Hill and Dale Series 2011 – Race 4

Binnian to the Top

The fourth Hill and Dale headed into real Mourne country on Thursday 5th May for a mountain run like no other – to the top of Slieve Binnian and stop.  The sunny spell ended that day and it would have been difficult to light a match never mind a fire by the time the race started at 7.30pm.  The mountains were shrouded in mist, and the light was already dim as 174 runners took to the start on the Head Road, Annalong. Fantastic attendance for any race and not expected for a brutal run to the top of a rocky mountain on a miserable evening.

The early part of the race is a gradual uphill over a long stretch of rough track up to the quarry and thereafter starts the true mountain climb.  The pace was fast for the leaders from the off with a good place at the quarry critical to the race plan. The main Mourne man Des Woods, with young prodigy Andrew Annett in tow, came under early pressure from Newcastle’s Alan McKibben. Jonny Steede from Ballymena Runners was on McKibben’s heels from the start but didn’t quite manage to catch McKibben for a podium place.  This was McKibben’s second outing of the season and he showed a return to his known form.  It was first race of this series for Newcastle’s Deon McNeilly.  McNeilly scored a number five place confirming his recovery from recent injury troubles.  With McKibben and McNeilly into the running, Mourne Runners early dominance of the Hill and Dale is under threat.  Woods now has three out of four wins but young Annett may hold nothing back on the next run.

Conditions were tough; visibility on the night was arms length at best.  This must have spurned on the runners – letting your pacer too far in front of you could have meant a night on the mountain and so times were fast with about half of the runners emerging out of the mist to the top in about 31minutes. Incredible effort for all.

At least two of the six marshalls heading for the finish at the top almost got lost on the way up.  The time keepers didn’t catch the wall at the quarry and headed towards Newcastle on the mountains.  Luckily they heard the ‘strategy planning meeting’ of Mourne Runners (a lot of yos and boys and other such territorial calls) as they did their warm up (consisting of running most of the course) and turned back.  Dominic McGreevy, on his warm up, found the race director wandering in the mist in the quarry seeking the path to the top.  Dominic accompanied the race director up most of the mountain and then went on to finish the race in twelve place, third Newcastle runner and easy winner of the vet 50 category.  Age is no impediment to Dominic and nor was it to his clubmate Eamon McCrickard just pipped to a place by Dominic. The birthday cake must have given Eamon a sugar burst – he was birthday boy during race week, moved up to V45 and had his best run so far this series.

While the top of the field in the male category saw some change this week, there was no change in the women’s field.  Shileen O’Kane was yet again first woman in (up in this race), winner of her category with Anne Sandford second woman again, top fifty and winner of LV45.  Diane Wilson was third woman to the top.

Binnian is a tough run but short, with the ascent only, and the runners making their way down in groups.  Next week is the open mountain race at Moughanmore some  3.25 miles long with 1560 feet of climbing. This means for some, if the conditions are not ideal, light can be an issue and cut off times may be introduced. Full body cover, whistle, compass and mountain running footwear must be brought to this race.

Many thanks to the entry team and all of the marshalls who turned out on the night. After the race the runners and marshalls retired to O’Hares in Newcastle. The  warmth from the log fires, excellent food and the friendly hospitality from Jack and his team were enjoyed by all.

The Big Yin