Waggy Races Christmas Special
Murlough Bay – Sun 7th Dec
After weeks of anxiously seeking reassurance that the 11.57am high Spring tide would in fact go back out, the much hyped Christmas Waggy Races took place at the beautiful Murlough Bay, Co Down! The weather on race day boasted the full variety, with everything from beautiful clear sunny skies, to wind and hail. It was around 20 degrees colder than the recent Tollymore 5k, although the freezing temperatures and massive wind chill were rarely mentioned, with the exception perhaps of crowd favourite Sinead and Miniature Yorkie, Alfie – who spend his entire post-race wrapped up in a picnic rug.
The costumes were fantastic and it was great to see everyone embracing the Christmas dress theme, with everything from 2/4-legged elves and reindeers, to everyone’s favourite Christmas icon, David Hasselhof. On a competition note - a skim down the starting list made it clear that this would be one of the most competitive Waggy Races in living memory. A mouth-watering host of big names had returned to stake their claim for a WR title, against some serious looking debutantes.
A flurry of last minute entries ensured the race would be of a similar scale as Tollymore, with the 5.3k mixed terrain course attracting a core of returning veterans, as well as a lot of new faces and their accompanying hounds. As the Waggy Racers arrived to register and the atmosphere intensified, it was evident that a little rain, a few flu cry offs and the overnight theft of an aqua-roll weren’t going to compromise anyone’s fun on the day. The ambiance was one of excitement and fun as dogs were suited and costumes unveiled just before the 6 waves of runners and sizable group of walkers ambled towards the shore for the start of the race.
At 1.15pm with wagging tales, big smiles, a roar from the crowd and the familiar ringing of the starter bell, the walkers set off. As this 20+ strong group horse-shoed their way down to the beach, Personal trainer Claire Withers, reunited with Beagle Cash, took charge of the megaphone to execute the first ever 6-legged warm up. This proved quite a spectacle as dogs and humans lunged, stretched and jogged together in very loud, barky unison.
Warmed up and hot to trot, at 1.30pm the bell tolled and the fiercely competitive first wave set off at a tremendous lick. This opener was packed full of pace and looked more like a who’s who of Waggy Racers than a start line. The Moore brothers, Philip (& Springer George) and Steven (with bouncing Retriever Spruce) were eyeballing each other from the off, lining up alongside previous medallists John McAleavy (& Duke), Mervyn Chambers (& Buddy). GOPRO VIDEO hero Rory Parsons (& Dot) and new boys Gary ‘the destroyer’ Davison (& buddy) and Wayne Hutton (& Murphy) completed the male line up. Of the female contingent, veteran Claire Withers is always hard to beat, especially when Cash stops posing for pictures and Tollymore winner Karen Bleakley (& Collie Kai) were always going to be a threat. Meanwhile, the inaugural WR ladies champ – a chestier than usual Louise Smart, was competing in the ‘team’ category alongside tanked Husband Glenn (& Dexter) in a traditional Christmas Pamela Anderson/David Hasselhof ensemble.
The remaining 5 waves were littered with their very own WR stars. In a solid looking wave 2, the likes of giant Elf Colin Jess (& playful Weimeraner Axl) toed the line alongside karate guru Brian Mcfarland (& Akita/Lab Jet), both looking like forces to be reckoned with. Experienced racer Michael Evans and ever faithful teammate Sherriff were making their 3rd WR appearance while former rower Janice Scott (& Retriever Barkley) were making their first. Late entry specialist Shane Martin (& Collie Sam) were hoping to build on their strong Tollymore performance and Roz Corry, on her debut, was hoping her Collie/whippet cross would pull her to a PB. Derek Goodfellow (and Goldendoodle Sasha), were looking fresh from their 10k heroics the previous day and on that note, Carol McMenamin of ‘Born 2 Run’ fame (& Max) were competing on home soil/sand and could never be discounted. Andrea Lucas, with the formidable miniature Schnauzer Sweep, looked dangerous in the team category, while Carly Dorbie (and recently shaven red mohawked Cairn terrier, Hamish) returned to start alongside Aaron Hill (with labs Kizzy & Coco) whose first experience of WR was more memorable for losing and recovering his car keys and mobile phone! Dromore based athlete Paul Morton (& Beau) had the extra edge of competing against brother in law and rival Ryan (& Mylo) and long term adversary David Fisher (with Monty &Pip).
One thing was clear from the start list - each and every wave had its own drama, with match ups and battles to be won all over the field.
As the final wave disappeared onto the beach, the race organisers barely had time to run to the finish line and fire up the Ipad timing App before the Carrick Cannonball, Gary Davison came scorching through the gate with Buddy the Collie to cross the line in a new Waggy Races record – well done Gary! A couple of minutes later Mervyn Chambers (also with a Buddy) crossed the line to finish one better than on his previous encounter at Castle Ward. John McAleavy was 3rd to finish but was robbed of his podium placing by giant morph suit elf Colin Jess (& the energetic Axl), who gassed his way through from wave 2 to take bronze (or in this case, a yellow rosette).
In the ladies race, the first to cross the line was Newcastle AC new girl Samantha McNeilly (& working cocker Bran) from wave 2, followed closely by wave 1’s Claire Withers and Cash, who were subsequently relegated to 3rd place by COLAC speedster Diane Watson who dragged Zola round the final 4.9km to take silver on her debut (in what looks like a flourishing partnership....)
In the team category, it was an all about the husband/wife units, with Messrs Hasselhoff & Anderson (& Jack Russell Dexter) gliding over hand in hand to take 1st place. Bryansford locals Richard and Gillian Campbell (& Lab/collie cross Obi) came a close second with the newly wedded David and Kerri Young, who so famously parted mid race at Castle Ward, patching things up to take 3rd place with Cockapoo, Harry Bumper Nettle Young.
The ‘Spirit of Waggy Races’ best dressed award was collected by camera-loving Beagle, Cash (Elf), who fought off stiff opposition to suitably impress the Guide Dogs NI judges.
As the walkers and runners finished and refuelled on mulled wine and mince pies (in favour of the water provided), it was fantastic to once again witness the camaraderie between and among participants as they crossed the finish line. The atmosphere is always loud, fun and encouraging and heightened by a competitive edge, with the majority staying to cheer on their fellow competitors and watch the awards!
One of the unique things about Waggy Races is the added unpredictability of racing with your 4-legged team mate and it is always great to see the human/dog interaction as they finish. Waggy Races now has a core that has competed in two or three events but it also continues to attract new people for each race, which is so pleasing for the race organisers! The question now on everyone’s lips now - what will 2015 bring for Waggy Races IV?!
As always, a huge thank you has to go to our sponsors and those who have helped with and supported our events - the whole concept relies on their continued support.
Our goody bag and prize sponsors Jollyes Pet Food Superstore have again been very generous.
Tidy Tails Pet Boutique and Murphy’s Bark’ery must take a lot of credit for their fantastic prize contributions.
Kathryn Henderson from Cromlyn House Veterinary Surgery was present (thankfully not busy!) on race day to look after our 4-legged friends, while 2-legged 1st Aid cover was again provided by Dr Lynn Cromie.
Paul Carron photography as usual produced a top notch set of action pics from around the course as well as an awesome VIDEO of the day. Sharon from Kalos Photography as always has captured race day brilliantly in her unique way – focusing on the human/dog interaction combined with some action shots from the start and finish lines.
The Guide Dogs NI team has also been great to work with and we thank you for coming to our events and on this occasion - judging the Spirit of Waggy Races Award! Thank you Becca!
A massive thanks also to our team of marshals who endured the freezing temperatures and occasional rain to do a very important job – Mike & Libby Robinson (aka Mum and dad), Steven Morrison, Ali Finlay, Neal Lucas, Allen Reid and Michael & Ellie Jones - Waggy Races salutes you!