Mourne Mountain Marathon 16 & 17 September 2023

After all the hard slogging done through spring and summer, the Mourne Mountain Marathon is the culmination of the season for all grades of orienteers, fell runners and hikers to one event over the weekend in the middle of September. Generally the weather conditions would be favourable for such an event, however in typical fashion after last weeks heatwave, the dish was served best cold, foggy, wet, muck and gutters for the near 200 teams that toed the line starting at the Tollymore Mountain Centre on Saturday morning.

A fair wide spread of the high central and eastern Mournes was to be trodden over the weekend, stretching wide from the Meels to the very east of Spences Mountain, and from the north, Tollymore towards Ben Crom Dam and the Blue Lough, with the campsite revealed to the teams to be at Rourkes Park below Round Seefin in the very south east corner of the range.

Whilst day 1 was low mist and blustery it remained largely rain free, however overnight on camp and into day 2 competitors had to deal with torrential downpours, flooding sections of the camp field and wise decision was made to use a shorter course on the second day to get everyone back safe. On the Elite and B class races more teams retired than finished, such was the impact of the conditions on the runners.

Conditions didn’t slow the winners of Elite Class, with winners Adam Cunningham and Shane Lynch being the first team to arrive at the finish in Tollymore Mountain in just over 8 hours nearly 2hours clear on the next Elite team

Newcastle AC had a mixed bag of runners participating over the weekend.

In the B Class Tom Crudgington paired up with Armagh ACs Keith Johnston and justifiably being tagged as favourites they came in first place, holding off a stern challenge from BARFs Jack Proctor and Josh Morrison by 10 minutes on both days to claim victory. Out on the same course was Jonny Crutchley and after an impressive 4th place on day 1, his partner retired so he tagged along non competitively with Gillian Wasson to finish up day 2. Father and son team Martin & Ethan McMullan also had a solid showing on day 1 coming in 11th position, however a missed checkpoint on day 2 .

Completing B Class no problems from Newcastle AC was David Smith and his brother Brian finishing in 13th.

C class was certainly the most competitive of the weekend with almost 70 teams starting. Again weather took its toll with near 20 teams retired over the weekend. Sam McNeilly & Steffi Warnock had paired up before at this event in recent years to their success and after day 1 not only were they sitting in 2nd position but only a mere 2 minutes of the leading duo of Chris & Ben Perry. Despite finishing 5th on the second day they retained their second place by the finish, a remarkable effort by the ladies! David & Patrick Hicks also took on C class finishing in a steady 10th place over the weekend. Luckily enough to be seeing their own beds on the Saturday evening was the score teams who whilst travel lighter have to take out as many of the checkpoints in one outing with a strict 6 hour time limit. Narrowly missing podium last year was team of Pearse Brogan and Peter McEvoy (Mourne Runners) who were back for another crack. Taking on the likes of H&D & NIMRA regulars Mourne Runners team of Joshua McAtee & James Millar & BARFs Ronan Davison-Kernan & Luke Tarry (first & second place) some checkpoint choices with not wanting to veer too far off the main trails left the lads rushing to the finish with 4 mins to spare in 11th place.

Credit surely has to be given to Jim Brown and his MMM team who coordinated another successful event and to the marshals and helpers out on course who battled against the elements as well and assisted with getting everyone back unscathed! Newcastle AC has a long history of successful representation at this event and long may it continue.

Jonny Crutchley and Gillian Wasson

Newcastle AC members part of organising team Eugene McCann, Frank Morgan and Paul Rodgers

Pearse Brogan and Peter McEvoy

Tom Crudgington and Keith Johnston

Tom Crudgington and Keith Johnston

Sam McNeilly

Steffi Warnock

Ethan and Marty McMullan