Race 2 of the NIMRA championship ‘The Fallows’, based on a route in the mountains surrounding Rostrevor, was held on Saturday in glorious sunshine and blue skies. Organisers Newry City Runners were helped by Dale and Denise Mathers and they did an excellent job. A slight course change due to fallen trees took runners up via Fiddlers Green, as apposed to the trickier lower section of the Badgers Claw, where they then rejoined the original route towards Ballynagelty.
From the off a small group formed consisting of NAC duo Seamus Lynch and Zak Hanna, and Mourne Runners’ Willy McKee. It was clear that the winner would come from this pack as they stuck tight together giving nothing away. The chasing group were another NAC duo, Colm Murtagh and David Hicks along with Mourne Runners’ Johnathan Scott, East Down’s Neil Andrews and Springwell’s Alex Brennan.
On the long climb towards checkpoint 1, on the summit of Slieve Martin, Murtagh led this group followed by Hicks who was unable to close the gap Murtagh was swiftly making. The front 3 runners were having their own battle with conditions around checkpoint 2 in Crenville very boggy, both NAC men led from here along the fire road towards the long climb back up Slieve Martin via the switch backs. McKee passed Hanna at the foot of the climb and managed to hold him off until the finish. The 1.5 mile descent to the end is very steep with wet rocks and mud making for treacherous conditions, and looking at the mud clad finishers I don’t think anyone escaped this section without a fall! Lynch and McKee were separated by 2 seconds at the last checkpoint before Lynch made his final break for victory on the tricky descent to take the win in 1:10:58, followed by McKee in 1:11:12 and Hanna in 1:14:26. Closing the gap on Hanna on the descent was Murtagh, a man you don’t want chasing you downhill! Running out of road too soon he finished a very credible 4th in 1:15:31 followed by Hicks in 1:17:46 for 5th place. Next NAC man home was Rostrevor local Stephen McNally, finishing 12th in 1:26:44, as some fast descending saw him move further up the leader board. With 5 runners in the top 12 and 2 on the podium, is it any wonder they are County Down’s leading fell running club! This saw NAC winning the team prize for the 2nd time in as many NIMRA races.
In 25th place for NAC was Stephen Graham in 1:32:23, again showing his strength on the latter stages as he battled hard to move up the ranks, followed by Lorcan Quinn in 1:32:38 for 27th place. Quinn was having a great day, sitting in 11th place before the final climb where he blew up, ran out of fuel and limped over the line having learned a valuable lesson in endurance. Having an epic battle were NAC’s Mickey Flynn and Ryan McDonald. Swapping places several times they ran a consistent race finishing 38th in 1:37:12 and 39th in 1:37:14 respectively. Next home for Newcastle were Declan McElroy in 1:41:57 for 47th place, Stevie Rice in 1:45:46 for 59th place and Nigel McKinney in 1:53:06 for 69th place.
In the ladies race it was Newry AC’s Esther Dickson who led from the start to finish 1st in 1:25:58 and 10th place overall, leaving many well respected fell runners in her wake. 2nd lady home was Lagan Valley’s ever popular Shileen O’Kane in 1:27:37 and first FV45. Finishing the female podium was Dark Peak’s Megan Wilson in 1:29:18. Just to show the quality of female talent on the day, the first 3 ladies home were in the top 19 overall. Newcastle had 2 ladies on the day, both making a good account of themselves. Catherine McIntosh was 11th in 1:55:56 followed closely by Bronagh McInerney in 1:59:55 for 15th place.
Quote of the day, whilst cooling down around Kilbroney Park after the race Zak announced that he weighed 50kg to which Murtagh quickly replied, “There was many a Sunday with a hangover I ate 50 kilos.” Rumour has it there has been no hangovers yet this year in a bid to stay ahead of Hicks!
The next Fell race is the postponed Slieve Gullion taking place on Saturday April 7th followed by the Hill and Dale series on Thursday April 12th.
By Hill Runner