Lough Shannagh Horseshoe – the Race with a Reputation
by The 2 Americanos
Another week and another race, but on this occasion, not just any race, it has to be thee Mountain race of the series, the Lough Shannagh Horseshoe. Starting above Spelga the route runs over the summit of Carn, into the centre of the high Mournes to the summit of Doan and returns via the third and final summit Slieve Loughshannagh.
Unlike most other races, this one has a well deserved reputation and what normally constitutes pre race excitement is replaced with pre race nerves! Competitors can be subjected to all that the high Mountains can throw at them and this year was little different than previous with low temperatures, high winds, squally showers, low cloud and often poor visibility. That said, going by the 150 runners who did turn out, there are some who thrive on such conditions and take advantage of the chance to buck the race result trends.
With the front runners reaching the first summit within seven minutes it was evident that many wanted to maximise that advantage. Andrew Annett of Mourne Runners was after his first win and with a time of 43:42 he did just that, narrowly beating team mate Andrew Niblock in second place with a time of 44:15, followed closely by Alan McKibben of Newcastle in third place with a time of 45:26. First female was series leader Shileen O’kane with a time of 54.56 finishing in 40th place. A strong run by all but without doubt, Andrew Annett, with that taste of success is the one to watch.
Further down the field, others taking advantage of the conditions include stalwarts of the Hill and Dale races such as Paddy Mallon of BARF, Barry Wells of Newcastle AC and Mark Alexander of Ballymena Runners. It’s even rumoured that some of the wise amongst the above applied a little theory in their pre race chat, “Once there was a young bull and an old bull…”
This leads us nicely on to Deon McNeilly first Veteran 45 in 4th place, Jim Brown first veteran 50 in 9th place, Mike Barton first veteran 55 in 35th place and Harry Teggarty first veteran 60 in 64th place, proving that this is not just a sport for the young. Congratulations is also due to Mike as this was his 200th Hill and Dale race, a fantastic achievement and which he celebrated with a new pair of red fell shoes. Let’s hope they last as long as the first pair!
Speaking of which, clothing of all forms featured highly in this weeks race, for many reasons, few of which where pretty but more on that later. As with any Mountain environment, competitors can be exposed to severe weather without warning and as such all are required to carry ‘Full Body Cover’. The prerequisite of ‘Thick Skin’ is for a totally different reason and should not be confused! Although the ‘Full Body Cover’ rule has been about for many a year, and purely for the safety of competitors, it still seems to cause distress when enforced. This year there where advanced warnings, on the series entry forms, in the papers, on the internet, announced at races, on signs on the night and even announced at the start of the race and what happened? You guessed, competitors still didn’t know what it was exactly, asked if they really needed it or just hadn’t brought it along at all. Thankfully out of 150 only 2 breached the rules and after being highlighted to the race organisers by other competitors at the end of the race they where rightly disqualified. Although no ‘Full Body Cover’ lets hope they didn’t forget their ‘Thick Skin’!
For those who are still having challenges meeting the minimum requirements, veteran runner and up and coming Hill and Dale marshal, Jim Patterson has offered advice and even the supply of surplus garments. Alternatively you could join any of the notable clubs sporting shiny new kit, such as Mourne Runners, Castlewellan AC, who are so super they wear their vests on the outside, or Newcastle AC who have been recently spotted passing around unmarked white carrier bags of club goodies.
From one type of exposure to another, and with an aging field it was inevitable that something would happen some day. With the enforcement of additional clothing some competitors got confused as happens and rather than adding layers, they unwittingly removed layers. Rather than just removing an outer ’warm up’ layer a particular veteran 50 runner managed to remove his shorts. Should be easily sorted you would imagine but evidently not as the competitor in question only noticed after finishing 9th and stopping to add his warmth layer at the finish line! At this stage it wasn’t severe weather that the field was exposed to but something less predicted. Thankfully for all it was a bitterly cold night, a defence that was being muttered by the same competitor for other reasons late into the night at the post race celebrations.
A total of 29 people of all ages and abilities attended to assist with the race to look after everything from car parking, to entries, to marshalling on the race route, etc. It’s great to see such a social side to the races from its growing supporters who come from as diverse a range of backgrounds as the competitors themselves. This week families yet again came to the fore with the Race Directors Clans gathering for a recession busting family outing. Families where followed closely by youth, namely the two young student Matts, Pollock and Harrison who experienced a different type of ‘Wild Night Out’ with the ever youthful Jim Patterson. Finally recognition must also go to local Auctioneer and Estate Agent Keith ‘it’s cold up here’ Graham for a magnificent job with Car Parking. The only car slipping by his day glow vest being his southern counterparts – the ever early Nugents – was this favouritism?
Joking aside a special thanks to all who gave up over 100 collective voluntary hours to make the race possible! Not including Lawrence and Marty’s select coffee meetings – currently the subject of a super injunction!
Thanks also to Mary Margaret’s Bar for yet again another lovely warm welcome and hosting an excellent evening.
Photos of the race (by Mal McCann) can be viewed in the gallery.
Next weeks race is the Meelmore Meelbeg Horseshoe, registration from 6.30pm with a 7.30pm sharp start – don’t forget your prerequisites ‘Full Body Cover’ and ‘Thick Skin’.