A strong contingent of Harriers braved the cold, the mud, fallen trees, and the always tough hills when taking on the Castlewellan Christmas Cracker, a long-time favourite fixture on the holiday race calendar. A unique and endearing feature of the Cracker is that the race is contested in pairs, with two runners competing together as a team against the rest.
There are a number of categories including all male, all female, and mixed male and female, along with various age groups. This year the Harriers had the overall winners in the mixed category, with Marty Rea and Gladys Ganiel O’Neill clocking 64.12 over the approximately 9-mile circuit through the forest park, roads, and fields. They were fifth overall, behind just four men’s teams.
One of those teams was Neil Carty and Paul Blaney, who just missed out on the podium positions by taking fourth in 63.49. The overall winners were Liam Venney and Brendan Teer of East Down in 59.38 – the only team to break one-hour on the course.
The next Harriers home were brothers Brendan and Gareth Grew, who snagged eighth in 65.19. They were followed by Laurence Johnston and Willowfield’s Karl Dines (70.54), and Jim Benson and Stevie Walker (73.49). Greg McClure teamed up with Lagan Valley’s David Wright and finished in 74.34. Greg was also the only Harrier to compete in the Greencastle 5-miler on Boxing Day, where he notched a respectable 33.25 on the hilly route.
Robert Irvine and Sean McShane were next (74.59), with Gerard McNamara and East Down’s Michael McKeown to follow in 77.56. Angela Burns was part of a mixed pair with Darren McDonald, who does not run for a club, in 78.03. Mark Shields and Lance Breen clocked 85.47, while Paul Williams and Barry Reid finished in 86.49.
Jennifer Bill and Geraldine Sweeney, who does not run for a club, timed 92.28 while Roisin Hughes and Lisa Sturgeon completed the race in 93.41 despite taking a wrong turn and running about a mile extra.
Parkrun Action – Eddie is Swift in Victoria
The rest of the weekend was quiet race-wise apart from the usual Parkruns. In Victoria Park, Eddie Cooke set a parkrun personal best of 16.52 to best the rest of the field, edging out Annadale’s Mark Wright (16.56). Drew Crawford also ran in Victoria, timing 29.29.
At the Waterworks, the first Harrier home was Paul Jenkins, third in 18.35 behind the winner, junior Ben Branagh from Dromore (16.03 in a new personal best), whose mother Geraldine was the first woman.
The next Harriers were Gerry Gribbon (sixth in 19.43), John Gerard Murphy (ninth in 19.46), Greg McClure (12th in 20.16), Mark Shields (13th in 20.35), Kilian Woods (16th in 20.49) and Tony McCambridge (17th in 21.10). They were supported by Jack Carberry (22.36), John Robert Johnston (22.51), John Burns (24.15), John O’Hare (25.34), and Aaron McCann (35.37).
The Harriers had one athlete each at the Falls (Jim Clinton, eighth in 24.46) and Queen’s (Damien Gill, 15th in 23.37).
The First and Last Races of the Year – Andrew Considine 6th in Race over the Glens
There were also plenty of Harriers out for the first races of 2013, and the last race of 2012.
Among the top performers was Andrew Considine, who placed sixth at the always tough Race over the Glens in Glenariff Forest Park near Waterfoot, Co. Antrim on New Year’s Day. Andrew clocked 38.56 over the tough, approximately 5.5 mile circuit, battling some formidable mountain runners, as well as rough terrain and the occasional hail, along the way.
Next home for the Harriers were Alan Ritchie (41.11) and Simon Reeve (41.17) in 16th and 17th. Mark McKinstry placed 42nd in 44.52.
On New Year’s Eve, Greg McClure carried the banner for NBH at Northern Ireland’s last race of 2012, the Lough 5 mile road race in Loughmacrory, Co. Tyrone. He timed 33.37 on the scenic, hilly route.
New Year’s Day Parkrun
The Waterworks hosted the lone Parkrun on New Year’s Day, attracting 75 finishers. A malfunction with the timing device meant that no official times were recorded, but the Harriers’ junior ace Conal McCambridge and Ita McCambridge were the first men and women to complete the course.
Harriers among the top 25 were Jim Benson (third), Paul Jenkins (fourth), Lance Breen (8th), John Gerard Murphy (9th), Patrick McShane (21st), Greg McClure (23rd), and Damien Gill (25th). Other Harriers taking part were Nuala Muldoon (second woman overall), John Burns, Jim Clinton, John Robert Johnston, Brendan McCambridge, Orla McCambridge, Sean McShane, and Aaron McCann.