William McKee – Mourne Man, Who Also Runs! (by Lee Maginnis)

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William McKee – Mourne Man, Who Also Runs! (by Lee Maginnis)

As the mountain running season swings into action, Lee Maginnis took a brief look at the career to date of William McKee, one of our best mountain specialists.

A man who did not discover the Mournes through running, but a native of the region, part of the fabric of the land.  To say that he does not seek the limelight would be an understatement, William prefers to stay in the background.  He is a popular figure amongst other athletes, humble and with a great sense of humour.

William did not do sports at school, indeed the only sign of his talent may well have been the speed at which he departed from the classroom when the bell went!

He farms not far outside Kilkeel, a suckler herd (for any agriculturalists among us).  And as if farming is not enough, he also works with his dad in the family construction firm!  Training runs can take place rather late in the day and when already tired.

Running seemed to find William, he would have gone running with some friends, just for the sheer fun of it, up into the mountains. And then it progressed into racing.

Stevie Cunningham (former multiple NIMRA Champion) is one of his comrades and has helped him throughout his career!

William was a latecomer to the sport. But it did not take him long to rise through the ranks! He was third in the Hill and Dale series in 2015, then won it in 2016, and won again in 2017 – a superb achievement. But his friend Stevie had timed it well and retired before William could launch a serious attempt at beating him!

His approach can be as laid back as his Mourne accent!  Some winters he has raced over cross country and even on the roads to keep in shape, but others he seems to shut down into hibernation mode from July to December. He would not be known for becoming too concerned about his diet, which is probably very good news for the local ice cream parlour!

There can be no doubt that William is a mountain runner, that is where he feels at home and where he excels.  For a tall man, he has a remarkably fast leg cadence, very obvious when climbing up steep hills.  He likes the rough terrain and the mud, but has to put up with tarmac when training with marathon star Laura Graham, also a Kilkeel native.  Apparently, Laura cannot even be tempted to venture onto trails when training! Thankfully William has another, more reliable, training partner…his springer spaniel, Alfie!  The pair are a familiar sight on the Mourne landscape.

When necessary, William is no slouch on the roads either, his association with Graham may have helped him to a 15:20 5k last year. He also has run 32:06 for 10k.

With so full a schedule, William has not much time left for any other hobbies.  And it is a good thing that he does not have a milking herd, like his club-mate Dale Mathers, or the running might have to cease completely!

David McKee (who drops down descents like a stone), also of Mourne Runners, has been referred to in reports as William’s brother, his cousin etc.  What is the truth?  Well, they are not related at all actually!

There has also been a very interesting report of William having been seen out a few weeks ago with Stevie Cunningham and former ladies champion, Charlene Haugh, training at high altitude near Slieve Donard! Could McKee v Cunningham be back on?

And finally, for those race directors who are thinking about doing away with “on the day entry.” Don’t!  William is a traditionalist, and by the time he would get round to “online entry,” the closing date would likely have passed!