Slieve Donard Race 2024 – Report, Results and Photos

A brief respite from the Hill & Dales for one blank Thursday only gives the regular head the balls the chance to gear the legs up to take on our biggest and baddest peak around. Saturday 11th May was the 79th consecutive staging of the Slieve Donard race, unbroken from 1945 and if historical conflicts, economic strife or recent pandemics (cough) ain’t going to postpone it then there’s not much left to stand in its way for the future. A word of appreciation to John Adgey taking on the race in his 80th year, as old as the race itself, if you’re still running up mountains naturally caps will be tipped your direction.

The warm weather arrived mid week and by Saturday 181 competitors were adding F50 and sunhats to their mandatory kit, only a very slight breeze giving them respite at 850m up in the mid afternoon heat. Plenty of chat about best lines and the previous night’s spectacular Northern Lights was the craic around the start line. Race director Pearse accompanied by his 9 year old deputy RD & son Oscar, was keen to remind the runners in the brief that the shades of purple, red and green they seen in the sky would show up again either on their faces or bruises by the time the race was up.

At 2pm on the button Frank Morgan’s whistle went and the fun began. From the get go it was the trio of Zak Hanna, Tom Crudgington & Dublin’s Matthew McConnell in front, out of the forest past the 3 bridges, passing 1 mile at the ice house, and reaching the saddle around 23-24 minutes. Zak then gained a minute on the climb to the summit reaching it in 33:21. The race properly begins once you leave the lesser cairn towards the quarry and forest and a storming descent of 16:08 from Tom had clawed well into Zak’s lead. However Zak done enough to hold his younger club mate off and despite a bit battered from a spill at the quarry, claimed his 4th win at the race by 30 seconds in a total of 51:29. Another 30 seconds behind Tom was Matthew McConnell looking very comfortable over the line to take the bronze, and 3rd quickest descent as well.

The ladies race was less straightforward for sure! At the summit Martsje Hell was 2 mins ahead of her next challenger Tullamores Sarah Flanagan followed closely by Tanya Cumming and Esther Dickson on her tail. It appeared that the title was going to one of the four. Nevertheless an absolutely ferocious descent of 18 mins (6th fastest on the day) by Diane Wilson of Dromore AC, wiped out all in front of her, the 4 minutes Martsje had on her at the top, and an overall jump from 39th place at summit to 15th overall, arriving at finish in 1hr 6mins, 40 seconds ahead of another great descender Esther Dickson, and a minute ahead of Martsje in 3rd. Diane and Zak are both residents of the outlying Slieve Croob so the the pair of trophies headed out the road of Newcastle in the same general direction.

Notable climbs to mention was Killian Mooney, Elvin Laugier and Davy Hicks, 4th-6th on the climbs. And crazy-brave descents from BARFs Jack Proctor (2nd overall), Davy Hicks (4th) and Ryan Carson (5th) I’m sure made for entertaining viewing from the quarry. Local knowledge on the downhill certainly assisted nearby runners against some of the stronger climbers who had travelled up to the race! Davy Hicks 4th place overall meant with Zak & Tom that Newcastle claimed back the trophy that was ‘lent’ to BARF the previous year. The same trophy looked like it had a fresh coat of varnish on it so many thanks to the BARF Ronsealers for sorting that. They might get a lend of it again!

With a 3pm cut off at the saddle and a 4:30pm cut off overall this largely went to plan to the delight of the marshal team. Out of the 181 runners there was only 3 DNFs, and we send our best to Andrew Harvey who took a nasty dent to the shoulder. A word of thanks to Graham Bushe who stopped his race to assist and to Neville Watson and the MMR team who were on the scene sharp and escorted him down safely. There was a slight scramble at the end to find ‘the three French ladies’ from the Dublin Mountain Running Club and Rory & Suzanne who eventually got sweeped back to big cheers when they emerged out of the trees.

With everyone accounted for it was time to go through the missing items: one pair of fell running shoes, John Lundstram (sorry Zak, maybe next year), Jack Proctors magnificent locks (hopefully donated to charity), and 2 sets of car keys! Our own Tanya Cumming (possibly retrieved by now?) and Ronan Davison-Kernan, who was about to take on his 2nd marathon in a space of a week to run home back to the city and explain to his wife why her car was still sitting in Newcastle. When he arrived to base in despair but got the keys handed over, the weight that came off his shoulders would have floated him back to the top of the mountain again. You owe Ballymenas Ruth Aiken the drink for that discovery!

With this race 5 of NIMRA champs and race 1 of the IMRA Irish Championship we had plenty of visitors from across the country in attendance and no doubt some of our local runners will be returning the favour later in the season, and potentially get themselves lost in unfamiliar territory. Post race the presentation took place under the sunshine in the beer garden of O’Hares, with a bite of grub and thirst quenched for a good portion of the runners. Well done to all and see you at Rocky on Thursday evening.

Final word of appreciation to the club members who assisted before, during and after the race:
Debbie, Lorna, Joe, Ronnie, Frank, Deon, Prophet, Paul Fegan, Donna, Linda, Áine, Stevie, Sam, Miley, Daniel, Butcher, Phil & Jinx

Deputy Race Director Oscar with Race Director Pearse and prize winners: (L-R) Martsje Hell 3rd F, Zak Hanna 1st M, Diane Wilson 1st F, Tom Crudgington 2nd M, Patrick McDaid 1st M Junior, and David Hicks 1st M40

Deputy Race Director Oscar with Race Director Pearse and prize winners: (L-R) Martsje Hell 3rd F, Zak Hanna 1st M, Diane Wilson 1st F, Tom Crudgington 2nd M, Patrick McDaid 1st M Junior, and David Hicks 1st M40

Zak Hanna and Diane Wilson - 1st Male and Female

Zak Hanna and Diane Wilson – 1st Male and Female


Results for the Slieve Donard Race 2024 are now available:

 Click here for results

Summit times:

Slieve Donard Race 2024 Summit Times


Photos by Paul Fegan