Festive Round-up

With the way that Christmas fell this year it was very much a case of parkrun with bells on it. There was a Christmas morning parkrun on the Friday and a Boxing Day parkrun on the Saturday, both at Victoria Park. However, this did not complete the festive running fare.

On Boxing Day there was the Greencastle 5 mile road race in Co. Tyrone and also the Burren Townland’s Run, near Rostrevor, in Co. Down. On Monday 28th December, the popular Christmas Cracker at Castlewellan Forest Park took place and well over thirty Orangegrovers and supporters turned up on the day. Michael O’Donoghue competed in the East Antrim Marathon Series Carrickfergus marathon on Wednesday 30th and, the following day, the last day of the year, Graeme Bennett was in Co. Tyrone for the Lough 5 mile road race at Loughmacrory.

On the 1st of January the challenging Race over the Glens at Glenariff took centre stage, and that wasn’t the end of it! On both New Year’s Day and Saturday 2nd January there was the usual parkrun bandwagon, with varying time configurations allowing some members to run two in the one morning and certainly two on consecutive days. Also on Saturday 2nd, January, down at Kilbroney Forest Park, near Rostrevor, a number of Orangegrovers lined up for the Born2Run ‘Run Forest Run’ 10k trail race! On Sunday 3rd January, 2016, some of us turned up at the Mary Peters Track for the John T. Glover/Lagan Valley AC 5k handicap trail race. Phew!

There are three Greencastles that I know of in Northern Ireland. There is one in North Belfast, one in Co. Down on the shores of Carlingford Lough and then there is an extremely remote Greencastle high up in the Sperrins about half way between Cookstown and Omagh. Well, the latter one was the venue for the 30th running of the Greencastle 5 mile road race on Boxing Day, and what a great event it was.

Read the full race report here.

However, OAC on Boxing Day did not just revolve around Greencastle, Co. Tyrone! Andy McIntyre would have revelled in the mists of the Sperrins but he has romantic associations in South Down and he very wisely plumped for a race closer to home, her home, (though a race twelve miles long as opposed to five), that would be more likely to maintain his domestic harmony than travelling to the wilds of Co. Tyrone.

This was the Burren Townlands 12 mile road race which started at the Burren Heritage Centre, not too far from Warrenpoint. There was also a 6 mile option. Andy is running very well at the moment and he scorched round the course in 1.22.07 to finish in a very creditable 6th place overall, which certainly put him in form for his Boxing Day lunch and a few drinks with the inlaws. Well done Andy!

The Burren Townland’s 12 miler was won by Christopher Devine (Newry City Runners) in 1.13.12 and Eimear Devine (Newry City Runners) was first lady in 1.29.29.


Closer to home, Orangegrove is traditionally well represented at the CIYMS rugby club’s charity run in and around Belfast’s Circular Road, and it was no exception this year. Orangegrove’s Jim Harris is at the heart of this one and we are always very glad to support any venture that he hosts.

Jim is not only a successful OAC sprinter in his own right but one of Victoria Park parkrun’s most loyal volunteers. In the end seven lovely ladies and Ian Grant ran. The ladies were Jacqui Maxwell, Linda Carson-Craig, Julie McKimm, Kerris Hamilton, Sharon McFarland, Jackie Grant and Sharon Corken.

I haven’t seen any results from this one yet. I am not even sure there are results or, if there are results, whether they matter. However, what I am sure of is that there was fun, laughter, music, festivity, food, wine and craic and that a good cause or two benefited. Well done all who ran at CIYMS on Boxing Day!

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. Read the full race report here.

As if running over Slievenaslat (272m) on Monday 28th with the lovely Anne Moore wasn’t hard work enough (the run, not Anne), Michael O’Donoghue then casually threw in a little marathon on Wednesday 30th just to see his year out in style. He ran in the East Antrim Marathon Series Carrickfergus run which started in Carrickfergus and then followed a route southwards along the shore path towards Belfast.

The Duncrue/Dargan Road area was included before a more pleasing stretch over the bridges into East Belfast and the Titanic Quarter. Then it was out along Sydenham Road and Airport Road towards Victoria Park where, I suspect, the runners were due to complete at least a lap before the return journey to Carrickfergus.

However, Victoria Park just happened to be closed that day due to flooding and a further section of Airport Road had to be contemplated before the turn and return journey. Conveniently Michael posts his stats on Strava and they indicate a full marathon distance of 26.3 miles completed at an average pace of 9.30 (minute/miles) and a final time of 4.04.51. Exhausting, even thinking about it!

Very well done indeed, MOD. Your club is both proud of you but also a little worried for you. You have had a great year. The worry is….what on earth will he attempt next to improve on it in 2016? The one thing we do know is that he will not sit still! Super running! Surely he will not throw in the Race over the Glens as well!


On Thursday 31st December, the last day of the year, Graeme Bennett was in Co. Tyrone at the village of Loughmacrory, not far from Omagh, taking part in the Lough 5 mile road race, which includes a lap of the Lough itself. Graeme is running extremely well at the moment and he completed the race in 35.34 (102nd/532), despite a killer hill which, it would appear, is a regular feature of five mile road races in Co. Tyrone.

Very well done indeed, Graeme, and grateful thanks for representing Orangegrove so well on the occasion. The race was won by Paddy Hamilton (Slieve Gullion Runners) in 25.14, with Julie Butler (Omagh Harriers) first lady in 30.39.

It is traditionally a busy time of the year and no sooner has the Christmas Cracker been put to bed than we are contemplating the Race over the Glens on New Year’s Day. Now, New Year’s Day up at Glenariff Forest Park can be a pretty grim place to be weather wise.

It does require a bit of an effort to get there as well, even for the 12 noon start. Most of us will have been imbibing a little the night before and the prospect of a fairly stiff six mile run the next day does not usually sit well with the majority of us, at least the ordinary mortals amongst us. Read the full race report here.

Saturday 2nd January brought the Run Forest Run (Born2Run) 10k trail race at Kilbroney Forest Park, near Rostrevor, Co. Down. Over 600 runners took part in the December 10k at Tollymore, and this latest race promises to be just as popular. It is a fairly challenging run too, taking place, as it does, on the trails in and around Slievemartin. Those of us who did the Hill and Dale series this year know all about the one or two surprises that this area a can conjure up.

The action begins at 11am and a fair number of Orangerovers are expected to travel south. Whether any of them will also have done the previous day’s Race over the Glens remains to be seen! Michael O’Donoghue might just be daft enough to do both! Registration is in the Cloughmor Inn in Rostrevor and the race actually starts in the town centre before taking the runner in and around the forest park a few times. This is the fifth race in the eight race series and runners who complete at least six of the runs qualify for the quite collectable Run Forest Run/ Born2Run tee shirt. The next one after Kilbroney is at Mount Stewart on Saturday January 16th.

Kilbroney 10k times for Orangegrove Members:

Andy McIntyre 39.41 (10th/ 454)
Michael O’Donoghue 45.51
Ian Millgate 49.42
Verity Cornford 53.34
Kerris Hamilton 56.10
Sarah Malcolmson 57.31
Catherine Fearon 1.00.58
Mairead Napier 1.03.15
Linda Carson-Craig 1.03.15

Very well done indeed to all running at Kilbroney today. Super run from Andy McIntyre to finish in 10th place overall out of 454 runners. Great too to see that Verity Cornford’s hard work in training is beginning to pay a dividend.

The Kilbroney 10k was won by William McKee (Mourne Runners) in 34.06 and Laura Graham (Mourne Runners) was first lady 38.08.

The final event of the so called Festive Season will probably be the Lagan Valley AC Charity Handicap race of about 5k on Sunday morning, beginning at the Mary Peters Track at 10am. Our old friend John T. Glover is behind this very worthy attempt to raise funds for the Mary Peters Trust which aims to enable young athletes to reach their true potential. Registration is at the MPT from 9.30 and the action begins at 10am when the first groups will head off on a route taking in the Lagan towpath, Shaw’s Bridge, the House of Sport, part of the route of the Queen’s parkrun, the pitches above the old Dub pavilion and then back to the MPT. I know of some Orangegrovers who will be turning up on the day. The space below will be filled in due course with the results of their endeavours before this report is uploaded to the main website. May they all run well tomorrow! Trail shoes of some kind would appear to be the preferred option.

And it rained and rained and rained and we were soaked to the skin. However, it was over quickly, a good cause benefited and the craic was good back in the pavilion at the MPT. Times and position were not important. Three OAC members made it to the start line:

Emma McWilliams 24.17
Brian Todd 24.17
Liz Leitch 25.48

Victoria Park parkrun elected to run on Christmas morning and, despite the unfavourable weather, 145 revellers turned up to take advantage of the opportunity to run 5k on the big day. First male Orangegrover home in 17.59 in 4th place was Paul Tyro with his wife, Lyndsey, not to be outdone, first lady in 19.24. Well done the Tyro’s.

Emma McWilliams, who usually runs her parkruns at Ormeau which is on her doorstep, turned up at Victoria on Christmas morning and ran a personal best for this venue of 23.45. Well done, Emma! Diana Porter is making a habit of personal bests and looked comfortable running a pb of 28.33 on Christmas morning.

On Boxing Day the Orangegrove personal bests at Victoria Park were by Ian Millgate (22.07), Sam Rainey (JM10/23.34), Eoghan Rainey (23.48). Ralph Coetzee was first Orangegrove male in 21.13 and Hannah Macleod was first OAC lady in 26.01. Also on Boxing Day, Pauline Bayliss was first lady, as usual, at Stormont in 22.51.

Paul Buchanan was a first timer at Portrush in 25.06 and Kirsty set a personal best for the venue of 27.13. Well done, Kirsty! Verity Cornford was at home for Christmas in Cheshire and took in the lovely Delemere Forest parkrun where she got round in 26.34, a personal best for her home venue. Well done, Verity! Michael O‘Donoghue was with his relatives in Glasgow for the festive season and took in Pollok parkrun on Boxing Day where he toured round in 26.40. He was at the same location on Christmas Day and registered 25.49.

Having run on Christmas Day there was no Victoria Park parkrun on New Year’s Day, but the first day of 2016 will bring a novel opportunity to run two parkruns in the one morning. The Stormont parkrun has linked up with those at Comber and Waterworks to enable two for one. Stormont will begin at the much later time of 11am to allow those running at Comber (9.30am) and Waterworks (9.45am) to get to the later destination. Other configurations may be possible if you have access to a helicopter. Both Victoria Park and Ormeau will run as usual on Saturday, 2nd January, so three in two days is possible. However, remember…. ‘no barcode, no time’!

So, how did it go for Orangegrovers at parkrun on the first two days of 2016?

Well, the best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry! The ‘two in one’ experiment was scuppered for some by the late cancellation due to icy conditions of the Waterworks parkrun, leaving it only possible for those who initially went to Comber to do the double. So, on New Year’s Day the following Orangegrovers did the double. In the end, complicated mathematics were not necessary to spot those who doubled up, because all Orangegrovers who turned up at Comber also managed to get themselves to Stormont for the 11am start. They were:

Comber Stormont
Darren Houston 22.43 22.42
Reg Sanlon 26.12 26.45
Adam Sykes 26.23 28.09
Colin Sykes 26.24 32.27
Lisa Fleming 27.51 26.33 (PB)
Michael O’Donoghue 28.22 26.39 (PB)
Fintan Hurl 28.23 27.15 (PB)
Martin Walker 28.31 29.31
Neal Killen 32.34 33.39
Anne Devlin 32.53 35.04
Stephen Craig 32.53 34.58
Deborah Killen 38.09 37.02 (PB)

Lyndsey Tyro also recorded a personal best of 20.33 for the Stormont venue. On New Year’s Day Orangegrove participation was impressive at the two venues, 12 at Comber and 35 at Stormont. Stormont recorded 500 participants on the day……but there may have been more!

Then it was Saturday parkrun as usual at Victoria Park on 2nd January, 2016. Rather dismal conditions greeted the runners as they arrived, nearly 150 in number, some to enjoy their third run in two days and at least one member, Martin Walker, his fifth in eight days. However, at least it wasn’t cold, Gary said his piece and off everybody set at the designated time of 9.30am.

After the excesses of the previous week the results indicate that for Orangegrovers it was not a day to be running personal bests. However, there was one notable exception to this. Adrienne Savage, a young lady who rarely gives herself any credit at all for her running, stunned everybody, not least of all herself, by running a fine personal best of 28.46. Very well done indeed, Adrienne! Only the tip of the proverbial iceberg! Robin Montgomery, despite his recent gruelling race schedule, was first Orangegrover home in 18.38 (4th place).

Photo by Colin Glen parkrun There were two Orangegrove ‘winners’ of local parkruns on Saturday 2nd January, 2016. Paul Tyro was first finisher at Queen’s in 18.50. Lyndsey, his wife, was not there to steal his thunder, as she usually does, difficult as that would have been, because she was helping to serve the teas and coffees at Victoria Park parkrun. Thomas Leitch, who inexplicably likes hills to run up, was at Colin Glen this morning where he was first finisher in 20.09. Well done Paul and Thomas!

It will not happen unless there are people running about in hi vis jackets making it happen. To join this elite corps of hi vis helpers email Gerry Ward on belfastvictoriahelpers@parkrun.com. He will then find you a nice little job to do and you can then wear that jacket, and they come in green or orange, with pride. Do it now and get your 2016 off to a healthy volunteering start!

Photo credits: NiRunning, Greencastle 5 Mile, mcglonemedia@gmail.com, John T Glover, Lagan Valley AC, Born2Run, Stormont parkrun, Colin Glen parkrun, Louise Browne, Michael O’Donoghue, Sharon McFarland, Catherine Fearon, Sarah Malcolmson, Tim Robinson and Kirsty Buchanan.