Bailey is cream of the crop as the curtain falls on the fells

NAC notes edited by Bogusboy

Mourne Runners hosted the final NIMRA race of the season but it was County Down’s leading fell running club who dominated proceedings at the Commedagh Chase race on Saturday.

A beautiful, clear Mournes day witnessed the conclusion of the 2017 Northern Irish Mountain Running series. The Commedagh Chase, hosted by Mourne Runners is a classic 13km route that takes in the steep and undulating ridge line from Hare’s Gap to the Summit of Slieve Commedagh, Northern Ireland’s second highest peak, before returning via the treacherously slippery ramp to the Trassey Track. The sun was out in the autumn sky making for pleasant conditions if maybe a little wet underfoot as 11 Newcastle AC athletes took to the starting line of a mountain race that has a little bit of everything.

The day also saw a long-awaited renewal of the friendly and fruitful rivalry between Ian Bailey and Seamus Lynch, both returning after lengthy absences, Lynch from concentrating on road running and Bailey on Ultra distance mountain racing. Records are never safe when this pair go head-to-head and so it proved once more with Bailey pulling away from his Newcastle AC club mate to lead on the summit by around 30 seconds, an advantage he maintained to the finish. Their times of 57:46 and 58:22 both smashed Jonny Steede’s previous mark of 59:39 on a day where very loose underfoot conditions seemingly made fast times unlikely.

A few minutes back, another epic battle saw Mourne Runner’s Timothy Johnston just overhaul Newcastle AC man Colm Murtagh on the final sprint down Trassey to round out the podium in 1:02:32.

In the ladies’ race Lagan Valley AC’s Shileen O’Kane showed her experience to ease to a comfortable victory over North Belfast’s Martje Hell and Mourne Runner’s Bethany Haugh in times of 1:15:36, 1:20:03 and 1:20:28 respectively.

There were solid performances throughout the field including Newcastle AC’s own World Champion Jim Patterson who won the MV70 category in an impressive 1:23:04, a time that saw him comfortably finish in the top half of the results page.

The aforementioned sodden ground saw many runners donating blood to the mountainside with some spectacular falls and slides on to the unforgiving granite boulders. Fortunately, none of the injuries proved too serious and mountain runners are made of solid stuff. Besides, none would ever consider a trip to hospital if it meant missing out on the internationally famous spread of baked goods that accompany Mourne Runner’s races. Huge thanks to the organisers, bakers and marshals who made the event run so smoothly, although maybe the summit marshals should consider keeping their clothes on next time!

Position Name Category Race Time
1 Ian Bailey M 00:57:46
2 Seamus Lynch M 00:58:22
4 Colm Murtagh M 01:02:39
11 Pete Grant MV45 01:12:51
23 David McCann M 01:20:51
26 Jim Patterson MV70 01:23:04
29 Barry Wells MV55 01:25:43
31 Mari Troeng F 01:26:22
32 Stephen Rice MV45 01:26:50
43 Declan Magee MV50 01:39:24
45 Nigel McKinney MV45 01:40:19

Next mountain race is the Garmin Mourne Skyline on October 21st where the best of the local runners will get the chance to compete on home turf against a selection of top internationals over a brutal 20-mile course.


Bangor 10k

The same day, 1073 athletes finished the Bangor 10k. The race was won by Kenyan Gideon Kipsang in a speedy 30:02. Laura Graham won the ladies race in 34:34, impressive 6 days after her heroic efforts in Berlin. NAC was represented by the Rodgers’, Paul and Megan. Paul had said to Megan that the race was on and the pair agreed it would be a great idea to take part. Paul then said to jo he was going and that was that. Paul was 153rd in 43:36 as his comeback continues, with Megan 297th in 49:13.


Bosco 10K

Jonathan Swift once described his visit to Newry “High Church, Low Steeple, Dirty Streets, Proud People”.  A damp Sunday morning on 1 October saw 3 proud Newcastle AC people take to the rain soaked streets of Newry for the first ever Bosco 10k road race. Conditions were better than the forecast predicted with only a slight head wind on the second half of the race proving only a slight annoyance at most.

Sinead ‘Spartaness’ Murtagh is returning after giving birth to a baby Spartan and is getting back to form superbly with her time down to an impressive 40:57 and receiving the accolade of the first lady home. For once she was not pushing the three wheeler whilst running and did not know what to do with her right arm!

The Mighty Mussens came over the finish line close to each other (because they can’t bear to be apart) with Óggie coming in at 42:58 closely followed by Ashlene at 43:20 who was the 3rd placed lady. The Hilltown two are showing signs of getting back to their PB paces and will be looking to improve further in the upcoming races in the weeks ahead, under the tutelage of their internationally renowned mentor.


Elsewhere over the weekend

There were races peppered across NI over the weekend: 237 took part in the Crumlin 10k and 5k; 644 completed the Foyle Valley 5k, 172 crossed the line in the Omagh 5-mile race, 154 completed the Brocagh 5k and 10k and there were 326 participants in the Annaghmore Festival of Racing events. All of this points to the increasing popularity of running as a means of maintaining fitness and as a social pastime, where like-minded people are met. In the weeks ahead there are plenty of opportunities for racing.  For those less competitive, there is always the opportunity to run, jog or walk one of Northern Ireland’s 25 parkruns; the closest being Castlewellan, Rostrevor and Comber.