Just Don’t End Up Walking in the Cold November Rain. Weekly Round Up
McConnell Shield XC
On Saturday 8th November the 80th annual running of the McConnell Shield Cross Country took place at Sixmilewater Park in Ballyclare. This was also the fourth event of the current cross country league and conditions were typical of the season. Despite the cold and wet afternoon, hundreds of athletes and spectators turned out for a great days racing through the mud, wind and rain. North Belfast Harriers were represented in both of the Senior races that involved one mile laps of the park.
The Ladies and Male Masters 60+ race followed on from the earlier Junior races and with some parts of the course already starting to churn up a fast start from the line was required to get a clear view of the three lap course. In the Ladies race Cathy McCourt continued her run of good XC performances and established herself at the front of the pack for what would be a close battle for the podium places. In the Male Masters 60+ race, Jim Newberry – another cross country regular from the club was also racing well for a top three finish. Throughout the field of runners the usual small groups developed with each individual striving to get the edge on their nearest competitors with the best line through the energy sapping and deepening mud.
Cathy had maintained a solid run to be in second place coming into the final lap and was clear enough of third place to work on gaining ground on first. With a downhill section that runs into the finishing straight it was going to be tough to catch the lead runner. Cathy crossed the line just 3 seconds behind 1st place to claim 2nd in 18:15. Jim Newberry again put in a solid performance to finish 3rd in the Masters race whilst Sarah-Jane McFadden lead home a group of four runners in 21:07 and Thelma McCullagh, who finished 3rd in her age category was chasing down the runners ahead of her to cross the line in 22:51.
The Senior Men’s race had 168 competitors taking part including some of the provinces most talented athletes. A place in the top ten would be difficult enough, especially whilst negotiating an increasingly deteriorating course. However, in the league – every place and runner counts. North Belfast Harriers had a squad of nine toeing the start line including some regular XC and trail running specialists and even some athletes returning to competition.
From the start, the pace at the front of the field soon stretched out the assembled runners into something akin to the multi-coloured peloton of the Tour De France. But instead of racing on smooth tarmacked roads these runners feet were splashing up mud from the uneven ground below whilst the rain continued to fall. Such was the pace at the front of the race that the first three finishers crossed the line in under 26 minutes. Having raced their own races within a race, it wasn’t long until the first Harriers were sprinting down the finishing straight. Mark McKinstry brought his good form and his old cross country spikes to Ballyclare and finished in 26:55 for 9th place. Connor Magill on his competitive return took 11th in 27:19 running in mixed gloves! Alan O’Hara placed 1st M35 finishing in 15th place overall with a time of 27:33 and Edward Cooke was the fourth Harrier home in 22nd place in 28:34. Young Conor McQuillan had a great race to finish inside the top 30, running 29:35 for 28th place and Laurence Johnston was 1st M55 with 30:28. Philip Donnelly 32:10, Colin Simpson 33:36 and Greg McClure 34:27 continued their efforts in representing the club and picking up points in this year’s league – all finishing well within the top ¾ of the competitive field.
photos from NIRunning and Facebook
Also on Saturday, Mourne Runners hosted the annual Running4Rescue race. The race starts at the Annalong Marina runs along the coastal path then climbs steadily up the Head Road to the top of the Annalong Wood before a fast dash back to the village. As the name suggests, all proceeds from the race go to the Mourne Mountain Rescue. Martin Cox took part in the multi-terrain race that gently climbs from the gravel track along shoreline before turning inland and meanders on forest trails towards the mountains. In damp conditions Martin kept a good pace just behind the leading pack and ran comfortably clear on the home descent on tarmac back to the coast to finish in 12th place in 70:00 and picked up the M50 prize.