In Memory of Oliver McCullagh
What can I say about the Greencastle 5 Mile Road Race that hasn’t been said for the past 37 years. This year the race, and the whole running community of County Tyrone and beyond, was missing a real gentleman of the sport. Oliver McCullagh founded this race all those years ago and in 2022, he sadly passed away. His son, Connor, took over as race director, and picked up exactly where his dad left off. The race organisation was delivered flawlessly on a day when other races may have postponed the event. It is always run on St. Stephen’s Day (Boxing Day), which means there is a very good chance that the weather will be challenging. On this day, it was certainly that.
At noon time, when the the gun went off, the temperature outside was 0.5C, with a fine snow/sleet pelted us runners for the first mile and a half. Anyone braving the elements with exposed skin surely felt that. The organisers sent out gritters before the run to ensure a safe road race. But as the snow and sleet fell, all the grit in the world couldn’t prevent the odd slippery patch. This made some of the downhill stretches a bit worrying, but it didn’t slow down the field.
The Greencastle 5 Mile Road Race Results
According to Strava, the course had a 465 foot elevation gain. It certainly felt like that times three! The Mullydoo hill lasts nearly a mile (.87 to be exact) and comes just before mile four and continues until about 4.5 miles. The Greencastle 5 Mile Road Race draws such a great crowd. It does so, not because it is an easy 5 miler. It draws well because it is so hard. This is what makes runners a unique breed. We run because it is challenging and we like to stare that hill in the face and let it know we can conquer it. A few years ago the race organisers gave out coffee mugs to all participants. The mugs said, “It’s just a hill, get over it!” I loved that.
On a dark, cold, wet and windy day the course records were smashed. The men’s race was won in 24:33 by James Edgar from City of Lisburn AC, which is quite amazing. The women’s course record was also taken on this day. Grace Carson. from Mid Ulster AC came home in 27:35. There are quite remarkable on those roads, so a huge congratulations to both runners.
There are two things that the Greencastle 5 Mile Road Race has always been know for. The first is the hill at mile 4. Second, and it is a very close second, is the hospitality afterwards. There is no end to the tea, coffee, buns, sweets and sandwiches. Probably the biggest hit after a hard, cold run is the mulled wine. I suppose it’s that time of year, eh?
I ran a decent time considering all the self-abuse and debauchery from the holiday eating. Despite not drinking and continuing my early morning routine, I managed to gain 8 pounds over the past 10 days. This is always going to make running a little harder. But I finished in 33:28 and when I get the official results I would hope to be in the top 10 men over 50. That’s a good minute and a half slower than the Tiger Turkey Chase 5 miler from November. Still, I’ll take that any year in Greencastle. What a great way to “earn” the food from the holidays.
Here’s to Oliver for starting something so amazing! And here’s to next year’s race.