Today (Sunday 1 July 18) in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (just north of Greece) the European Mountain Racing Championships took place in Skopje the country’s capital. The day dawned bright and sunny, just like the unusual summer we have been having in Ireland this year for a change. With temperatures in the shade officially at 26C, it was much like the Irish runners had recently been used to at home and they were in luck as 38C in the shade is forecast in Macedonia for later this week.
The Men’s race was over two laps of the technical course, much of it in forest and much of it steep – 10.9km in all and 2,400 feet of climbing (similar to sea level to top of Commedagh but in two stages). There were four runners in each national team with 3 to count towards the team score. Local Newcastle & District AC runners (with the emphasis on the ‘District’) Zak Hanna (from the slopes of Slieve Croob near Dromara) and Seamy Lynch (also living on the top of a hill, this time in Rathfriland) made up half of the Irish team with Hanna back to try and improve on his 53rd place from Kamnik in Slovenia last year and Lynch on his 55th from Arco in Italy in 2016.
There was no holding back Hanna who was out of the starting pen like a whippet and could be seen on the livestream on the early slopes well in the top half of the 78-strong field. He reached the first summit (2.4km into the race) just inside 15 minutes and in 25th place, around 60 seconds ahead of the next two Irish runners Mark Ryan and Lynch, who arrived at the summit together. At end of lap one, Hanna hadn’t slackened and had maintained his lead over his compatriots and started into the second climb of the peak in 21st place. There was no holding him back now as despite the hurt and pain he reached the summit in good shape and hurtled back down on the 3km run to the finish.
Hanna had the race of his life making the top-20 in Europe coming home in 19th in 51:45 – a fantastic 34 places better than 12 months ago. Hanna is a man of great natural climbing talent having spent his formative years competing on the bicycle. Now for the past 18 months or so he has been consistently doing the work to put in a ‘running base’ to support his climbing ability and he got his rewards here today – congratulations and much more to come. Behind him Ryan was Ireland’s second scorer in 39th place in 54:16. Lynch had valiantly tried to hang onto to Ryan but just hd to let him go on the second climb coming home in 44th place in 55:30 – marginally disappointed but an 11 place improvement on his performance in 2016.
Ireland finished 11th team out of 18 finishing teams – a solid performance. More information can be found at http://www.emrch2018-skopje.com.
Report by Bogboy
VIDEO – Hanna nearly takes a tumble near the summit of the final climb