Bobby Rea XC – Kilbroney

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness and all that. When the crimson leaves begin to fall and the turf becomes a little softer underfoot it can only mean one thing to the club runner, cross country. We always tend to look forward to cross country, but when it suddenly arrives on the doorstep the inevitable self doubt sets in. The problem is that you can never decide what to wear! Base layer or no base layer? In the minutes before the start of any cross country race you are usually suffering the ill effects of a stern wind from the east and the base layer option appears the right one. However, by the end of the opening lap you are inevitably left cursing your over cautious decision to cover up….and it is a lesson we never seem to be able to learn!

I think for us men there is something just a little primeval about cross country running,….sprinting across the grass, through the trees and up slippery slopes as if your life depended on it, choosing the best possible route to give you some kind of an advantage in your hunting and gathering over that old stager beside you. Then there is the pungent but satisfying smell of damp turf and fermenting leaves and the pleasant crunch of twigs and branches under foot. Add to this the undoubted sensation of splattering mud on your calves and legs to remind you of your youth or perhaps a more basic existence a millennium or two ago.

No man who is honest with himself will deny that he secretly enjoys cutting a furrow through the squelching mud, the more sticky the better. Maybe it is all about displaying prowess to the ladies (if they haven’t already departed for the gazebo or the tea room). Male cross country running could almost emulate a human form of the reindeer rutting season, survival of the fittest for first choice of the aforementioned ladies. The strange thing is that the older you get as a male runner you become excluded from the main rut and get thrown in with the ladies anyway, presumably because you are perceived to be of little use to them and certainly no threat whatsoever. Inevitably they are younger and fitter and very fast and you have absolutely no chance of catching any of them anyway, even if you were so inclined. The only thing the old stager is left with is a rear view which, if you think about it, is probably the best view anyway.

So, all is well. By the way it all started last week at the Dub with the Northern Ireland Masters’ Athletic Association cross country races around the pitches at the Queen’s University playing fields. This weekend will see a fair sprinkling of Orangegrove adults, and perhaps juniors too, make their way to Kilbroney Forest Park, near Rostrevor, for the Northern Ireland and Ulster Even Age Group Cross Country Championships, including the Bobby Rea Memorial races. The Bobby Rea races, for adults, constitute a round of the Athletics NI Cross Country League. The ladies and men over 60 go at 2.40pm (5k) and the senior men below at 3.10pm (8k).

So, how did the cross country go? Well, always expect the unexpected! Conditions were just about perfect at Kilbroney and base layers were never an issue! The expected mud did not materialise and the majority of us who made the trip crossed the finish line as clean as we had crossed the start line! There was no better place in Ulster to have been last Saturday afternoon. The park was a picture with a low sun accentuating the autumnal colours. It was almost a pleasure to be running cross country and that significant hill was manageable for most of us in the absence of the usual gale force wind.

For Orangegrove it was a successful day with at least a dozen members turning out. We thank our captains for organising us so well and, in particular, Robin Montgomery for arriving early and setting up headquarters for us. We also appreciated the presence of Stephen Anderson to cheer us on and Gerald Harvey too who made the journey to add to the photographic collection! Much appreciated. Points were earned towards the Athletic NI Cross Country League from the following:

Ladies & Veteran Male (5k)

Brian Todd (M65) 22.26
Julie McKimm 23.17
Jacqueline Maxwell 26.05
Alison Hall-Thompson 26.24
Catherine Fearon  30.45

Men (8k)

Andy McIntyre 31.24
Thomas Leitch 32.07
Robin Montgomery 34.13
Tim Robinson 34.27
Eric Fairfield 34.27
Michael Broadhead 34.43
Darren Houston 37.06

We offer a warm welcome to new member Michael Broadhead who turned out for us at Kilbroney. May he continue to enjoy his running in an orange vest.

The ladies 5k race was won by Rebecca Henderson (Dromore AC) in 19.06 and the men’s 8k race was won by Conor Duffy (Glaslough Harriers) in 26.46.