2007 Festival report by Chris Quine
Fabulous weather, good-sized fields and competitive action were the hallmarks of the 45th Easter Athletics Festival. There was also something of a changing of the old order with 20 year old Johnny Mellor (Liverpool Harriers) and 17 year old Heather Timmins (Warrington AC) taking the overall Festival honours, whilst in the women’s team event a young Edinburgh University team emerged to upset the formbook.
A large crowd both at the start/finish in Port Erin and out on the course for the 10k road race welcomed the runners in sunny conditions for the first part of the Festival, this being the second time that the course had been used as part of the Festival.
With over 260 runners competing, the field made a magnificent site as it wound its way along Port Erin promenade and out of the village on a circuit that includes Gansey and Port St Mary.
With a £100 bonus on offer for the first runner to break 30 minutes, pundits were predicting a close battle between up and coming Liverpool star Johnny Mellor, defending champion James Walsh of Leeds University/DOSS AC and the Island’s leading runner Keith Gerrard. Just after 7k, Mellor and Walsh were clear of the field. Returning to Port Erin prom with about 1200m to run Walsh held a 40m lead. However, it was Mellor who still had some running in his legs and with 200m to go overhauled his rival to cross the line in a course record 30 mins 16 seconds, with Walsh a disappointed second but still over 20 seconds faster than his winning run in 2006.
Keith Gerrard was an isolated third a further half minute behind with Richard Jamieson of Northern AC second local in 23rd. Former Festival champion, Bashir Hussain of Stockport was first veteran in 8thplace – 32.23. Leeds University/DOSS AC, with 3 in the first 5 took the team award from a young Liverpool squad, a pattern that would set the tone for the weekend.
Seventeen year old Heather Timmins of Warrington, winner of the recent English Schools Cross Country Championship, showed she is one to watch in the future with a commanding win in the women’s event in a very good time of 37 mins 15 seconds, 31 seconds up on former Festival winner Ruth Hetherington (Leeds University/DOSS AC). Kath Farquhar of Holmfirth was first veteran in 4th overall.
Amongst the locals, Eve O’Hare was 9th overall with Sam Cowen also making the top dozen in a field of 60 finishers. Edinburgh University provided a surprise by taking the team award from pre-race favourites Leeds University/DOSS.
The sun shone again for the famous Peel Hill Race, sponsored by Mann Link Travel with ground conditions being amongst the firmest for years, the castle as ever providing a magnificent back-drop for the lung-bursting first climb.
The big question was whether former England junior hill running international Mellor could report his win of less than 20 hours earlier. However, this time a determined James Walsh was not to be outdone and by the finish had opened up a 23 second lead over his young rival. His time of 20.10 was one of the quickest ever over the course, with another Leeds/DOSS runner Joe Symonds almost catching Mellor on the line to finish third.
Richard Jamieson in 17th was first local, just two places ahead of Darren Gray. Bashir Hussain repeated his win from Friday in the Veterans category, with Leeds/DOSS again taking the team award.
In the women’s event it was again Heather Timmins who dominated the proceedings with another powerful display of running. Sarah Graham of Leeds/DOSS took second with Gail Griffiths, continuing her amazing improvement, the leading local in 12th place. Leeds/DOSS made no mistake this time in the team race, some 11 points ahead of rivals Edinburgh.
The action moved to Douglas Promenade for races over a 5k out and back course. Again there was a decent sized crowd adding to the race atmosphere
There were a number of big issues to be resolved. Walsh and Mellor were one race a piece; whoever ran fastest in the relay would take the overall award. Similarly, in the women’s team event Edinburgh and Leeds/DOSS were still battling for honours.
First were the women with a good sized field of 50 runners toeing the start line. Again Heather Timmins demonstrated her class with another convincing win in 18 mins 02 seconds, 18 seconds clear of Ruth Hethington. However, arguably the run of the day came from 15 year old local girl Gemma Astin in her only appearance of the weekend finished a magnificent 4th place just 45 seconds down on the winner Timmins.
Sam Cowen made the top 10 to again be second local with Gail Griffiths in 16th doing enough to take the leading local over the three days. The young Edinburgh University packed well to take the team award for both the race and overall Festival.
The final event was the day was the 4 x 5k road relay. After a close battle between Liverpool Harriers and Leeds/DOSS over the first three legs, James Walsh was able to anchor home his Leeds/DOSS team to a 47 second victory. However, he was unable to prevent Johnny Mellor from recording the fastest leg of the day with a rapid 14.36 effort, which in turn gave him the overall Festival honours.
Manx Harriers A team was eighth out the thirty starters with Darren Gray fastest local on the day. However, his 16.55 effort was not enough to prevent Richard Jamieson from taking the overall best local award.
The Festival concluded with famous prize presentation and party at Paramount City. Thanks to support from the Department of Tourism and Leisure, over £4000 worth of prizes were distributed. Meanwhile, in a hotly disputed beer drinking final, Manchester – Alehouse scored a very narrow win over long time rivals Leeds/DOSS.
Thanks are due to all the helpers and officials who gave up their time over the weekend to make the Festival another resounding success. It was also great to see a number of clubs and university team competing in the event for the first time. With a earlier Easter next year, there is just 49 weeks to wait until the 2008 event! (12th April 2007)
Festival preview by Chris Quine:
Good Friday evening sees the start of this year’s Easter Athletics Festival, the 45th in the series, with the Blue Riband 10k road race launching the Festival in Port Erin. Entries have been received from England, Scotland, Ireland, Wales, the Channel Islands as well as, of course, the Isle of Man.
With nearly 250 runners entered for this race, plus perhaps another 30 or so competing in the Bushy’s Great South Run, which will be held simultaneously, it promises to form a fine spectacle as the field winds it way around Port Erin, Gansey and Port St Mary before returning back to the finish on Shore Road, Port Erin.
On Saturday afternoon the action moves to Peel for the MannLink Peel Hill, with Peel Castle forming a magnificent backdrop as the runners wind their way up the lung-bursting climb. The action starts at 14.15.
The Festival concludes with road running action on Douglas Promenade on Easter Sunday morning starting near to the Bottle Neck Car Park. The women have a 5k road race whilst the men’s event is a 4 x 5k relay. The first race commences at 10.15.
Some close racing is expected during the weekend. Friday’s race promises to be a cracker with defending champion, James Walsh (Leeds University/DOSS AC) up against three young up and coming prospects – Johnny Mellor of Liverpool, Ben Lindsay of Pendle and local star Keith Gerrard who will be making his sole appearance of the weekend. At the other end of the age scale, one of Britain leading veteran runners, Bashir Hussain, a former Festival winner himself, will be looking to roll back the years and cause an upset.
The women’s events have attracted a Festival record of over 80 entrants. The outstanding runner looks to be one of Britain’s many up and coming young junior runners. 17 year old Heather Timmins of Warrington has been in great form recently winning the Under 17 UK Inter Counties title, the Senior Girls English Schools title as well as being runner up in the Under 17 English National cross country. The question is whether she can upstage her older, more experienced rivals?
Amongst the teams. Leeds University/DOSS AC look favourites to grab the honours in both men’s and womens events, although the latter team is depleted by injury. Long time rivals Manchester University – Alehouse, will look to push them all the way whilst Edinburgh University Allstars are another team with a large squad who may come in to the reckoning. Amongst the clubs Hunters Bog Trotters, Stockport, Pendle and a young Liverpool squad will all have their eyes on a possible medal slot. The large Manx Harriers entry is missing some of their best runners but could also challenge for a top six placing.(4thApril 2007)
Irish on the way………….
A last minute entry has come in from Ballyfin AC of Portloise in Ireland. First time entrants in 2006 they are bringing a team of five runners including father and son, Nick and Bobby Devery.
Unfortunately, due to ferry timings they are unable to compete on Friday but we look forward to welcoming them to the Festival on Saturday and Sunday. (4th April 2007)
Refreshing the parts………
Peel pub, The Creek Inn, which is located next to the start/finish for Saturday’s Hill Races have kindly offered to serve some light refreshments after the races have finished. (2nd April 2007)
Rising stars head for the Festival:
Some of the rising stars of British endurance running are due to compete in this year’s Festival.
Amongst the men, Johnny Mellor of Liverpool recently ran a sub 30 minute 10k at Trafford running GB international Peter Riley to within about 20 seconds, as well as 4th place in the English U20 National, whilst Ben Linsdsay of Pendle represented Great Britain in last weekend’s Junior World Cross event in Kenya, finishing in 87th position.
In the women, Heather Timmins of Warrington has been in great form recently in a number of high profile cross country races. Her successes include winning the Under 17 Inter Counties title and the Senior Girls English Schools. In between these wins she finished 2nd in the Under 17 English National.(1st April 2007)
Information Packs for Competitors:
Information packs are being sent to all competitors this week. These contain amongst other things information on travel to/from Port Erin and Peel and race registration. If you have not received you pack by the weekend, please e-mail email@example.com
The exceptions to this are Manchester Uni, Leeds Uni/DOSS and Edinburgh Uni where packs are being sent to those organising your squad trip. (28th March 2007)
Local supermarket chain Shoprite are supporting the Festival by providing bottles of water for competitors at the finish of races. Shoprite have stores in a number ofIsland locations including those towns/villages hosting races – Douglas, Peel and Port Erin. (28th March 2007)
Local bike suppliers are providing logistical support over the weekend through the loan of a van to transport equipment between locations. Located onBucks Road in Douglas they also supply stocks for runners such as specialist energy drinks. (28th March 2007)
Beer Drinking on DVD!
This years beer drinking competition will be filmed for the first time by students from Isle of ManCollege and included on their Festival DVD. (25th March 2007)
From Mombassa to Man:
Entries recently received include Ben Lindsay from Pendle AC who will be making his second appearance in the Festival. Ben is competing this weekend for Great Britain in the World Junior Cross Country Championships in Mombassa. The organising team wish him all the best for a good run in the World Cross. (25th March 2007)
In addition to UK Athletics rules, the organising team have drawn up some additional rules for the Festival. These relate to, for example, team eligibility and declarations and age groups.A full copy is published on the website on Monday 26th March (25th March 2007)
Women’s trophy up for grabs:
Last year’s women’s race winners Laura Murphy – former Carney – and Olivia Walwyn will both be missing from this year’s event. With Laura also winning in 2005, it looks like there could be a new name on the winners trophy in 2007. Remember there is also a £100 bonus for the first woman running under 34.30 in the Good Friday 10k (18th March 2007)
Beer Drinking Rules:
The rules for this year’s beer drinking competitions have been published click here This event is held as part of the prize presentation evening at Paramount City. For some, this event is a light hearted way to let your hair down after a hectic weekend, for others it is more serious than the running. Entries will be taken on the night and close at 20.00 hrs (18th March 2007)
Travel information – airline changes:
For those planning a last minute trip, it is worth noting that British Airways flights from Manchester and London Gatwick cease on 25th March, when they will then be taken over by Flybe who are also introducing a new service from Southampton on the same day. See www.flybe.com for more information or contact Festival travel agents MannLink Travel on 0870 165 0470 or 01624 663377. (18th March 2007)
James Walsh to defend title:
Overall Festival winner in 2005 and 2006, James Walsh of Leeds University/DOSS AC is coming back to defend his title. Having had some injury problems over last summer, he finished 22nd in the English National Cross Country at Sunderland, just three places behind Isle of Man runner Keith Gerrard. With Keith also planning to compete over the Easter weekend, it could be a mouth watering confrontation.(14th March 2007)
There will be changing facilities provided before and after Good Friday’s 10k event. Local football club, Rushen United, have kindly allowed their facilities at Criot Lowey to used. These are about 800m from the start/finish. This will allow anyone with there own transport the option to spend the day or afternoon in the south of the island and then change before the race. (14th March 2007)
Relay rules – composite team allowed:
A question has been asked about Easter Sunday’s 4 x 5k relay relating to competitors where their club does not have four runners competing. It has been a long time policy to allow Composite teams to compete in the relay. This means a club with, say, three runners can draft in a fourth runner to make up a complete team. The same applies to individuals and unattached runners – we will try and match you up with others to form a team on the day.
All runners will receive an individual leg time and this will be counted towards the overall Festival positions and be eligible towards the prizes for fastest leg times. However, Composite teams are not eligible to win prizes in the team event where all runners must be members of the same club/university team.
It is important to note that you still need to enter the Festival in advance otherwise you will have to pay another �5 on the day. (14th March 2007)
Welcome toAberdeen University and & Middleton Harriers:
The organising team are delighted to have recently received entries from two new teams in 2007.Aberdeen University and Middleton Harriers fromManchester will both be making what are believed to be a first time appearance in the Festival.
Meanwhile, long-time Festival supporters, Stockport Harriers look set to have there largest party for many years. The team will be lead by former Festival winner and now one ofBritains leading veteran runners, Bashir Hussain (14th March 2007)
Supporters packs available:
Many teams have family and supporters travelling with them for the Festival. With events out of Douglas, where most people stay, we have made arrangements so those accompanying competitors are able to travel on official race transport to the events and be part of the Festival. We have put together a special supporters pack which includes:
- Coach travel to/from Port Erin on Good Friday
- Coach travel to/from Peel on Easter Saturday
- Ticket for prize presentation
All of the above can be purchased for £3 each or for £6 for a combined package per person. When compared with the cost of public transport this is a very reasonable offer. Please note that you must be aged 18 or above to attend the prize presentation and admission is by ticket only. To reserve your supporters pack please e-mail Paul Jackson – firstname.lastname@example.org Payment can be made in advance or on Good Friday. (8th March 2007)
Easter Festival – The Movie 2
After a trial last year, there will be another Easter Festival DVD available this year. Filmed and produced by students from the Isle of Man College, the DVD promises to considerably longer than last year and will feature all three events and possibly also highlights from the prize presentation evening. More details nearer the time.
(3rd March 2007)
Welsh on the way!
Welsh club Abergele Harriers are the latest club to confirm they are intending to bring a group to this year’s Festival. Having first been represented by father and son Sean and Steven McCormack in 2005, they now look set to return and are hoping to bring both men’s and women’s teams in 2007 (20th February 2007)
Pendle AC set to return.
2006 Festival newcomers Pendle AC look set to return in 2007. The Lancashire-based club are hoping to bring over a team of four men and will be looking to improve upon their sixth place overall in last year’s event.(15th February 2007)
Athletics Weekly coverage for 2007 Festival
The Easter Festival Organising Team is delighted to announce that the UK’s leading athletics magazine will be covering this year’s Festival. Athletics Weekly Deputy Editor Paul Halford will be visiting the event to provide coverage for AW and may yet take part in the Festival himself. This will hopefully result in valuable pre and post event publicity. The Organising Team are keen to increase on and off island publicity and this initiative should go some way to achieving this. The AW visit is supported by the Isle of Man Department of Tourism and Leisure and is in addition to the generous support they provide to the Festival. (12th February 2007)
Alf Tupper invasion:
We look set for another invasion of Alf Tupper fans from DOSS AC/Leeds University. At the moment they have around 40 in their party – look out for the yellow and black tee-shirts. (1st February 2007)
Junior races to be included again:
The junior races which were successfully re-introduced in 2006 will again take place on Good Friday. There will be 3k races for under 13s, under 15s and under 17s. They will all compete over a circuit on Port Erin promenade whilst the 10k race is taking place. It provides young athletes with the opportunity to run in front of a large crowd of spectators.
The races are an excellent chance for any children whose parents are running in the Festival to be involved as well. Entries will be taken on the night and medals will be awarded to all finishers. More details nearer the time. (24th January 2007)
Back to the Outback:
Local Australian Sports Bar, The Outback, have confirmed they will again be hosting a post race get-together after the Easter Sunday events. Light refreshments will be provided and it is also hoped to be able to show a video of some of the action from earlier in the weekend. The Outback is located about 400m from the start/finish area for Sunday’s racing. (6th January 2007)
The Good Friday 10k in the 2007 Festival will include bonus prizes should the winners run under specified times. Both men and women will be eligible to win a £100 bonus. The required times are sub 30.00 for men and sub 34.30 for women. (21st November 2006)
More travel options from Northern Ireland
Potential competitors from Northern Ireland have an extended choice of lower flying options. Manx2.com – www.manx2.com – have recently announced they are now flying from both Belfast International and Belfast City. Fares currently available for the Easter weekend start at around £70 return. Euromanx – www.euromanx.com – and British North West – www.flybnwa.com – also offer flights from Belfast City.
(21st November 2006)
Abergele Harriers plan their return
Sean McCormack of Abergele Harriers has confirmed that the club are set to return to next years Easter Festival and are planning to make it their ‘club tour’ for the year. (20th November 2006)
First entries arrive for 2007
The organising committee were delighted today to receive the first entries for the Easter Festival 2007. Joel Clewett, Dave Rayner & Paul Rodgers of Crawley AC together with Kelly Holman also of West Sussex have all entered the full festival. Entry List updates will be posted here (2nd November 2006)
Eccleshill look set to return
Festival newcomers in 2006, Eccleshill Road Runners of Yorkshire look set to return in 2007. Tony Myers of Eccleshill says they are still talking about the 2006 trip and are hoping to bring a stronger squad in 2007. They had a pary of around 15 runners and supporters in 2006. (1st November 2006)
Steam Packet bookngs on-line
As well as the excellent value packages available through MannLink Travel, there are bargains available for those wishing to make their own travel and accommodation arrangements.
The Isle of Man Steam Packet offer travel from Liverpool and Heysham. They are now taking bookings on their website – www.steam-packet.com
Sailings are currently available for just £30 return plus £5 fuel surcharge from both departure points when travelling out on Friday and returning Monday. These fares are likely to be snapped up quickly so make sure you book early. (20th October 2006)
Entry forms now on-line:
Entry forms for 2007 are now available. Go to the Entry Form page on the website. (3rd October 2006)
Promotion starts this week
Promotion for the 2007 Festival starts this weekend – exactly six months before next Easter! Promotional material will be handed out at Saturday’s Manchester University relays. (3rd October 2006)
“No-frills” entry available
A new innovation for 2007 is a “no-frills entry”. This gives runners the opportunity to compete in all three races for the fee of just £12 for members of athletics clubs. We are aware that for some, particularly among the locals, are not interested in on-island transport or the prize presentation/party. Therefore, the “no-frills” entry gives entry to the races only – a t-shirt, on-island transport and prize presentation ticket are NOT included. A full festival entry which does include these features will cost £18 – the same as in 2006. (3rd October 2006)