Harriers have been turning out in force for races over the holiday period, featuring in the Castlewellan Christmas Cracker on Tuesday 27 December, the Greencastle 5 Miler on Boxing Day, and the Park Runs on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Among the highlights were Breege Connolly and Jim Benson teaming up to win the mixed category in Castlewellan, Gladys Ganiel O’Neill and Alan O’Hara finishing second and fifth at a competitive Greencastle 5, and Claire Connor and Gareth Grew scooping top honours in the Christmas Eve and Day Waterworks Park Runs.
Castlewellan Christmas Cracker
The Christmas Cracker is an off-road ‘partner’ race over approximately 10 miles in the Castlewellan Forest Park. Two-person teams must run and finish the course together, with prizes for the taking in all-male, all-female, and mixed male-female categories. Breege Connolly and Jim Benson dominated the mixed category, placing 9th overall in 1.08.06 – six minutes clear of the second-placed team.
189 teams completed the hilly and always challenging course, led home by East Down’s Liam Venney and Brendan Teer. Because of its difficulty, the race is not for the faint of heart, and attracts a mix of hardened mountain runners, road racers, and cross country specialists.
The first Harriers home were the team of Conor Curran and Darryl Blair, who were eighth overall in 1.07.48, followed by Harrier Martin Rea and Michael Magee of Beechmount, tenth in 1.09.05. Next was Harrier Glenn McKendry, who teamed up with Ballymena’s Mark Alexander, for 16th in 1.11.51.
Other NBH teams in the mix were: Gareth Grew and Barry Reid (26th in 1.15.41), Greg McClure and Jason Ratcliffe (58th in 1.23.11), Bobby Nicholson and Jenny Bill (96th overall in 1.30.17), Stevie Walker (on the comeback trail injury) and Paul Williams (103rd in 1.31.42), Gerard McNamara and Jim Clinton (117th in 1.34.53), and Francis Gorman and Mannix McAlister (187th in 2.06.20).
Greencastle 5 Miler
At the ever popular Greencastle 5 Miler on Boxing Day, Harriers battled strong competition and even stronger winds, with Gladys Ganiel O’Neill finishing second in the women’s race and Alan O’Hara claiming fifth in the men’s competition. Gladys was six seconds behind course record holder Maria McCambridge of Letterkenny (29.21 and 29.27). Maria opened up a gap on Gladys in the third mile that she was never quite able to close. Both women were about a minute off Maria’s course record, which says something about the severity of the winds.
Alan’s clocked 26.42 and was well-placed in the field of 725 competitors, which annually attracts some of the island’s top runners. This year the first place went to City of Derry’s Conor Bradley, who held off Omagh Harriers’ Stephen Duncan (25.36 to 25.34).
The race, now in its 26th year, features a notorious, mile-long hill in mile four and several rolling hills throughout. This year the honorary race starter was X-factor’s Janet Devlin, from nearby Gortin.
Park Runs went ahead in the Waterworks on both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, with 124 taking part on Christmas Eve and 53 on Christmas Day. NBH thank all the runners and volunteers who turned out to support the event and contribute to the good cheer on both days.
On Christmas Eve, Harrier Claire Connor continued to show good form, completing the course in 19.40 and finishing 11th overall. She was well-supported in the female ranks by Athanasia Sevastaki, who was the third woman home in a new personal best of 21.48.
The top Harrier on the day was junior Conal McCambridge, who impressed with 18.42 for sixth overall. Other Harrier performances included Matt Shields (8th in 19.15), Greg McClure (14th in 19.55), Lance Breen (16th in 20.02), Mark Shields (25th in 20.32), Greg Gribbon (21.07), Stevie Walker (21.56), Damien Gill (22.04), junior Damian Marquess (22.52), Kevin Lavery (23.24), Jim Clinton (24.33), Darragh McNairney (26.26), Jack O’Dwyer Henry (31.37) and Mannix McAlister (35.13).
The overall winner on Christmas Eve was Aidan McCormack of the University of Leicester, who clocked 16.51.
On Christmas Day, Harrier Gareth Grew led the field home with a time of 17.49, edging Corstorphine’s David Patton by one second in a dramatic finish. Next in for the Harriers were Andrew Considine (4th in 18.55), Greg McClure (7th in 19.54), Stevie Walker (9th in 20.04), Damien Gill (16th in 21.49), Jim Clinton (24.27), Darragh McNairney (26.54) and Mannix McAlister (28.37). The top woman in the race was Debbie Brown in 25.03, who completed her 32nd Park Run.