Rollercoaster 5K – Club Championship

There will undoubtedly be a huge turnout from OAC at the Rollercoaster Races, due to take place on Saturday at Downpatrick Racecourse. Beginning at noon with a series of Junior races, including a 1.5k ‘Colts and Fillies Stakes’ race in which I understand the accomplished young OAC athlete, Rory Hall-Thompson, will compete for the last time as an U13, there will be plenty going on before the Senior event – the Rollercoaster Derby – gets underway at 2.15pm. The second race of this year’s club championship will give us all the chance to unleash our inner horse as we gallop along the 5k course (25 furlongs in horse racing parlance).

It is not a cross country event – all the races take place on the perimeter road – so apparently we will not have muddy or wet feet to contend with (Ian Reid’s new spikes will have to remain in their box a little while longer!). According to the event organiser, Joe Quinn of East Down AC, there are no hurdles or fences to negotiate, although he does add, rather ominously I must say, that “they are not flat races either”! Those of us who have watched the course video posted online have a feeling we’re in for a bumpy ride! There is no doubt, however, that the organisation of these races will be anything other than smooth – Joe Quinn is renowned for his high standards. I haven’t been a runner for long, but it is already apparent to me that Joe is a bit of a legend in the running community. If you ever have a query about a race he is organising, don’t hesitate to get in touch with him. You’ll be sure to get a prompt and encouraging response!

Personally, I am really looking forward to Saturday as it gives me the opportunity to return to Downpatrick to re-live my glory days on the school sports field. Such was my enthusiastic for PE back then, I used to take a detour into the bus station on my way to Down Leisure Centre for the compulsory two hour ‘games’ session – the express bus home to Dundrum was a much more attractive option. Fast-forward twenty years and it’s safe to say there will be no repeat of this behaviour on Saturday. On the contrary, I can’t wait to experience the thrills of the Rollercoaster Derby. How could a race named after a funfair ride be anything but enjoyable?

And I’m happy to report that Orangegrove’s “day at the races” was a great success, despite the intermittent rain and blustery winds which threatened at times to blow us off course! The weather appeared to have put off other athletes – almost half (it seemed like more) of those taking part in the Senior race were wearing orange vests. As someone pointed out, it was as if a “sea of orange” had descended on Down Racecourse to brighten up an otherwise damp and dreary day!

Two OAC athletes took part in the Junior races: Sam Rainey and Rory Hall-Thompson. I watched Rory as he powered his way around the 1.5k course to secure 2nd place in the U13 Boys and Girls race – he makes it look effortless. Congratulations Rory on another fine performance! And well done to Sam who also ran a great race.

As the Junior races drew to a close, the OAC Seniors began to venture out along the track in an effort to warm up for the final race of the day: the 5k Rollercoaster Derby. Forty out of the 89 participants were OAC members and the following times were recorded:


Andy McIntyre 18:22 70.42% (6th)
Robin Montgomery 19:12 (1st M45)
Tim Robinson 20:48 68.19%
Brian Todd 21:16 78.13%
Stephen Anderson 21:27 67.68%
Martin O’Brien 21:30 63.95%
Ian Grant 21:55 60.53%
Andrew Allen 22:19 65.57%
Ian Millgate 22:27 61.25%
Michael O’Donoghue 23:56 57.03%
Gerald Harvey 24:22 67.58%
Alan Martin 25:33 60.67%
Reg Sanlon 26:14 64.55%
Martin Walker 27:29 50.82%
Adrian Sproule 27:33 47.07%
Jason Moore 29:15 44.10%
Neal Killen 31:43 45.40%
Ian Reid 34:43 40.23%
Eoin Woodman 37:51 50.07%


Trudy Brown 21:46 72.97% (1st F45)
Pauline Bayliss 22:25 67.81%
Julie McKimm 22:46 67.20%
Emma McWilliams 23:50 66.01%
Lisa Rodham 24:00 61.74%
Jill Holland 24:16 68.27%
Jacqui Maxwell 24:59 71.51%
Alison Hall-Thompson 26:38 57.45%
Trish Magill 26:48 59.27%
Jenny Powell 27:06 56.09%
Kerris Hamilton 28:20 53.41%
Linda Craig 28:21 63.02%
Catherine Fearon 28:48 51.39%
Kirsty Buchanan 28:54 51.21%
Hilary Bradshaw 28:54 51.21%
Sarah Malcolmson 29:37 50.48%
Judith McCann 29:41 51.21%
Karen Russell 29:47 51.37%
Beverley Martin 30:47 57.28%
Anne Devlin 31:34 55.17%
Deborah Killen 38:42 43.84%

The Rollercoaster 5k race was won by David O’Flaherty (Newcastle AC) in 16:35 and Rebecca Henderson (Dromore AC) in 19:03.

While this wasn’t a course for a 5k personal best, there were some very strong performances on the day from a significant number of OAC athletes, so many in fact that it’s impossible to mention all of them in this report (I’m already concerned about the length of it!). However, Andy McIntyre, Robin Montgomery and Trudy Brown ran particularly well, with Andy finishing first amongst his club mates and in 6th place (out of 89) overall, and both Robin and Trudy winning first prize in their respective age categories (M45 and F45).

Judith McCann, who recently joined the club and was running in her first race as a fully signed-up member, also deserves a special mention. Judith completed Jog Belfast with me this time last year so I know that she’s already a good runner and has the potential to be very good indeed! Another club member who stood out on the day was Deborah Killen, who was competing in her first ‘non-parkrun’ event. Deborah appeared to enjoy the experience, particularly the last few metres of the race when she received fantastic support from her club mates. We hope that this will be the first race of many for you Deborah!

It was, however, Michael O’Donoghue (aka MOD) who was, in many people’s minds, the star of the Rollercoaster race on Saturday. Around 30 seconds after the firing of the starting pistol, OAC’s most intrepid runner rushed past us on his way to the start line. Having already completed Antrim parkrun and the Born 2 Run 10k at Antrim Castle (more of which later), MOD had left himself a bit short of time to get to Downpatrick and many of us were slightly concerned when we noticed he wasn’t anywhere to be seen as we lined up to start at 2.15pm. So you can imagine the cheers that broke out when he came hurtling past us, determined not to let his late arrival knock too many minutes off his overall time. It will surprise no one that he still managed to run a fine race! He was spotted at the end, smiling to himself as he counted out his pennies for the entry fee. I can only guess he was smiling with relief – it must have been a stressful afternoon!

Following the post-race refreshments (the tastiest soup I’ve had in a long time) there was a short ceremony during which the overall and age category winners, including our very own Robin and Trudy, stepped forward to receive their prizes. The event then drew to a close, but not before club captain Robin took the opportunity to present Julie McKimm and Emma McWilliams with their 2015 Club Championship medals for first and second place respectively.

OAC is grateful to Joe Quinn and his friends from East Down AC for the smooth organisation of yesterday’s races and for making us feel so welcome. Special thanks must also go to my work colleague, Mags Mathieson, for taking care of the timing. I tried to bribe her to take a few minutes off my time but, needless to say, I didn’t get anywhere! And, of course, a huge thank you to the OAC supporters who travelled to Downpatrick to cheer us all on.

It will be interesting to see if the age grading makes much difference to the positions in the club championship table. The club captains are currently working on the results and will provide us with an updated list as soon as possible. We all appreciate the efforts of both Robin and Eleanor in delivering what has so far been a very well organised and enjoyable 2016 club championship.