Report by Siobhán Grant
This week, the idyllic and peaceful surroundings of the rolling hills of Tollymore and Castlewellan were soon forgotten as the hardcore put on their mudclaws and prepared to take on the first open mountain race of the 2023 Hill & Dale Series where the mist engulfed the peaks on high.
The thing with the Slieve Martin race is, those newbies who had tackled the first two races had been lured into a false sense of security about the Hill and Dale series after surviving them quite comfortably as there’s a lot of undulating trail peppered throughout. Though I am sure their confidence and expectations took a nose dive after only 30m of this race.
The sheer climb that welcomes runners as they turn the first corner is, well, literally breathtaking and by 500m into the route, runners will have to keep reminding themselves that what goes up, must come down as motivation to keep climbing. This year also threw in some rerouting due to ongoing work on the paths around Kilbroney paired with less than ideal visibility, making this a challenging race.
Just over 4 miles lay ahead for runners with two peaks amounting to approximately 1700 ft of elevation followed by one of the best downhill sections of the whole series.
After establishing themselves as the best the club had to offer last week at Tollymore- the Young’Uns seemingly reigned it in to give the Aul Lads a boost to their self esteem. With the U20 Irish Team Trial taking place on Sunday in Ballyhoura, that took last weeks winner Tom Crudgington and 4th place finisher, Ethan McMullan completely out of the Slieve Martin race, with Patrick McDaid taking Slieve Martin as an easy run to keep him ticking over for Sundays event.
Even with treating Slieve Martin as a casual, easy run, Patrick was the first Newcastle Junior to cross the line in 43rd place in 45.44. A phenomenal run from him and leg loosener for Sunday’s adventures. Ciara Savage excelled on the open mountain and really opened up on the descent, even though it was treacherous at times, her training, determination and experience played in her favour and she crossed the line securing 1st Junior Lady in 109th in 53.07. Ellen Watson embraced the descent after a tough climb and clocked an impressive 1.00.06.
So next week it is not a case of what goes up, must come down. Race 4 will see runners take on the only way is up, Race to the Top of Binnian. Of course you will have to come back down but you are not required to run so we hope for clear skies, little wind and plenty of opportunities to embrace the stunning views from the 3rd highest peak in the Mournes. This race is open to all, including our U16 squad who will have their first, full open mountain experience of the series and will welcome back a full U18 squad to pitch their talents against the Seniors.