Normally Christmas trees are cut and extracted from the forest well before the big day but this year one of our first tasks was to remove one which had fallen across the Trassey track, near the start line. The icy gales of the preceding night had brought it down and though the sky was cobalt blue, those Baltic winds were still blowing hard as the runners set off. They would also have to deal with ice and slippery conditions on the high sections of the course.
For once, fresh young Turkeys were the fare of the day as the younger generation set a pace which knocked the stuffing out of the more seasoned competitors (bar one). Paul Pruzina who came second in last year’s race was soon setting the pace with Newcastle’s Zak Hanna in close attendance, and not far behind was another young lad in his early twenties, the orienteer, Jack Millar.
Youth was also dictating the terms in the ladies race through the talented duo of Megan Wilson and Bethany Haugh but they didn’t have exclusivity as they had the very experienced Moiré O Sullivan for company. The long slog up to the first col at the Bearnagh slabs saw Paul opening up a lead and by the time he reached the second col he was comfortably in command of the race. Zack was second at this stage but he lost this position to the fast descending Jack Miller as they charged down the Happy valley and despite his best efforts could not regain it on the long run to the finish line. By this stage Paul was home and dry with a very impressive three minute advantage and a great time of 46 minutes exactly, in less than ideal conditions.
The girls had a great battle and Megan finished about fifteen seconds ahead of Bethany, but it was the experience of Moiré which took the overall victory a minute and a half ahead of both of them. Three veterans did make it into the top ten and fittingly they were in order of age, fourth place, Bob Johnston (vet 40), seventh place, Pete Grant (vet45), and tenth place, Alistair Haddow (vet 50).
So Paul Pruzina’s name will be added to the distinguished list already inscribed on the Martin Mc Mahon trophy, and for once I will not have to look far to get it back for next year as Paul’s dad Mark is one of the main organizers of the race. Mark does brilliant work with the time keeping every year and other members of the Pruzina family helped out with catering and start /finish duties. A very special thanks to them and to the marshals who had a cold posting at their wind blasted locations and the sweepers who kept a eye out for problems.
Tollymore Mountain Centre was once again a great venue for the mulled wine and mince pies, so a big thanks to them and to all the club members who provided food and prizes for the racers. Also Jacksons Sports of Belfast for their contribution to the prize fund. Next year will be the twenty fifth running of the race and we hope to have a few special extra treats to mark the occasion. Have a happy new running year and if your still intact at the end of it, come and join the trotting turkeys.