Mountain Running Reports

Reports by various Newcastle AC Members

Slieve Gullion Mountain Race
Starting with Slieve Gullion on Saturday, after being postponed because of snow, runners were now greeted with fog and mist on the summit tors. Conditions underfoot were the usual wet and boggy mess with no escaping the famous gloop that takes weeks to wash off! The race starts off through fields before breaking onto open mountain where there are 3 checkpoints to navigate to, it’s an out and back race with a tricky descent. Race leaders were Newry AC’s Maurice Harte and NAC’s Lorcan Quinn, with Harte just pipping him by one second to win in 36:19. Quinn being the first NAC podium of the weekend taking 2nd in 36:20. 3rd place went to host club Armagh AC’s Lorcan Vallely in 38:01. Leading the chasing pack was NAC’s Stephen McNally, who was on for a podium finish until unfortunately taking the wrong line off the last checkpoint and therefore finishing 7th in 38:13. In the ladies race it was the inform Esther Dickson of Newry AC who led from the start finishing close to the course record in 38:08, in difficult conditions. Not wanting to be outdone by her brother, Sarah Quinn finished in 2nd place in a time of 43:04 and the final ladies’ podium spot went to NAC’s Grace Neville in 47:17. Also running in the NAC colours was Catherine McIntosh finishing 4th in 51:10. An excellent display all round by NAC ladies.

Mari Masters the Maurice Mullins Ultra.
On Saturday the 7th of April four Newcastle AC athletes, Eugene McCann, Paulette Thomson, Mari Troeng and Colm Murtagh set of to tackle the Maurice Mullins Ultra in County Wicklow. The Maurice Mullins Ultra is a 51km race (32 mile in old money) with 1920 metres of climbing through the Wicklow Mountains over a mixture of terrain which includes forest trails. Rocky mountain paths, railway sleepers and a short bit of tarmac at the end.

Two of the Newcastle AC athletes Eugene McCann & Paulette Thompson decided to stay down the night before the race so they would be fresher in the morning with less travelling to do which sounded like a sensible idea. However what they didn’t realise was that they were staying beside one of the busiest night spots in Wicklow with music pumping until 3am. So after only 3 hours sleep and the sound of the Vengaboys playing on repeat in their heads they were maybe not as fresh as they would have hoped for. Not ideal prep for a race of this scale.

Standing on the start line Murtagh and Troeng were hopeful that the miles would be in the legs after a hard winters training which included many red routes of Tollymore and were confident that as long as somebody pointed them in the direction of Wicklow they should give a good account of themselves. In a race of this distance it is always hard to judge how to pace it especially not having run in one before so caution was the name of the game at the start with a sensible pace being set.

However after a couple of mile Mari moved to the front and began to dictate the pace. She was joined at the front by another lady Eilis Connery who briefly went into the lead around the 10 mile mark but Mari stepped up the pace and was well in control of the race at the turn for half way point. Mari was not headed again increasing her lead as the race went on winning in spectacular fashion in a time of 5hrs 20min which was 10 mins clear of her nearest rival in second place. It was a superb run from Mari taking into consideration that it was also her first Ultra-marathon. Paulette also had a great run finishing in 8th place in a time of 6hrs 12mins.

In the men’s race after a steady start a group of ten runners which included Murtagh started to open up a gap on the rest of the field. Positions changed within this group over the first quarter of the race before the first three men opened up a gap approaching half way from the rest of the field and maintained that gap until the end. Murtagh finished 5th place in a very respectable time of 4hrs 28mins while Eugene finished in a time of 6hrs 18mins.

After the race Mari was presented with the Maurice Mullins trophy by the late Maurice Mullins wife and daughter. It was then over to Johnny Foxes pub for some grub and a few well-earned recovery pints of Guinness.

In an Ultra race like this a good support crew is essential and two of the Newcastle AC athletes Murtagh / Troeng were very fortunate to have a good support crew with them to give them that extra bit of motivation when needed. Also rumour has it that the local Wicklow Garda are looking to speak to the driver of a Red Golf which was seen auditioning for the Circuit of Ireland along several parts of the course on Saturday!!!

European Mountain Running Selection Race County Tipperary
Slievenamon Mountain, County Tipperary was the setting on Sunday past as the trial race to select the Irish team to travel to Macedonia for the European Mountain Running Championship that take place in July.

Newcastle AC’s mountain men Zak Hanna from Dromara and Seamus Lynch from Rathriland took on the 3.5 hour drive down to the south east with the aim of booking their place on the team for the championships, with both runners having previously represented Ireland in past European and World Mountain Running Championships.

The weather on the day was completely different to what was forecasted, with rain and heavy fog the order of the day as runners gathered on the start line just above the car park. As a result of the heavy fog, the course was changed slightly but it didn’t make it any less challenging as the rain made it wet and slippy underfoot.

With last year’s European Championships in Slovenia an uphill only race, this year it changed and it is now an up and down course.

The whistle blew and the leaders made the charge through the start field towards a rocky lane which lead onto the foot of Slievenamon, and from there it was a long, steep climb over rocky and boggy terrain as the fog made it difficult to spot the course markers laid out by the organisers.

A small group of runners containing Lynch and Hanna broke away as the climb progressed in gradient, with the course leading towards the summit cairn at over 700 metres above sea level where the runners then turned to descend back down what they had climbed.

Salomon sponsored Zak was first to the summit with Killian Mooney of Dundrum South Dublin in 2nd, Lynch in 3rd and James Kevan of Clonliffe Harriers in 4th.

The descent was fast and quite technical, with Seamus and Killian opening a small gap between Zak and James.

Once at the bottom of the mountain it was a right turn onto a 3.5km undulating loop over very rocky and wet ground before heading for a fast downhill run to the finish line, and in the end it was Seamus who got the better of Kevan to take an excellent win, with Mooney coming 3rd and Zak only a handful of seconds behind in 4th place.

Based on the selection criteria Seamus has secured his seat on the plane to Macedonia with Zak awaiting official confirmation for his spot on the team; a great achievement for the County Down club to have two members on the same team to run against the best mountain runners in Europe.

They both now look towards the Mourne Highline mountain race next Saturday, which is the first round of the British Fell Running Championships. This will see 350 of the best fell runners from England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland race from Spelga Dam across to the finish in Donard Park, taking in mountains such as Slieve Bearnagh and Slieve Commedagh along the way.