NI & Ulster Road Relay Championships 2016

Without doubt the highlight this week, and possibly in this year’s racing calendar, was the 2016 NI & Ulster Road Relay Championship held by our very own Orangegrove Athletics Club on a sunny Saturday 1 October.

Being such a huge and successful event, in racing and organisational terms, and having so many photos made available it is difficult and unwise of me to try and include all of the photos and to describe this event in my own words, therefore, I aim to use others’ words who sum it up better than me and I shall finish on those who really made the day.

Firstly, I would like to voice my own personal opinion from a racing perspective…I’d like to thank the club for allowing me, a novice/amateur and late-comer to this sport, to partake in this event and I treat it as a privilege to be able to run alongside (very briefly!) some of the best Masters runners in NI.

Our Chairman, Thomas Leitch, summed up the day perfectly by stating:

“This year’s NI & Ulster Road Relay Championships exceeded the expectation of all those who took part and also those who witnessed the festival of races. The organisation was very much a team effort, I can’t overstate how proud I was today as both race Director and Chairman of Orangegrove Athletics Club. Events like this just don’t happen by chance.

A team of hard working people have been involved in the planning of this for months and I would like to thank each and every one of you. We (all volunteers and runners) showcased our club and I think that nothing else sums this championship event up as well as our club motto ‘working together we achieve more’.

I believe that during the past six years that I’ve been a member of this club, Orangegrove have consistently sought to raise the standard of athletics in Northern Ireland. After today the bar has once again been pushed to new heights, we can all be very proud of our club. Once again thank you all for a great team effort.”

Thank you for your efforts and leadership too Thomas and as Race Director. Some high-profile attendees, including Dame Mary Peters, who rained her smile and charm upon everybody, and Cecilia Daly, who used her guile and charm to keep the rain at bay, I’m sure would not be short of a positive word or two but David Seaton MBE, Chairman of Athletics NI, sent this message to our Chairman:

“Just a quick note to congratulate the Club on the excellent delivery of the NI Road Relay Championships. I very much enjoyed the occasion and was aware that others in Victoria Park were of a similar thinking. Please pass on my thanks to all Orangegrove members who contributed, under your lead, to what was a wonderful afternoon’s sport. I am already looking forward to the 2017 event. Kind regards. Davie”

Thank you Lord David.

From our own herculean efforts to an Olympian…Kerry O’Flaherty, who ran a season’s best 3000m Steeplechase in Rio, who has a sub 16-min 5k PB and who ran a ladies’ best of 10:48 in Saturday’s race, kindly passed this comment to me:

“I really enjoy The NI & Ulster road relays as they are a great opportunity to come out and work as part of a team. The location and organisation is fantastic and there is always a brilliant atmosphere and buzz as you run round the course.”

Now for the actual race results which caused all the buzz:

11:30 – u13 boys & girls – 1660m:

1st boy Joel Chambers Ballydrain Harriers 5:35 and 1st girl Ellie Gordon North Down AC F 6:00.

Well done to Orangegrove’s tremendous: Iseult Fahy 6:53 29/49 and Reegan Neill-McKenzie 7:06 33/49.

11:45 – u15 boys & girls – 1660m:

1st boy Dylan McBride Willowfield Harriers 5:18 and 1st girl Murphy Miller North Down AC 5:35.

OG’s Rory Hall-Thompson ran a super 6:02 and finished 21st out of 42.

12:00 – u17 boys & girls – 3000m:

1st boy Conor Gorman 10:33 Ballydrain Harriers and 1st girl Ciara O’Rawe North Belfast Harriers 12:37

Ben Hall-Thompson represented Orangegrove in a tough race with a very good 13:49.

12:30 – Masters Ladies relay – 3 x 3380m

1st City of Lisburn AC – 35:55
2nd North Belfast Harriers – 36:02
3rd Lagan Valley AC – 38:06

Judith Lonnen was quickest with 11:18.

Orangegrove ‘A’ – 41:05 9/37
Orangegrove ‘B’ – 43:51 17//37

A super performance from the ladies with their quickest 2 mile being: 13:19.

1:30 – Masters Men relay – 4 x 3380m

1st Acorns AC – 42:49
2nd North Belfast Harriers – 43:03
3rd Ballymena Runners – 43:49

David Simpson was quickest with 10:19.

Orangegrove ‘A’ – 47:44 15/54
Orangegrove ‘B’ – 51:36 31/54
Orangegrove ‘C’ – 53:22 37/54
Orangegrove ‘D’ – 55:01 42/54

Well done men, you all played your part.

2:45 – Senior Ladies relay – 3 x 3380m

1st Newcastle AC – 35:24
2nd Dromore AC – 36:22
3rd North Down AC – 38:09

Kerry O’Flaherty was the quickest lady at 10:48.

Orangegrove ‘A’ – 43:08 11/20
Orangegrove ‘B’ – 45:46 17/20

Some great performances ladies. Quickest Senior OG lady: 13:33.

3:45 – Senior Men relay – 4 x 3380m

1st Derry City Track Club – 39:22
2nd North Belfast Harriers – 40:09
3rd Letterkenny AC – 40:43

Neil Johnston was the quickest man with 9:40.

Orangegrove ‘A’ – 49:58 26/37

Well done speedy guys. Quickest OG Senior Men time: 11:13.

…and to the other heroes of the day…sincere thanks (too many to mention by name) to all those volunteers and anybody who helped make the day a success. A massive thanks to the Relay admin crew, buff design, printers, bag packers, start & finish area officials, all marshals, set-up team, take-down team, photographers, team captains, registration team, trophy presenters, officials, those I have left out(!) and the catering team…which leads me to the other podium places:

Yes, there has been wild debate, wagers placed and social media comments surrounding what were the top 3 sandwiches and top 3 treats but I have already ate the chocolate trophies so there’s no point in announcing the victors! City of Lisburn AC and Co Antrim Harriers were so impressed they wanted to run away with certain recipes. Rumours of an accompanying NI Club Bake-Off next year persists.

I think it is safe to say that there was an impressive spread put on by OG’s finest and that it was enjoyed by all, nobody went home hungry and the runners added calories instead of losing them after those brutal 2 miles. A food-fest after a sprint-fest provided proudly by the OG vest!