Hill & Dales 2024 Race 9 – Meels Race Report, Results & Photos

Bad weather at the Meels 

Report by ‘The Bolter’

On the evening of June 13th, the penultimate race of the Hill & Dale Series 2024 took place at Meelmore Lodge. At 7:30pm, 224 runners lined up for The Meels, the ninth race in the series. The anticipation was palpable, with runners excited to tackle one of the series’ most challenging courses.

The usual Meels course starts with a tough climb up Spellack, followed by a ridge ascent to the Meelmore tower. The descent to the saddle between Meelmore and Meelbeg and the subsequent climb up Meelbeg would typically test even the most seasoned runners. However, due to heavy rain all day, the race directors wisely decided to shorten the course, cutting out the last climb up Meelbeg. The updated route still posed a significant challenge, with just under 4 miles of running but over 1,500 feet of climbing. Several runners asked if kit was mandatory this evening (yes, it was!). There were even jokes about needing a kayak to navigate the wet conditions. Mary Mackin, who had been sidelined by an early-season injury, was thrilled to be back in action, although she missed seeing her favourite Race Director, Joe McCann, last week.

Among the pre-race favourites were Ashley Crutchley and Zak Hanna from Newcastle AC, and Joshua Mcatee from Mourne Runners. Zak Hanna had planned to compete but decided to assist with registration instead, opting to stay dry after seeing the weather forecast. There was much debate over who the course would suit best, with whispers of secret training runs on Meelbeg. In the women’s race, the competition was fierce. Dromore’s Diane Wilson, Newry’s Esther Dickson, Newcastle’s Tanya Cumming and North Belfast’s Martsje Hell, who was leading the series, were all set to compete.

When the race directors arrived to set up, they couldn’t see the summits as they were shrouded in clag, and rivers were running down Trassey Track. Happy Valley car park was knee-deep in water. The most concerning aspect was the stream crossing, which was flowing full spate with white rapids. After investigating, the race directors found a safe crossing higher up and placed marshals there to ensure runners’ safety. This decision was especially prudent given a Mountain Rescue call-out just hours earlier involving rapidly rising rivers. The weather improved slightly just before the race, but conditions underfoot remained wet and slippery.

The race began with a blast from Uncle Frank’s whistle, and the runners jostled for position on the steep climb up Spellack. In the men’s race, Ashley Crutchley and Joshua Mcatee led the way, with David Hicks from Newcastle AC close behind. Joshua, dressed in full gear to comply with the mandatory kit requirements, took a bad fall coming into the valley. David Hicks, after ensuring Joshua was okay, made a push for the finish, resulting in a top three of Ashley Crutchley in first, David Hicks in second, and Joshua Mcatee managing to hold third. It’s great to see David Hicks in such fine form after some impressive runs this season.

In the women’s race, it was a close contest with Esther Dickson, Tanya Cumming, and Diane Wilson all vying for the lead. Diane, starting from the back, steadily picked off runners, a trademark move. Esther’s speedy descent secured her the win, with Diane narrowly beating Tanya in a sprint finish for second place.

Further back, reports of an injury came in, but with the Prophet, a fully qualified first aider, on hand, the casualty was helped safely off the mountain. The Prophet, known for his CPR track record, has put his training to good use on multiple occasions (though we won’t discuss the success rate). Wisely, he waited until the casualty was safely down before sharing the news with him. The race directors were relieved that everyone made it off the mountain safely, especially considering the challenging conditions. Everyone then made their way to Greenans for post-race refreshments.

Special thanks go out to the volunteers who braved the conditions on the summits of Spellack and Meelmore, the saddle of the Meels, the hole in the wall, Happy Valley, the river crossing, the final stile, and the top of the lane. Ian, Mark, Audey, Hen, Mickey, Prophet, Sean, Donna, Linda, Francie, and Ethan were instrumental in ensuring the race ran smoothly. Tail runners Jinxy and Butcher provided ever-inspiring words of encouragement, while Debbie, Deon, Frank, Zak, and Stevie made up the efficient registration and finish team. (If you ever want to get Deon talking just ask him about the club’s new race result system). Thanks also to Meelmore Lodge for the use of their fantastic facilities and to the Greenans who opened specially for us on Thursday night and for their excellent food and hospitality.

Looking ahead, the final race of the series is next week at Drinnahilly, Donard Forest. Note that this race is on a Friday instead of the usual Thursday. As always participants should register by Tuesday at 9pm. Following the race, there will be a series prize-giving where category winners will be celebrated. If you have completed six races in the series, be sure to collect your well-earned and sought-after Hill & Dale 2024 series prize. If you don’t plan to run on Friday but will be around to collect your series prize, we still need some marshals to help. If you are free and would like to watch the race in action, please contact info@newcastleac.org as Damien (Race Director) likes to be organised well in advance, and all help will be greatly appreciated!

On the final night Newcastle AC will make a donation to the Mourne Mountain Rescue Team, who are currently raising funds for their new base. The Mountain Rescue Team provides an amazing service to those in need and the club are happy to be supporting their cause. In addition to the donation the club will be hosting a raffle to support their fundraising efforts. Some excellent prizes have been very kindly and generously donated by local businesses and the club – with a top prize of an overnight stay kindly donated by the Avoca. Tickets will be available to purchase on the night, with prizes presented at the series prize-giving.

Join us next Friday for an evening of celebration and community support at O’Hare’s, known for its warm hospitality and excellent Guinness. It promises to be a fitting end to an exhilarating series!

Photos below by Paul Fegan and Richard Cowan

Joshua Mcatee and Ashley Crutchley on the climb

Joshua Mcatee and Ashley Crutchley on the climb

Diane Wilson happy in the valley taking 2nd

Diane Wilson happy in the valley taking 2nd

Always smiling Angie Kerr

Always smiling Angie Kerr

With a little help from friends - Linda Rogan and Donna Daly braving the elements

With a little help from friends – Linda Rogan and Donna Daly braving the elements

Race Results:

Click here for results

Race Photos:

Photos by Paul Fegan

Photos by Richard Cowan (If you want to use Richard’s photographs then feel free. The link below gives you a chance to say thanks by buying him a cup of tea: https://www.buymeacoffee.com/thekillinchyphotographer)