over and done with very quickly and we are grateful to Gerry Lynch and Spartans for their slick organisation and the generosity of their spread.

But, on a slightly more serious note, this is a round of the Athletics Northern Ireland Cross Country League and so we would like to get as many pairs of both male and female spikes in the mud as possible to enable us to build upon our great showing at Cookstown last week. Essentially, we need at least two teams of four and for a Club the size of Orangegrove that should not be a problem. Nevertheless, it is a difficult time of the year for long distance travel for many and inevitably our numbers will be down on those we enjoyed at Acorns.

Both ladies and men’s teams made the journey on the day, and successfully too. The ladies team consisted of Lisa Fleming, Jill Holland, Julie McKimm and Emma McWilliams. For the man, Robin Montgomery, Andy McIntyre, Chris Downey and Brian Todd travelled. Chris was a bit under the weather on the day and had already taken part in the Derry parkrun. A heavy shower just before the start didn’t dampen our spirits and as the race began at 12.30 temperatures were spectacularly high for the time of the year.

The following times and positions were achieved by Orangegrove runners:

Andy McIntyre 22.47
Robin Montgomery 23.27
Brian Todd 25.50
Chris Downey 26.34
Julie McKimm 26.56
Emma McWilliams 28.33
Lisa Fleming 29.14
Jill Holland 30.08

Great running from both the ladies and gents. Julie McKimm was in her usual super form and Emma McWilliams too showed that she can mix it with the best when the need arises. Both Lisa Fleming and Jill Holland ran great races and finished well up in the results. Andy McIntyre travels well and bagged a very good result in a quality field with Robin Montgomery not too far behind. Brian Todd and Chris Downey completed the quartet.

The race was won by Declan Reed (Spartans) in 18.59 and Julie Butler (Omagh Harriers) was first lady home in 22.33.

The other big race of the weekend was the Born2Run ‘Run Forest Run’ 10k at Tollymore Forest Park, Newcastle, Co. Down, a favourite for many. This is the fourth race in the eight event series. The race starts at 11am. Those who complete at least six of the races are awarded the much sought after Run Forest Run tee shirt. The race route is a picturesque one with great views of the Mourne Mountains, through the trees, from the beautiful trails on both sides of the Shimna River. The river is traversed at least four times, using the bridges of course! We wish those from Orangegrove taking part in this great race an enjoyable and safe journey and a finishers medal of which to be proud.

In the end Orangegrove was represented by two men and four ladies, Jason Moore, Michael O’Donoghue, Sarah Malcolmson, Mairead Napier, Karen Russell and Shona Pryde.

Although conditions were sometimes difficult underfoot and the course at times challenging, spirits and temperatures were, nevertheless, high and some very respectable times were recorded by the people in orange. An amazing 686 runners took part!

Michael O’Donoghue 47.18 (99th/686)
Jason Moore 57.16
Karen Russell 1.01.05
Sarah Malcolmson 1.04.49
Mairead Napier 1.09.45
Shona Pryde 1.15.12

Well done to all who represented Orangegrove so well on the day. The race was won by William McKee (Mourne Runners) in 35.19 with Laura Graham (Mourne Runners) first lady in 39.01.

On Saturday Thomas Leitch, the Chairman, plumped for the Knockdhu Classic Fell Race which starts on a mountain road above Carncastle (Cairncastle) and takes the runner on a traverse of the steep inclines and declines in the vicinity of the Sallagh Braes, Knockdhu and Robin Young’s Hill, a distance of about 4.3 miles with 1500m of ascent. This is a charity race and there is no entry fee, but all donations on the day are in support of Cancer Focus NI. Some years ago this race was run by Larne A.C and was sponsored by P&O Ferries; it had international status and attracted athletes from all over the British Isles and Europe. It has been resurrected in recent years by the worthy efforts of the Lagan Valley international mountain racer Hazel McLaughlin, originally from the Larne area, who deserves much credit for her hard work and steely determination. While Thomas will run the course Liz will, of course, be officiating at some far flung and exposed location. It is not one for the faint hearted, but Thomas never had one of those. We wish him well! He will undoubtedly earn his post race mulled wine and mince pies in Matties Meeting House on the wonderfully named Brustin Brea Road!

Nearly fifty of the country’s best mountain runners took part in the race and Orangegrove’s Thomas Leitch had a superb day finishing fourth overall and winning the M40 age category prize.

The race was won by Dale Mathers (Mourne Runners) in 47.19 and Shileen O’Kane was first lady in 52.50.

Very well done indeed, Thomas (and Liz). Maybe this is one that we should be looking at for next year, given that we already have a better than average Hill and Dale group within the Club.

Victoria Park parkrun took place as usual at 9.30am on Saturday morning in almost balmy conditions. Those wearing jackets, leggings, hats and base layers probably found themselves at a distinct disadvantage after the first few hundred yards. This is the party season and the Friday evenings before Christmas are inevitably top heavy with the kind of parties that could make the running of a statutory 5k the next morning a considerable inconvenience. Nevertheless, there was some excellent running on the day from the OAC regulars. The ever improving Graeme Bennett was the first Club finisher on 20.48 and both Sile Brennan and Anne Moore finished together as first Club females in 24.29.

There were personal bests from Sam Rainey (JM10/24.15), and Eoghan Rainey 24.23. At Stormont Rory Hall-Thompson (JM11-14) finished in 8th place in a great 21.22, Colin Sykes recorded a personal best of 25.42 and Reg Sanlon recorded 26.03. At the Waterworks Lyndsey Tyro was flying in a super personal best time for this venue of 19.54 which gave her the first lady garland. Well done Lyndsey! Her husband Paul finished in 7th place in 18.55. At Larne parkrun at Carnfunnock, Thomas Leitch, en-route to the mountain race at Knockdhu, toured the course in 22.36 while at Derry parkrun, prior to the North West XC races, Chris Downey circulated in a leisurely 27.42. His previous best time at this venue is 19.30.

It is soon going to be the time for New Year’s resolutions. You might consider making one of yours the determination to volunteer at your local parkrun a bit more often than you have been doing up to now. So, contact Gerry Ward at belfastvictoriahelpers@parkrun.com and get your New Year off to a flying start!