Saturday 10th August saw the annual 7×7’s fell race take place, and with weather conditions poor all week runners were on standby for a last minute cancellation on Saturday morning, alas it was not to be and the race went ahead as planned at 10am.
Every year sees the route change direction, back in its traditional start location of Donard Park, the race took runners over Donard, Commedagh, Bearnagh, Meelmore and Meelbeg before dropping down towards the foot of Doan and continuing around to cross Ben Crom reservoir. The ground here is usually heavy going and this year was no exception as a very wet summer left it like a sponge. After crossing Ben Crom, it’s a long out and back run to the summit of Binnian before the final checkpoint on top of Lamagan. From here, it’s a long way back to Donard Park and many a place is swapped as runners begin to tire on this tough 18 mile course.
Hot favourite to take the win was NAC’s Seamus Lynch, having had a very successful season to date. Team mate Mark Stephens had other ideas and ran an excellent race to take a very well deserved victory crossing the line in 3:59:09, the only person to break 4 hours. Not far behind Lynch followed in 4:05:31 and rounding up the podium was Mourne Runners’ Clive Bailey in 4:29:23 taking the M45 category too. Just outside the top 10 was NAC’S Pete Grant, crossing the line in 5:00:17 for 11th place, followed by Gareth Macauley in 5:12:38 for 17th, Gerry Kingston 20th in 5:18:22, Jonny Crutchley 34th in 5:56:31 and Gerard Lawless 36th in 6:02:56.
The ladies race also saw a new name on the winners list, as Mourne Runners’ Sarah Hanna (nee Graham) took a hard earned victory crossing the line in 5:19:56 and 23rd overall. No doubt new hubby Ricky took her out on Saturday night to celebrate! A well deserved 2nd place went to NAC’s Paulette Thomson, finishing in 5:34:32 and taking the F45 category too. Finishing the podium was Ballymena Runners’ Gillian Wassan 3rd in 5:53:14. NAC’s only other entrant was regular Bronagh McInerney finishing an excellent 7th in 6:42:21.
Without doubt, the 7×7’s is one of the toughest fell races in the country and its great to see new names on the podium and the entry list. Prize giving took place in Donard Park along with tae and sandwiches courtesy of BARF.
The final race of the series “Dan Whites Dander”, although I’m pretty sure it’s far from a dander, takes place at 11am on Saturday 31st August.
By Hill Runner
PHOTOS by Paul Fegan