Google+ Running in Cork, Ireland: History of the Castlemartyr 4 mile John Walshe

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

History of the Castlemartyr 4 mile John Walshe

The Ballintotis 4 mile road race is coming up near the town of Castlemartyr in East Cork on Thursday the 16th of April 2015. More info in this earlier post.

This is a relatively new race which was first run in 2010 and it has its origins in the annual Castlemartyr 4 mile road race which was first held back in 1986.

In the following article, John Walshe of Ballycotton Running Promotions outlines the history of the race which has traditionally marked the start of the summer season of evening road races in Cork.

With the Ballintotis four-mile road race just two weeks away, this might be an opportune time to have a look back at the event which preceded Ballintotis, the Castlemartyr race over the same distance held for the first time on Thursday April 17th, 1986.

The race was organised by the then newly-formed East Cork AC and Castlemartyr in mid-April would herald the start of the spring and summer races for the next 23 years. Numbers taking part over that near quarter-of-a-century show an average of 108 runners per race, a far cry from the 1,000 or so expected this year on April 16th.

The biggest race was the final one in Castlemartyr in 2009 which had 217 finishers. The following year of 2010, East Cork AC – in conjunction with Ballintotis Community Council – moved the short distance to the picturesque lakeside setting. The numbers that year jumped to 435 and the phenomenal increase since can be seen from last year’s total of 996 finishers.

A nostalgic photograph which recently surfaced shows what the start of a typical road race was like 20 to 30 years ago. It is of the fourth Castlemartyr race, held on Thursday April 20th, 1989. The race started on the main street, as can be seen from the old entrance to the Carmelite College (now Castlemartyr Resort) in the background. The route turned right over the bridge on to the Ladysbridge road for almost a mile, then a left around Dower before re-joining the main N25 Youghal road just before three miles with the finish on the roadway outside the national school.

Just 81 runners took part that night, with victory going to Liam O’Brien of the promoting club in 19:25, eight seconds ahead of his team-mate, John Kearney. Tony Ryan from Dungarvan was third in 19:37. It is worth noting that 41 of the 81 finishers broke 24 minutes with only 10 runners slower than eight-minute pace (32:00).

Liam O'Brien on his way to victory in the 1989 Castlemartyr 4 mile. Photo: Donal O'Rourke
The serious intent of those taking part can be seen from their posture on the starting line, in particular the track stance of Liam O’Brien (fifth from left) who had in the previous five years represented Ireland at the Olympic Games in Los Angeles and World T&F Championships in Rome.

The man on the left with the gun held high in the air is the legendary starter Dan McCarthy who will once again be setting a much bigger number on their way in two weeks time.

Along with Liam O’Brien, some of the other runners on the front line include Eric Meade, Tony Ryan, Mary Sheehan, Denis McCarthy, George Walsh, Marion Lyons, Eamonn McEvoy (who, along with Denis McCarthy and John Walshe, ran all 24 Castlemartyr races), John Delaney, Tom Hartnett, Joe Murphy, Michael Roche, Pat Kerrigan, John Kearney, Paul Mulholland, Willie Griffin, Bryan Meade and Tom Owens.

* Sincere acknowledgments are due to Castlemartyr native Pat Walsh who provided the start line picture taken by local man Donal O’Rourke on that night in 1989 and also to Denis McCarthy of Ballynoe from whose meticulous collection of athletics material the full result sheet was obtained.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Great article, Serious race and serious times posted. Shows at what part of the running scale that the sport has grown.
Fantastic that so many pictured and named are still involved in Athletics and giving so much back to help others.
I personally think that we would not be in today's current position of lots of high quality races without these men.
Wont name any as will surely leave some out.