Saturday the 18th of May saw race 4 of the Nimra championship take place, the Annalong Horseshoe fell race, with a new venue of Silent Valley. After 37 years of the original route starting at Dunney Water organisers, for reasons only known to them, decided to change the course. This was met with mixed feelings, talk of why include Slieve Donard, why call it the Annalong Horseshoe still, why start a mountain race with the first 2k on a tarmac road could be heard among the competitors.
At 11am the race got underway, starting at the plug hole beside Silent Valley reservoir, the route followed the service road to Ben Crom. From here the first climb was to the summit of Lamagan then Commedagh via the summit of Cove first. From Commedagh it was across to its neighbour Slieve Donard, down along the Mourne wall and then out to Chimney Rock. From here, there are a few options as to how to get to the North tor of Binnian for the final checkpoint. The ground is particularly rough in places and a bad route choice can get you into trouble quickly! Most runners seemed to go around Rocky on the North side keeping as much altitude as possible.
It was NAC’s Mark Stephens who led from start to finish as he and Mourne Runners’ Timothy Johnston took off on the tarmac like it was a 5 mile road race. Years of orienteering seen Stephens take an excellent line off Chimney Rock to take the win in 2:38:39 followed by Johnston in 2:52:40. Moving from 4th to 3rd on the ascent of Binnian seen Shane Lynch (club unknown) take the final podium spot from EDAC Neil Andrews in 2:57:22. Finishing an excellent 10th was NAC’s Pete Grant in 3:16:35, enough to see him win the m50 category too. Not afraid to try his hand at some of the longer races was NAC’s Gary McEvoy who unfortunately missed the last checkpoint on Binnian.
With only 2 females in attendance the chances of a podium looked good, Omagh Harriers Ciera Largey took the win in 3:49:32 and 20th overall, unfortunately Sarah Beale had to retire early from the race.
Prize giving along with the usual spread of goodies took place at the board room in Silent Valley where maps were duly pondered to discuss everyone’s route!
Race 5 of the Championship sees another new course, this time the action heads north towards Larne for the Carncastle Classic on June 1.
By Hill Runner