Spelga Skyline 2018

Race 6 of the NIMRA championship took place on Saturday June 30th in blistering conditions. Race director, Aaron Shimmons, did an excellent job transporting water and supplies to various locations around the course, helped by a team of marshals from BARF club.


The race starts at Spelga Damand straight into the first climb of Butter Mountain before dropping down to cross the road at Ott car park. Here begins the long climb of Meelbeg to C.P 1 on the summit, followed quickly to C.P 2 on top of Slieve Loughshannagh, then a long ascent to C.P 3 at Slieve Muck. A steep descent brings runners down to the road crossing at Deers Meadow where there was a very welcome water station. From here it’s the same route as the H +D to the summit of Slieve Moughanmore, and then another sharp drop before crossing a river and heading to Pierce’s Castle. Long grass and heather with lots of hidden boulders and holes make this section a lot harder than it looks. From here the next C.P is on top of Rocky, where another water station is passed en route. From the summit of Rocky you can see exactly how far you have left to go! Just another 2 mountains and I’m home! The long descent off is quite rough too, followed by another river crossing and onto the Hen track. A nice grassy trail brings runners to the summit of Hen Mountain followed by one of the toughest climbs of the day, Cock Mountain. A hard mountain to conquer on its own, never mind climbing it at the end of a race in scorching temperatures, that’s a slow, painful experience! Upon reaching its summit it is downhill all the way to Spelga’s dam wall, where runners climb the 28 steps of hell to reach the finish line.

From the start NAC’s David Hicks, Mourne Runners’ Timmy Johnston and East Down’s Neil Andrews stuck close together as they slowly gained a small lead. By the road crossing at Deers Meadow Hicks was trailing behind by about 1 min as they made their way to Slieve Moughanmore. By Pierces Castle Hicks was suffering in the heat as he watched the 2 boys disappear. The race was won by Johnston in 2:46:19 followed by Andrews in 2:48:46 and an excellent run saw LVO’s Mark Stephens claim 3rd in 2:58:50.  Just over the 3 hour mark Hicks finished 4th in 3:04:14.  A big shout out has to go to Newry AC’s Esther Dickson who led the ladies throughout to win in 3:08:12 and 5th place overall, followed closely by Lagan Valley’s Shileen O’Kane in 2nd in 3:12:13. Third female was Ballymena Runners’ Gillian Wasson in 3:20:48.  Next NAC runner was Grace Neville finishing 4th lady in 3:50:51. Having spent the previous two nights in a tent ‘acclimatising’ was NAC’s Michael Englishby who finished in 4:07:27, followed by Gary McEvoy in 4:26:45, Nigel McKinney in 4:36:22 and Catherine McIntosh in 4:36:27.

After a very tough race in extreme conditions everyone was well rewarded with an excellent spread fit for a king. Thanks again to BARF.

Race 7 of the NIMRA championship is Slieve Bearnagh on July 28th followed by the 7×7’s on August 4th.

Other notable performances of the week were by NAC’s Luke McMullan who won Gael Force West on Saturday June 23rd, an adventure race with trail and mountain running sections in a time of 3:39:45.

On Sunday 24th June the World Mountain Running Association’s long distance race took place in Poland, covering 36km and over 2100 metres of climbing. NAC’s Ian Bailey was on the Irish team where he finished an excellent 33rd overall in 2:58:20 and 2nd Irish man to Eoin Lennon of Carnethy HRC who was 19th in 2:51:08. The race was won by Italian Alessandro Rambaldini in 2:39:18.

By Mountain Runner