A Run Through History is the theme for this year’s Greencastle “5” Mile Road Race on St. Stephen’s Day. It’s the 32nd year of the Tyrone classic that has firmly established itself as the top event of its kind over the Christmas holiday period with well over 1500 runners turning out last year.
This year, race director Oliver McCullagh is laying emphasis on the outstanding depth of history associated with the five mile route on the foothills of the Sperrins. From the start close by an Ogham stone to the finish along an old coach road once terrorised by a notorious local highwayman, the area is steeped in history and prehistory.
The Aghascrebagh Ogham stone is the only of its kind in Tyrone and is overlooked by Dun Ruadh, a large circular burial cairn constructed 4000 years ago, and clearly visible in the opening mile of the race.
As the course enters the second mile Formil Hill come into view. According to the Annals of the Four Masters, the Cinel Eoghain (O’Neills) routed the Cinel Conaill (O’Donnells) here in 965 after killing the Donegal men’s leader Maelisa O’Cannon and Moriarty O’Taidhg, heir to the kingdom of Connaught.11 comment awaiting moderation
The two mile marker sees the field turn on to the Crockanboy Road and head back toward the hamlet of Greencastle, formerly known as Sheskinshule (the moving bog) until the mid-nineteenth century.
The three mile point follows shortly afterwards but it is the right hand turn onto the Mullydoo Road when most runners believe they pass through a portal into another world – of pain and punishment – as they climb the steep 800 metre ascent up to the summit of Crockanboy.
From there it’s all the way downhill to the finish along the road once frequented by the notorious local highwayman and used by Hugh O’Neill as he made his way to Rathmullan for his flight to mainland Europe along with Hugh O’Donnell in 1607.
Most of the roads along the course have been resurfaced in the past 12 months and McCullagh is hopeful that he might see a new race record this year.
“We’re hoping Paul Pollock will be back to go for a four-in-a-row,” said McCullagh. “He ran well in Leeds last weekend and he could go close to his race record of 24:07 he set three years ago. The road has been fixed and should provide good fast going for everyone looking to improve their times for the race.”
The race will start an hour earlier this year at 12:00 midday but no entries will be accepted on the morning of the race. Race entry is now open to the 2017 Greencastle “5” at www.greencastle5.com and will close at midnight on December 23.
Derry Track Club’s Conor McIlveen has been called up to the Irish Paralympic Development panel. Following his successes on the track in 2016, the “Big Dog” moves one step closer to competing at the prestigious IPC World Championships in London, come July.
Despite narrowly missing out on selection for the Rio Paralympic Games, the 26 year old wrapped up his track season with a bittersweet 4th place finish in the T38 category at the IPC European Championships in Grosseto, Italy, over the half-mile distance, whilst also achieving big personal bests in the 800m (2:13.60) and 1500m (4:41.33).
McIlveen will draw on his Paralympic dissapointment as motivation for the up-coming IPC World Championships. For the first time, the IAAF and IPC World Championships will run alongside one another and the Derry track man will be hoping to book his ticket to London this summer.
The “Big Dog” will be looking to join fellow Derry athlete, Jason Smyth, in pulling on the Irish singlet and taking to the track with the World’s top Para-athletes in July – this time however, Conor will be aiming to go one better than Grosseto.
Conor’s coach, Malcolm McCausland, has been very pleased with his athlete’s progress on the track but stresses that there is a long way to go before the pair make the team for next year’s IPC World Championships in London. “The little details like diet and stretching are so important and these are areas we’ll be looking to improve in the next two training mezocycles”.
In preparation for London, McIlveen will complete a stint of warm-weather training with the Development squad at the end of March before commencing his 2017 track season.
England’s Lee Emanuel turned in a master class in mile-running to cap an excellent evening of athletics at the Letterkenny International Meeting. A host of international performers astutely spread over the 11 events confirmed the status of the meeting as one of the top gatherings of its kind in the country this year.
The breeze died down and the late evening sun made an appearance almost on cue for the men’s mile, the final event of the programme. Pacemaker Tom Marshall did an expert job delivering the field to the halfway mark in exactly two minutes.
Emanuel, an European Indoor silver medallist over 3000m last year, found himself at the front of the field perhaps a little early as the Welshman stepped off the track with just less than two laps to run.
The Sheffield & Dearne did not abdicate from the responsibility and led at the bell in exactly three minutes. Emanuel was challenged along the final backstraight by the Rob Fitzgibbon, a 20-year-old with family connections to Portaferry.
The Brighton youngster looked the stronger entering the final 100 metres but the experience of Emanuel told as he drew away to win in 3:59.66, just outside the 3:59.43 record that Juan Luis Barrios set in 2014.
Fitzgibbon was agonisingly close to his first sub-four minute clocking with a 4:00.18 mark while USA athlete Ahmed Bile took third in 4:01.48. Kevin Batt in fifth was the first Irish finisher in 4:04.31. Willowfield’s Andrew Wright was far from disgraced with his 4:11.41 in eighth place.
Earlier Marshall had finished strongly in the 800m only to be held off by compatriot and even faster finisher Elliott Slade. Slade’s modest winning time of 1:53.16 reflected the wind at its strongest toward the start of the meeting.
Derry Track Club’s Shane McGowan faded over the last 200m but still managed to dip under two minutes in difficult conditions with a 1:59.83 timing. But it is back to the drawing board for Matt Doherty after failing to reproduce his training form and ending up with a disappointing 2:04.37.
Poland’s Paulina Mikiewicz and Monika Halasa played the waiting game to perfection to take first and second in the women’s 800m. Mikiewicz’s 2:04.74 was worth several seconds faster in better conditions. World Masters’ champion Kelly Neely struggled to get to grips with the main field and ended up seventh in 2:08.42. Poland also supplied the winner of the women’s 400m in Magdalena Gorzkowska with a 54.53 timing.
South Africa’s 45.66 second one lapper Shaun de Jager was a street ahead of the opposition in the men’s 400m despite clocking a mundane 47.10 seconds. Aaron Carlyle took the final place on the podium to lead home the five DTC athletes in the race. Carlyle’s time of 53.37 did not reflect the impressive nature of his performance which saw him go through 300m in 37 seconds and small change.
Tim Shiels (54.84), Brandon Connolly (56.60), Sean McIntyre (59.43) and Conor McIlveen (59.57) all ran seasonal or personal bests.
Senegal’s Josh Swaray (10.65/-0.9) and another Springbok Hendrik Maartens (21.06/+0.1) traded wins in the 100m and 200m respectively. The women’s 3000m steeplechase, lacking any local interest, went to Germany’s Sanaa Kouba in a very respectable 9:57.45.
Sligo’s Emmet Dunleavy started his finishing sprint too early in the men’s 3000m and was gunned down in the last furlong by American 3:58 miler Jake Hurysz. The winning time was a club standard 8:30.75.
Last minute cry-offs meant that Derry Track Club only had two representatives in the race. Conán McCaughey made the long journey from his base in Scotland to compete and was rewarded with a 9:00.32 timing. Conor Doherty made little impact with a 9:17.11 mark.
In the field the Czech Republic’s Petr Frydrych qualified for the Rio Olympics with a massive 84.10m throw. Greece’s Iltsios Georgios also impressed with a best throw of 65.53m and Strabane-Lifford thrower Sean McBride sneaked over 60 metres with a 60.43m mark.
Family comes first for Ireland’s Jason Smyth despite the Paralympic Athletics World Championships opening this week in Doha. The two-time Paralympic double Paralympic sprint gold medallist is on the comeback trail having undergone minor knee surgery earlier this year.
However, that is not the reason the Derry City Track Club athlete will not be defending his 200m title in Qatar. Instead he has a more important fixture at that time – his wife Elise is expected to give birth to their first child.
“My wife is actually due on the 25th of October so that’s probably the more important reason that I’m just doing the 100m,” said Smyth. “I actually arrive back home on the morning of the 25th so it’s going to be a bit close.
“It has been a tricky year and quite a long year. This year there is that aspect of having to take a step back in order to, hopefully, take two steps forward. That’s just something I had to do. It’s been difficult but my expectation is still to go there and win gold.”
The Eglinton man had an operation on his knee earlier this season but nothing serious was found to be amiss. However, the rehabilitation took much longer than expected meaning that Smyth has raced lightly this season. He ran two low-key 100m races at Lee Valley in August before winning the 100m in Rio against the fastest Paralympic sprinters in the world.
The 28-year-old has been living in London for the past couple of years where he is coached by Clarence Callander, Previously he was guided by Stephen Maguire who now heads up Sprints, Hurdles and Relays at UK Athletics. It is probable following the birth of the baby that he might return home to Eglinton on run in to next year’s Rio Paralympics.
Smyth is one of nine Paralympic athletes named to represent Ireland at the IPC World Championships. Belfast man Michael McKillop, like Smyth a double gold medallist at the London Paralympics, is also included in the squad as well as thrower Orla Barry who took bronze in 2012. The IPC Paralympic Athletics World Championships run from October 22 – 31.
Cushioned trainers have dominated the running shoe market for probably at least the last 30 years. These shoes come with a raised heel and, if we believe the makers, include some system or another to prevent over pronation. The makers also consistently claim that these shock-absorbing features minimize the impact of foot strike on the body and thus prevent lower leg injuries. Generally, this type of trainers is significantly higher at the heel than at the point of the toe.
However with the passing of the years, various studies have found that a high percentage of runners continue to get injured even in the most cushioned of trainers. It has been estimated that you between 30% and 75% of recreational runners tend to be injured once every year (van Mechelen and Van Gent et al), with the knee area (42%) being the most susceptible. Surprisingly, it is becoming increasingly evident that these trainers, rather than prevented injuries, may cause a large portion of them.
Nevertheless, runners are still being taken in by the shoe companies who continue to insist that extra cushioning or anti-pronation will mean fewer injuries. Because of this, most runners use traditional trainers in the belief that the extra cushioning can help them avoid injury by reducing the force of impact on the legs. Thus, brainwashed by the slogan of “extra cushioning, protection and fewer injuries”, runners continue to use extremely high-soled and high-priced shoes.
However, runners continue to get injured in high numbers giving lie to the mantra “extra cushioning, less injuries”. Although much repeated, few runners realise that there is little, or possibly no, scientific evidence to back up this claim. In fact, recent research points to the opposite. In particular there have been two really interesting studies related to running and training shoes that have come to conclusions that blow apart the traditional “more is better” marketing ploy.
In one of these (Is your prescription of distance running shoes evidence based – Richards et al 2008), the investigators reviewed many databases of scientific research with a view to proving that greater shock absorption and/or anti pronation trainers would contribute to less injuries. However, they could find a single research study that demonstrated traditional trainers were useful in either preventing or even diminishing the occurrence of injuries in runners. In fact there was a suggestion that these trainers actually caused injuries.
The researchers concluded: “Biomechanical and epidemiological studies have raised significant questions about the capacity of running shoes incorporating either cushioning, heel elevation or sub-talarcontrol systems to prevent injury and have identified their potential to cause harm.”
A separate study by the University of Virginia looked at the incidence of injury in using minimalist shoes or indeed even barefoot. The research involved a survey of 500 runners who were running in shoes with reduced shock absorption or barefoot. The results were interesting in that they found 64% of the runners did not suffer any new injuries in the minimalist footwear or without any shoes whatsoever. In addition, 69% of the participants recovered from their previous injuries on going minimal.
Obviously if you have been using traditional trainers for some years, a change to minimalist shoes cannot be made overnight. A visit to a podiatrist may also be advisable before any dramatic change in case there may be a more serious underlying reason why you are getting injured more frequently than you would like. But it is worth thinking twice before shelling out well over £100 on a cushioned trainer when a more basic shoe at less than half the price might meet your needs. And it might keep you away from the dreaded physiotherapist’s table!