“The road goes ever on and on”, the opening words of a poem from JRR Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings (one for the nerds), could well be the road runner’s mantra but fortunately for the twenty four runners who turned out for last night’s School Hill handicap the road effectively ended after four miles. The race, the fourth in Larne AC’s 2021/22 handicap series, started and finished at the Croft Road entrance to Ballygally car park and took in, in various stages, almost the full length of the Croft Rd, Mill Vale and parts of the Brustin Brae and the Ballymullock Roads, thereby incorporating climbs, descents and flat stretches.
The objective of a handicap is to create a level playing field to try to ensure that all runners, irrespective of their starting times, cross the finish line at the same time. This never happens. Runners inevitably run either faster or slower than the handicapper anticipates or, to put it more succinctly, the handicapper always gets it wrong. In this instance Jackie* (the only man in the club to have won a First Lady prize in an Athletics NI sanctioned race – it’s no surprise if you haven’t heard about this as he tends to keep it quiet) seriously underestimated Michelle McIntosh’s level of improvement over the past few weeks and she ran out a comfortable and deserving winner, coming home in a corrected time of 38.39. Michelle was followed home in second place by Melissa Shields, her time of 39.07 representing a good return to racing for someone who has only recently been getting back into her running. Third across the finish line was Martan Keane, whose time of 24.21 was nothing short of amazing given his participation in the Edinburgh Marathon less than three weeks ago.
Full details of times and places are set out on the results sheet but it’s worth pointing out that Jordan Heron’s time of 22.30 was the fastest of the day, a fact that won’t surprise anyone who’s been following his progress as a runner over the past couple of years. Martan’s time was the second fastest of the day while John Steele, with a time of 26.12 was the third fastest finisher. The fastest lady was Juliane Keane who, like Martan. was following up an excellent performance in Edinburgh, in her case in the half marathon. Charlotte English was the second fastest lady in a time of 28.13 while Isla Allen was the third fastest, her time of 33.09 being 15 seconds faster than her mum’s.
Finally, thanks must go to Rhonda and Jackie for the much appreciated tea and refreshments, to Diane for sorting out the prizes, to Kirsty for her help with the timing, to Ruth for acting as lead runner for Michelle and last and definitely least to the handicappers for turning up. While I have only mentioned by name the first three runners across the line, the runners who set the fastest times and those who helped with the organisation of the race, it would be invidious of me not to thank all the runners and supporters for turning out and making the night so enjoyable for all concerned. For various reasons, COVID, ill health and injuries being far from the least of them, attendance at club training has been relatively low of late and it was good to see so many members coming together for a handicap.
*Somebody had to carry the can and, although Billy Thompson is usually to blame when things go wrong, after long and serious consideration it was decided that Jackie was the obvious candidate. If Rhonda is to be believed, this is the closest he has ever come to carrying anything in his life.
SCHOOL HILL HANDICAP 2022 RESULTS
The arrows beside the corrected times indicate whether the times were faster or slower than the handicapper’s estimate.