Google+ Running in Cork, Ireland: Ballycotton 11th Aug 1977...where it all began...Part 1 of 3

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Ballycotton 11th Aug 1977...where it all began...Part 1 of 3

Ballycotton Running Promotions recently published a small booklet about the very first race in Ballycotton and how it all started. It is reproduced here in 3 parts...

Part 1 of 3...

IN March of 2012, the famous Ballycotton ‘10’ celebrates its 35th anniversary. But let us not forget the race that started it all, and without which it is unlikely that road running in this region would have attained the popularity it now has. The date was Thursday August 11th 1977 and it was another age as far as road running was concerned. From January to August of that year, only six events on the road took place in the Cork region – the well-known Cork to Cobh ‘15’, two four-milers in Ballymore (which had 26 runners), and Ballyhooly, a five-mile race in Mallow, a six-mile in Kildorrery (where 16 ran), and the popular relays around the Lough organised by St. Finbarrs.

August 11th was a week after that Ballymore Festival race, and commitments had been received there from most of the runners to come to Ballycotton, including winner Ray Treacy. The work in organising the race had started some weeks before, with the local shops and business people being approached for donations. One of the few firms in the area at the time contributed £5, as did three of the businesses. Two more gave £2 and £1 each, and even the 50p from another was appreciated. The total came to £28.50. Trophies and plaques were purchased as prizes, costing £29.75. Entry fee was either 20p or 30p, and no race numbers were issued. Instead, as each runner finished he was handed a card with his finishing position on it, and he then gave his name to the recorder. We say ‘he’ deliberately, for at that time no women ran such a distance as five miles!

The race started at the old Post Office (just above where the race now finishes), and the course was the same as is used at present, although the finish was outside the School gate. As measuring techniques were not as advanced as nowadays, it was slightly short of five miles. Local interest was a mixture of curiosity and bemusement. Some people asked what a road race was – “is it a cycling race, or what?” When Phil McGrath and John Walshe went out to mark the road, one local person told them that the County Council would object, as they considered painting on the road graffiti!

First to enter was Michael Healy from Youghal, one of the top cross-country runners in Cork at the time. Tens of thousands of entries for a myriad of events have been received since, but Michael can take pride of place as the first runner to have ‘No. 1’ alongside his name in a Ballycotton race. BLE County Board Chairman, the late Paddy Hartnett, sent the 34 runners on their way. John Murray from Ballybraher (who has also passed away) was a spectator on that fine August evening and he was asked to act as lead car, which he duly did, accompanied by reporter Joe Duggan (also now deceased) from the ‘News and Star’.

Michael Long of Leevale, along with his girlfriend Ellen, volunteered to time the runners. It is worth noting that virtually no races in those days did this, apart from maybe taking the winners’ time. In fact, in his newspaper report Joe Duggan stated that, “the time of all the competitors was taken, a rare feat in Cork in athletics.” At the finish line the numbered cards were handed out by Seamus Hartnett, there to se the race with his parents, and who would go on to be the area’s top runner in years to come. The other locals involved were John Walshe and Dan Donovan (who both ran the race), along with Phil McGrath, and his brother Fr Tom, home from England. At the prize-giving in the local hall the trophies were presented by the late Fr Bertie Troy, C.C., Ballycotton.

No comments: