Course error fails to halt magnificent East Down

Course error fails to halt magnificent East Down

8 May 2019

TO those who say it could only happen here, I could cite several examples of  other places where it already has and to greater detrimental effect. 

What am I talking about? Well only the new flatter, faster Belfast City Marathon route which was quickly acknowledged by the organisers as being long by 469 metres.

Although it had been meticulously measured and certified by the accredited officials, apparently the lead car took an incorrect turning, somewhere in East Belfast and there was some possible misdirection by marshals in the Ormeau Park, both of which contributed to the additional almost one third of a mile.

It was a disappointing baptism for the new route and dulled the sense of pride that came with the first ever Belfast Marathon to be held on a Sunday, bringing it into line with almost every other big city marathon throughout the world. 

Human error was the reason and it was good that the marathon board chair, Davie Seaton, quickly held up his hands to apologise to those runners who felt cheated out of a PB or a possible good for age time to use for entry to one of the other major marathons. 

Not only that, but he was able to reassure everyone that modern technology would enable the timekeepers to re-calculate the times based on an actual 26.2 distance and officially allocate the correct times which should effectively soothe any ruffled feathers resulting from the earlier embarrassment. 

Of more concern from my perspective were complaints that the bag arrangements were not good at the start area and even worse, that runners had to queue for up to 45 minutes in cold conditions afterwards to collect their belongings back at the Ozone Centre. 

There isn’t really any excuse for this sort of thing and I will make it my business to ensure that no such glitch occurs again.

On the positive side, most comments from the runners were positive about the new start in the Stormont Estate and the route in general, and with  the new adjusted times and the apologies from the marathon organisers, it is hoped that next year’s event will again surpass this year’s in terms of the numbers taking part. 

Of course, all the other aspects will be taken into account when the board sits down to hold the inquest into the 2019 event.

East Down times: Davy Foster (3.05), Declan Teague (3.17), Joanne Foster (3.18), Stephen Heasley (3.29), Chris Smith (3.40), Raymond Milligan (3.42), Phillip Vint (3.43), Gareth Kelly (3.43), Stephen McCartan (3.43), Mark McDowell (3.49), James Magennis (3.49), Clare Carson (3.55), Barry Milligan (4.05), Catherine Gilchrist (4.11), Sean Sealey (4.10), Catherine Burke (4.12), Joanne Carson (4.18), Mags Flynn (4.18), Michael Robinson (4.20), Kevin Kelly (4.32), Gareth Amos (4.32).

Barry Milligan did extremely well to cross the finish line, given that he had to struggle from around 18 miles, when the wheels came off his hitherto ‘cruising along comfortably on target for 3.45’ run. 

As with all of us who have had to battle to finish a race like this, he reckons it was nevertheless his best ever effort and unashamedly gave vent to his emotions. Well done Barry.

Other EDAC runners were involved as part of many relay teams. Karen McFall, Janine Murray, Neil Curran, Kelly Smith, Aoife Burke and Nicole Laverty and probably lots more whose names I don’t have. 

The general consensus was that despite the setbacks endured by all those who took part, the Sunday date was popular and the new route was also given the thumbs up.

And a few other locals I noticed were Eithne McGrattan and Bernice McCann who opted for the nine mile walk on this occasion and Simon McGrattan who was running for the Down Syndrome Association and who crossed the line in 4.36.

Billy Logue came in well under the four hour mark and David Smith finished in an eye-catching 3.13. Well done everyone from this area who took part.

Davy Foster was hoping for GFA (good for age not Good Friday Agreement) for London and at the time of going to press it appears that he may have missed it by seconds but perhaps further calculations will play in his favour.

His wife Joanne was not far behind, clocking a 3.18 time which will qualify her comfortably in the GFA category. 

Declan Teague held on when he was finding it tough and got a second wind. Stephen Heasley and Chris Smith started together. Stephen took a comfort break while Chris went on, but Stephen then took the lead 

when Chris went through a bad patch. 

It is testament to Chris that he managed to get going again. A posse of red and yellow was made up of Phillip Vint, Stephen McCartan, Gareth Kelly and James Magennis with some EDAC members who were running the relay picking them up here and there. 

They were together until the latter stages and then only separated at the finish by small gaps. 

Clare Carson ran solo most of the way and produced a solid 3.55. Catherine Gilchrist was remarkably chipper when seen at various points, having also ended up solo, but happy in her work. 

Sean Sealey had good form on the day and came in on Catherine’s heels with Cathy Burke not far behind him. Sean and Cathy had also started as part of a merry band which included Mags Flynn, Joanne Carson and Michael Robinson, who was making his marathon debut as well as Kevin Kelly. 

As often happens, this wave of runners ebbed and flowed into smaller partnerships as the energy levels also ebbed and flowed. 

While training is done as a group, on the day there are personal goals to be met and sometimes that means forging ahead if the legs are good. 

The victory is that every single one of them made it to the finish line and can be proud that they have completed what they set out to do when they embarked on a training schedule many weeks ago. 

Gareth Amos was doing his first marathon as part of the experiment 26.2 group and managed to fulfil his goal by sheer determination to get to the finish. 

It was great to see how our club mates responded to the supporters and tackled their demons of fatigue, cramps, niggles and doubt. All deserve praise for their efforts.

Binnian to the top

A glorious night for round four of the Hill and Dale Series saw 254 willing bodies toiling on Binnian. 

It has a viewpoint like no other at the top and the photos taken are stunning. EDAC had a flying visit home by Aaron McGrady to swell the ranks and he took second place in style, 

relishing the opportunity to run in the mountains, and beaten only by the imperious Zak Hanna. 

Neil Andrews was 23rd with Gavin Hynds 29th and Niall Gibney 49th — all mountain lovers were in their element. 

Mackenzie Murray was able to take part as the new junior series overlapped with this event and he enjoyed every minute of it coming 95th overall and second in the male U-16 category. 

Brian Hamilton is holding on tight to the over 70 crown and was 175th, taking his fourth win in four starts this year. John Manley was in ahead of Lisa Milligan this week as they were 179 and 182 in turn.  

Patricia Galloway, Janine Murray and Seamus Savage continued their campaign with 198, 211 and 216 as their positions. 254 took part in total. 

Junior results

Juniors are involved in schools’ districts track and field with some already qualified for the Ulsters and others still to race. The results will be compiled when all the meets have taken place which will be by the end of the week.

Well done Catherine

Congratulations to Catherine O’Connor who was selected as part of a team to represent Northern Ireland & Ulster in the Cardiff Victory 5k Inter-Area competition. The team comprised Catherine, Jessica Craig (North Down) and Sinead Sweeney (Queen’s) and competed against the 

North of England, Midlands, South of England, Scotland and Wales.

An excellent job they did too, as with times of 16.49 for Jessica, 17.26 for Catherine and 17.30 for Sinead, giving them positions sixth, ninth and 11th. They justifiably could feel proud to claim the silver medals, just behind host country Wales. 

This weekend

The Downpatrick Lions 3 Lakes Challenge which offers a 7k and a 15k distance from the Lakeside Inn, Drumcullen Road, Downpatrick, takes place on Saturday. Online entry is now open at

Registration will also be at the Lakeside Inn from 9-10.45am on race day, with the 15km to start at 11am and the 7km at 1pm.