With the province experiencing a dramatic turn round in the weather, the previous weekend’s artic conditions now seem a distant memory.
Springwell runners turned out in their numbers to enjoy their favourite past-time in the beautiful balmy running conditions.
The fourth and penultimate race in the Winter League Trail Series took place on the scenic trails around Drum Manor Forest Park on 23rd January.
The numbers participating in this popular race in the series increased once again with over 180 runners attending, many of whom achieved great times over this testing wheel measured 10K course.
These races are a fantastic alternative to those wanting to race but unsure about x-country, for several reasons.
Firstly, no specialist equipment is required as all are run on mainly hard-packed stony trails so the vast majority of competitors simply use normal training/running shoes, quite safely.
Secondly, as they are run under the canopy of the various forests, these provide great shelter from any adverse weather conditions that might prevail on the day.
Thirdly, they are a fantastic form of training, due to the technical nature of the trails and the many undulations and hills contained within each course.
Finally, they are terrific value at only £6 per race, which includes great hospitality at the end of each race with water, tea/coffee and enough food to satisfy an army!
This particular course was a fairly challenging one which required a runner to get their pace right from the start, as Jimmy Stewart found out to his cost, on the second of the two laps.
This was due to the number of sharp uphills and downhills, with tight technical turns, combined with the odd tree root and muddy patch to contend with, eventually dragging the strength out of your legs.
In mild weather conditions, local athlete Michael Crawley (unaffiliated) was to the fore, taking first place for the third time in the series in a time of 34.41 and winning the overall male open category of the league.
In second place was Neill Weir (Willowfield Harriers) with a time of 35.15, while Pierce McCullagh of host club Sperrin Harriers equalled his performance at An Creagan to take third place in 35.44.
In the ladies, it was Julie Butler of Omagh Harriers who was first home, with a time of 38.19, repeating her success at An Creagan two weeks ago.
Esther Dickson (unaffiliated) had to settle for second place once again to Julie finishing in 40.12, while Gillian Wasson (Ballymena Runners) claimed third place in 41.05.
For the Springwell contingent first home was Glenn Millar, making his debut at this form of racing and finishing a really excellent 16th overall in an impressive 38’ 27”, particularly over this terrain and in such distinguished company. Glenn is a strong runner, now in his 3rd year with the club and is going from strength to strength.
Despite being part of the team racing at the X-Country the next day, Bryan Edgar opted to race and despite a relatively slow start, knocked out a fine 39’ 12” and finishing second MV50 in 23rd position.
Bryan has now clinched 2nd Overall in the MV50 category, in the series, so congratulations are in order.
As previously mentioned Jimmy Stewart took off like a dog after a rabbit on the first lap then suffered on the 2nd but, still managed a very good time of 40’ 43” and 28th overall.
Needless to say, Jimmy was disappointed with himself but, a valuable lesson learnt Himself, aka Sergei, finished 33rd overall in 41:15, 1st MV55 on the day and now leading the age group for the series.
Next in was Jim Breen, running relatively sedately, as the MV60 category has been settled already with Jim having secured second in the series for that category, so this was more or less a training session for him.
Fair to say though, that the category winner, Tommy Harraghy, has been running extremely well throughout, so congratulations to Tommy on a fine victory.
Jim finished 59th in 44’ 38” and congratulations to Jim also, on securing 2nd MV60.
The clubs remaining representatives were series regular Bob McLaughlin finishing 101st overall in 50’ 03” , then Paul Dornan, finishing 117th in 51’ 30”, Melanie Millar 150th in 56’ 05” and Judith McLaughlin 159th in 58’ 09”. Great times by all on this course.
This was also Melanies’ first trail run and despite being somewhat nervous before the start, really enjoyed the experience and didn’t get lost even once.
Melanie also has a great vision for the future of the club and in my opinion has the makings of a future Lady Chair, although her desire to rename the club as the Springwell Purple Dragons, may not meet with universal approval.