Weekend Report – May 2nd

The weekend itself was a rather quiet one. However, there was the usual fare of Hill and Dale on the preceding Thursday evening and the May Bank Holiday Monday itself brought the Deep River Rock Belfast Marathon in which OAC had a number of relay teams and a few intrepid individuals taking on the full challenge.

In between, Michael O’Donoghue, not to be outdone by the marathoners, took on the extraordinary challenge of the Hoka Highland Fling ultra marathon in Scotland, 53 miles in length no less, and there was also a round of the Firmus Energy Super 6 track and field at the Mary Peters Track and an East Antrim Marathon Series marathon and half marathon in and around Carrickfergus!

Hill and Dale Race 3 – Slieve Martin

Thursday evenings at this time of the year are synonymous with Newcastle Athletic Club’s super Hill and Dale Series. Following the two ‘taster’ events at Castlewellan and Tollymore, the third round at Slieve Martin is definitely more challenging, indeed probably not for the faint hearted. The action starts near the car park in Kilbroney Forest Park at Rostrevor and the runner is treated to a sharp uphill tour through the trees to the bare mountain with its spectacular views to the south over Carlingford Lough and Dundalk Bay.

The very fast, quite treacherous descent to the finish, requires both dexterity and not a little courage. It is all over very quickly, but you will certainly know you have been in a race and your aching limbs will remind you of it over the next few days. Total length is only 4.25 miles but in that distance you will climb over 1740 feet. The weather forecast for Thursday evening is very cold and full body cover may be required by the organisers. Just one more thing to worry about!

We congratulate the following members of Orangegrove who took part in the Slieve Martin round. I have included their published times although, in many respects, times are irrelevant. Getting yourself to the start line and, eventually, to the finish line are the main indicators of endeavour, determination and, not least of all, courage.

In recent weeks Orangegrove has been well represented at Hill and Dale by Michael O’Donoghue, Darren Marshall, Sharon Dickenson, Eoghan Rainey, Judith Dalzell, Verity Cornford, and Stephen Craig. However, this week, with MOD not wishing to risk anything prior to his Hoka West Highland Fling, and, perhaps, the unfavourable weather conditions, only Darren Marshall and Sharon Dickenson made it to the start line at Kilbroney. Very well done indeed to both Darren and Sharon on representing the Club so well. Their times were as follows:

Summit time Descent time Total time
Darren Marshall 36.25 15.31 51.56
Sharon Dickenson 46.44 23.05  1.09.49

The Hill and Dale Slieve Martin Race (Race 3) was won by William McKee (Mourne Runners) in 32.55/22.45/10.10. Diane Wilson (Dromore AC) was first lady in 40.46/28.47/11.59.
The next race is next Thursday at Slieve Binnian….this is the one in which the finish is in the clouds on the top of the mountain, the only race I know where the finish tunnel is angled upwards at 45 degrees!

Firmus Energy Super Six

Also on Thursday evening, the Firmus Energy Super Six track and field athletics series resumed at the Mary Peters Track, the second meeting of the programme. This is a super little series for which we should be truly thankful, containing both track and field events for a wide plethora of athletes of all ages and abilities from disabled to minis, and from U13s to senior men and women, even including old stagers like myself. The action begins at 18.45 and the final events will be at 20.45.

We at Orangegrove had a number of athletes competing and I have included below some information about how they performed. The orange of Orangegrove was notably visible on the evening. Well done to the following:

Minis 600m Sam Rainey 2.14.13 (7th)
Minis Shot putt Sam Rainey 3.98m (21st)
U13 800m Iseult Fahy 2.56.47 (11th)
U13 200m Reegan McKenzie 33.41 (13th)
U15 800m Chloe Browne 3.09.57 (26th)

Very well done indeed to all in the Junior Club, athletes and coaches!

The third round of the series will be on Thursday 2nd June.

Hoka Highland Fling Ultra Marathon

One is never quite sure what Michael O’Donoghue will be up to next. He appears to be both proficient and definitely competitive in every aspect of running from 3k to infinity. This weekend, on Saturday, he was in Scotland taking part in the 53 mile Hoka Highland Fling ultra marathon on the West Highland Way from Milngavie, north of Glasgow, to Tyndrum, near Crianlarich, following roughly the line of Lough Lomond and The Trossachs National Park.

It is mainly off road and, of course, the terrain is hilly. Michael is certainly hoping to beat the 15 hour cut-off time but is determined, if possible, to get below 12 hours which will allow him to catch the last bus back to Glasgow and civilisation. This is no backwoods ultra marathon. Michael will be in the company of athletes from all over Europe, South Africa, Australia and the United States of America. Nor will he have to face the wilderness alone. Over 750 are already entered and there will be an additional 200 relay runners.

This ultra marathon requires the individual participant to organise for the placing of a number of drop bags at 10 mile intervals containing food and other sustenance. He has told me that this aspect can be quite tricky because the placing of appropriate food that can be eaten on the move can be crucial to the outcome. We wish Michael all the best of luck, although luck will probably play very little or no role whatsoever in this affair.

And the news from the front is good news! Michael managed to catch that last bus back to Glasgow with the super time of 13 hours, 24 minutes and 55 seconds. Apparently the bus company heard he was coming and ordered its driver to wait for him. Michael averaged 15.12 minute miles over the distance and finished in 561st place out of 673. OAC offers its warmest congratulations to one of its favourite sons. If he turns up for the Bank Holiday Monday Marathon please, somebody, call an ambulance!

EAMS Half Marathon

There exists a no frills marathon and half marathon series called the East Antrim Marathon Series. Michael O’Donoghue knows all about it. They run very well organised marathons and half marathons, as the name might suggest, in and around south and east Antrim. Publicity is not sought or given. Information about routes and results can be tricky enough to source. On Sunday 1st May they ran a full marathon and half marathon in the Carrickfergus area, or so the rumours would suggest, in which there was some OAC interest.

I am reliably informed that recently joined new member Gillian Logan was first lady home, and third overall, in the half marathon in a time which remains a closely guarded secret. Very well done indeed to a young lady who has enjoyed an impressive number of podium finishes lately. Verity Cornford, the girl with a name straight out of a Thomas Hardy novel, was also spotted battling the elements on an unidentifiable section of road somewhere in Co. Antrim.

I have a photograph of an elegant lady in purple to prove it. If any more information about this race turns up in due course, you shall hear it. But don’t hold your breath!!

Belfast City Marathon

Bank Holiday Monday in Belfast means only one thing if you are a runner, the Deep River Rock Belfast City Marathon. It is not the greatest route, or the easiest, but it is 26.2 miles long and it is a hell of a challenge for those, in particular, who take on the full distance. By the way, it all started in 1982, so this is the 35th running of the Belfast event.

Read the full race report here


I think it was Brendan Behan who once said that there was no such a thing as bad publicity except one’s own obituary, and this may well be the case regarding the recent controversy over the local council at Little Stoke wishing to charge parkrunners for location wear and tear. The controversy, and the media coverage it attracted, have raised the profile of the concept of parkrun to heights hardly imaginable only a short time ago.

This is possibly reflected in the greater than ever numbers attending Ulster parkruns, including our own at Victoria Park. Of course, the improving weather may have something to do with it as well!

A quick survey of what OAC members have been achieving this week has revealed the following:

At Victoria Park Des Fahy was running very well to finish in 6th place in 18.51. Sile Brennan (pushing her pram and getting ready for a full marathon) was first OAC lady home in 25.09. Rory Hall-Thompson continued his fine recent form to finish in 13th place in 19.37. The only personal best of the day at Victoria was by Ben Acheson (JM10) in 22.38. Very well done indeed! And well done too Anne Devlin who was a first timer at the Waterworks parkrun in 32.04.

Now, don’t forget that volunteering bit! We are always in need of new recruits, particularly at this time of the year as the holiday season approaches. Give a little back to your local parkrun by contacting Gerry on belfastvictoriahelpers@parkrun.com. You know it is the right thing to do. You know it makes sense!