Saturday March 30th saw race 2 of the NIMRA championship take place in Newcastle, the classic Donard Commedagh route. Starting in Donard Park, runners have a free route choice to checkpoint 1 at Thomas’ Quarry, followed by a long climb to the top of Donard for checkpoint 2. A steep descent continues down to the saddle before climbing again to the tower on top of Commedagh, for checkpoint 3. From here, there is a narrow ridge leading to Slievenamaddy, then a slippery descent to the edge of Donard forest for checkpoint 4, a quick dash through the woods brings you back to the finish line. The section between checkpoints 3 and 4 is difficult to get right on a good day, and once again it proved decisive in many people’s race.
A trio of NAC led the charge to the quarry, Seamus Lynch, Zak Hanna and Mark Stephens, followed by Newry AC’s Kieron Kelly and then Timothy Johnston and Johnathan Scott, both of Mourne Runners. On the slopes of Donard, Hanna showed his superior climbing skills leading at the top by over 2 minutes, a lead which he held to the top of Commedagh. Although, it wasn’t raining, a cloud had parked on Commedagh’s summit, making it impossible to find the ridge without a compass bearing or good knowledge of the terrain. By the time runners were visible again at checkpoint 4, Lynch was now in the lead followed closely by Stephens then Hanna, with positions remaining the same to the end. Lynch took his 2nd win of the championship in 1:03:56, Stephens 1:04:25 and Hanna 1:05:29. Next home for NAC, having an excellent race, was Gary Mc Evoy in 6th place in 1:13:39 followed closely by a man who is making a return to the mountains after a short break, Colum Campbell finishing 8th in 1:14:26 and 2nd MV45. In hot pursuit was regular Fell racer, Pete Grant, finishing 9th in 1:15:25 and 1st MV50. A handful of NAC men followed, Sean Russell 19th in 1:22:28, Gerry Kingston 31st in 1:29:42 and 3rd MV55, Declan McElroy 32nd in 1:31:01, Barry Wells 41st in 1:36:04, Eugene McCann 1:43:01, Stephen Graham 2:02:35 after loosing a lot of places on Commedagh, and Nigel McKinney 2:11:31.
The ladies race was led by Megan Wilson and Mourne Runners’ Sarah Graham all the way to the top of Commedagh, before the mysterious fog sent both girls on a tour of the Mournes. This left the door open for Newry ac’s Esther Dickson, who expertly navigated her way to safety, taking the win in 1:15:33 and 10th place overall. 2nd place went to another great navigator, Lagan Valley’s Shileen O’Kane in 1:24:10 and 1st FV50. Finishing the female lineup was Omagh Harriers’ Ciara Largey in 1:25:34. Just missing out on the podium for NAC was Áine McCann who finished 4th in 1:33:25, followed by Mari Troeng 6th in 1:36:22, Paulette Thomson 7th in 1:38:26 and 1st FV45, Catherine McIntosh 2:02:15 and Bronagh McInerney 2:24:26.
There was also a prize for the fastest male and female going between Donard and Commedagh, generously sponsored by Hanna Bros. Taking the titles here were Seamus Lynch and Esther Dickson making it a win win for both of them.
When everyone eventually made their way off Commedagh they were well fed and watered by host club Mourne Runners. Race 3 of the championship takes place on Thursday May 2nd at 7:30pm, the H&D Binnian race.
Report by Hill Runner