Our latest ‘Runner Profile’ is a man everyone will recognise, regardless of the length of time they have been running. Athletics NI Chairman David Seaton can be found at pretty much every event – if he’s not ‘directing’ proceedings, he’ll be running or providing support to those competing.
David, the long-time Race Director and newly appointed Chairman of Belfast City Marathon has been involved in our great sport for the guts of 60 years and has won Northern Ireland Championships medals at Youth, Junior, Senior and Veteran levels, as well as representing Northern Ireland as a Marathon runner and also in Track & Field (3,000 metres Steeplechase).
On top of this, the North Down AC man has managed the Northern Ireland World Championships XC team on three occasions (Rome – Italy 1982, Lisbon – Portugal 1985 and Warsaw – Poland 1987).
This is just some of the qualities that make up the legend that is Davie Seaton… enjoy our ‘Runner Profile’.
Full Name: David Seaton
Current Category: Male Veteran 70+
Associated Club: North Down Athletic Club (previously with North Belfast Harriers)
Personal Bests: 3000 metres (Track) – 8:36, 5000 metres (Track) – 14:56, 10000 metres (Track) – 32:16, 3000 metres Steeplechase – 9:31, 10k (Road) – 31:32, 10 miles (Road) – 52:38, Half Marathon – 1:09:48, Marathon – 2:31:26
What is your favourite race in Northern Ireland? I always enjoy the NI Senior Cross Country Championships irrespective of where they are held. Up until 1987 each of the Home Countries were able to enter teams for the World Cross Country Championships and this event acted at the trial race. Competition was always fierce and exciting as all athletes wanted to earn a place on the NI team. Unfortunately there is now only one team representing GB & NI so no local athletes have been included, though some do make the Ireland squad. Although the ‘carrot’ of International selection is no longer there via this race, I still have a ‘soft spot’ for the event and look forward to each year as it tends to throw up a few surprises.
You have made a strong reputation within the local running community, with long and successful career as a runner, your work with Athletics NI and also your work as Race Director of various high profile events. What do you enjoy about running and being involved in various aspects of the sport? I derive great satisfaction in helping to deliver major events, whether it be the International Cross Country at Greenmount, the Belfast City Marathon, Titanic 10K or, in previous years, the spectacular meetings at the Mary Peters Track where we were able to attract such world stars as Steve Ovett, Zola Budd, Dave Moorcroft, Steve Cram, Linford Christie, John Regis and Ed Moses. I find being part of the ‘delivery team’ very rewarding and tend to look forward to the next challenge.
Also over the years I have very much enjoyed seeing new people enter our sport and watching their progress. Some entrants like Paul Lawther, Mark Forsythe, Paul Pollock, Eddie McGinley and Katie Kirk you know right away will be very good athletes but there are others who, by sheer hard work and commitment, you feel will do well. At the moment Mark McKinstry is an athlete in point who, under the guidance of Gregory Walsh, is developing well and going in the right direction. I will watch with interest what the next few years bring for him athletically.
How did you first get into running? As long as I can remember I always enjoyed running. My first athletic competition was in 1955 when I ran in the Belfast Primary Schools Sports and also, in the same year, the Belfast Cub & Scout Sports. I first competed under ANI (then NIAAA) rules as a 13 year old running for RBAI (Inst) in the 1958 Boys Cross Country Championships at Dundonald. At this time I was also playing either football or rugby on a Saturday morning but at that age it was not uncommon to take on two or three different sporting challenges in the same day. In 1959 I finished 5th in the All Ireland Boys Cross Country Countryship and this modest success probably helped take me along the athletics route rather than the football one which was then my first love.
You recently represented Northern Ireland at the British & Irish Masters XC in Dublin – How do you feel this went? Interestingly, your daughter, Jodi Smith was also part of the NI Masters team at the British & Irish International; it’s not often that a father and daughter can claim to have represented their country as part of the same squad at the same event. This must have been memorable? I really enjoyed the trip particularly as Jodi made the female team and we were in the same race. Thanks primarily to a great run by my good friend Gerry Lynch we claimed 3rd place in the Over 70 team race so I didn’t go home empty handed. Unfortunately Jodi was not so fortunate but I’m sure her day will come! Interestingly there were three parent/child partnerships that day on the Northern Ireland team as Pauline Thom/Brigid Quinn and Stephen & Barry Morris also competed. Quite unique really.
You run well over every type of terrain, do you have a preference on what sort of terrain you like to compete on? In the past I really had no preference but as you get older it becomes more difficult to lift your legs out of the mud so currently I tend to favour races on the road, provided they are not too far.
What is your next race and what do you want from it? Presently I am injured so I’m not quite sure when I will be back competing. I suspect therefore, if and when I return, it will be at a Parkrun as running in these events gives you an indication of your fitness level following injury or illness.
What is your favourite training ‘session’? Whilst I was a member of North Belfast Harriers I used to enjoy summer evening runs over the Cave Hill. We had a great team then which won many major races including the Northern Ireland Senior Cross Country Championship. Mike Teer, Dessie Martin, Roy Kernaghan, Kevin McCormick, Billy Thompson etc were in the training pack and no prisoners were taken. There was little time for chat or conversation so an undulating 10 miles was often covered in under an hour. After I moved to live in Bangor the geography was slightly different with hills not as plentiful so I think my most enjoyable sessions were fairly fast runs around the coast between Ballyholme and Crawfordsburn.
What is your favourite pre-race and post-race meals? I’ve been a vegetarian for over 50 years now so tend to have toast, fruit juice and herbal tea before a race. Afterwards I always enjoy a few pints of Guinness but don’t have a favourite meal.
What would you consider to be your greatest achievement in running? On the competing side I think my 3rd place in the 1978 Lisburn Cup in Newry was a fairly good run. I ran 31.32 to finish just behind the great Danny McDaid and Welsh International and Army champion ‘Taff’ Davies on a day when everything just seemed to click. A few months later I won the Northern Ireland 5000 metres track title at the Mary Peters Track beating Rodney Stone up the finishing straight in 14:56. This victory pleased me too.
In 1965 I placed 3rd in the Northern Ireland Junior Cross Country Championship (now Intermediate) behind my North Belfast club mate Mike Teer and David Nixon of Queens University. North won the team race that day with 57 points and had all their six scoring runners in the first 22 positions (1, 3, 7, 10, 14, 22). That was a pleasing result for both me and the club. Overall though I think my 57 years unbroken service in the sport would be my greatest achievement!
Do you like any other sports aside from running? I follow quite a few other sports particularly football and boxing. My first sporting ‘success’ came in football when in 1956 I was part of the Strandtown team which won the Primary Schools Cup and the Oval beating Orangefield 3-2. The same year I captained the Belfast Cubs team against the Dublin cubs. What, however, stands out in my mind was not the game which we won, but the fact that I had to make a post-match speech at the dinner. My first speech in public so quite daunting at 10 years of age.
I have followed the Northern Ireland soccer team at Windsor Park since 1956 and rarely miss a home match other than when athletics duties take precedence. I have many happy teenage memories of standing in the old Spion Kop watching the likes of Harry Gregg, Danny Blanchflower, Peter McParland, Wilbur Cush and Jimmy McIlroy perform. Later on they were replaced by Pat Jennings, George Best, Keith Gillespie and Sammy McIlroy. Lets hope France 2016 gives us something to be excited about again.
Boxing was always a favourite spectator sport for me and I can still recall watching such great local fighters such as Freddie Gilroy and John Caldwell at the Kings Hall. Later on we had some good boxers like Jim McCann, Hughie Russell & Dave Larmour and I often attended and enjoyed their bouts either here or at the Ulster Hall.