Hill and Dale Race 1: Castlewellan

Castlewellan Forest Park is home to all sorts of outdoor activities with its lake, maze, play structures and forest offering 27km of scenic mountain bike trails, walking trails and a permanent orienteering course.

Thursday evening saw 257 athletes arrive to take part in the first race of this year’s Hill & Dale Series, an increasingly popular race Series hosted by Newcastle AC. The race covered approximately 5 miles with 900ft of ascent (and descent – Race 4 finishes at the top of Binnian).

The Series has been popular among those who have taken part in previous years and a number of Orangegrove members were disappointed to be unable to take part in the race. Among the 257, however, were six representatives looking bright eyed and bushy-tailed.

“What shoes should I wear?” One question often heard in anticipation of a good night out. Well, the experienced Michael O’Donoghue found his Hokas to be less than ideal at the top. Despite two falls he still managed to be the first Orangegrove runner to cross the finish line. Darren Marshall was next across the line with a strong finish in his first Hill & Dale race.

The shoe theme continued with Sharon Dickenson who, with determination, would not be put off a challenging race despite having forgotten her orthotics. Unfortunately the steep climbs and muddy technical sections proved too much without appropriate footwear and Sharon had to pull out. Sharon has indicated that she will be back with orthotics glued to her feet!

Verity Conford put in a strong performance and Stephen Craig and Judith Dalzell followed across the line to complete their first Hill & Dale.

Reigning Champions William McKee (Mourne Runners) and Shileen O’Kane (Lagan Valley AC) retained their titles from last year’s race with times of 00:32:54 and 00:41:55
Our club results were listed as follows:

87 Michael O’Donoghue 45:18
123 Darren Marshall 48:30
213 Verity Cornford 55:27
243 Stephen Craig 1:07:37
245 Judith Dalzell  1:09:29

Despite shoe problems, it seems that a good night out was had by all.

Thanks to Anne Devlin for the photographs and support.

If anyone is considering the Hill & Dale Series I would recommend it. I only managed two races last year but there was a strong sense of camaraderie not only among club members but among all those taking part. There are specific requirements regarding registration and safety, details of which can be found on the Newcastle Athletics Club web site.