Mill Hill Mile

September 06, 2023

The first week in September and Ireland is experiencing heat not seen since June. The competition was fittingly hot at Newcastle and District AC's annual Mill Hill Mile, which has been held for decades on the brutal main street hill leading from Annsborough to the square at Castlewellan.
This is Newcastle AC County Down. Mourne Mountain Country. The race finishes just across the street from the entrance to Castlewellan Forest Park, with its own lake and, you would never guess, yes... castle! So the warm up and cool down options are pretty special. Although it has to be said that getting down the hill to the starting line from registration at the finish line is plenty enough warm up for most.


Local East Down AC legend Joe Quinn deserves a mention here. He arrived and started early in order to complete the gruelling mile, refusing to allow Parkinson's to beat him. Hats off to Joe. The same man delighted to see so many young athletes from his club turn out on the night.
Another local man made his first appearance in years, he was likely the fastest miler to toe the line, albeit his heroics on the track (4:08) took place in the 1980s. Welcome back Paul Rodgers.

Sadly the head to head with headmaster, comedian and journalist, Joe McCann was not to happen. Joe turned up too late, or so he said, he still managed to officiate as chief starter. And plenty of unofficial commentary.

Maybe there are many who are unaware that the tall man who hands out the numbers at the start is actually the course record holder. Again from many a year ago. Deon McNeilly's official time was 5;00 although he prefers to go with his own watch which said 4:59! Anyway, nobody has really threatened either time since.

There was a huge mix of road runners, track runners, junior athletes, mountain runners and veterans on display. Zak Hanna of the host club, an international mountain runner made an appearance, and rapidly disappeared up the hill after the gun went. Anna Gardiner fresh from a summer of schools titles and Irish representation on the track was there. Aine Gosling again of the host club.

The pace seemed fast and furious but then the drag of the hill began to bite. Rather than being the same gradient the whole way up, the hill changes from fairly steep to very steep a number of times and it can be quite hard to see where the finish actually is. It always seems to be a lot further than it should be, unfortunately. One runner this year mistook a road sign for the finishing gantry only to discover on arrival that there was another 400m still to go.

Mini battles took place throughout the field. "Don't you forget who was your first coach," a teacher was heard to tell and ex pupil at the start. He then went on to pass her. Then with a superhuman effort she went past him again with the words, "Not today!" But by the time the finish line came, it was the old boy's day after all.

With the summits blocking the view, the field spread out, the sheer exhaustion, the struggling for breath in the extremely warm and still conditions, it was not possible to compete and give an accurate report on the winners. For that you will have to wait for our resident results expert, Lindie's weekly roundup. Meanwhile enjoy the photos.

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