Des Woods and Alwynne Shannon of Mourne Runners were the winners of the fourth round of the NI Mountain Running Championship in the Cooley Hills south of Newry. The 10 mile Flagstaff to Carlingford race was promoted by Armagh AC and covered 5 peaks with a total climb of 3,000 feet. The organisers would like to thank all those who participated this year in record numbers.
The race was held in unusually favourable weather conditions with excellent visibility throughout giving runners a rare opportunity to see the spectacular terrain of the Cooley Mountains and Slieve Foye which in most years has been mist shrouded. After the disastrous reports from Snowdon the previous day the Armagh AC organisers were more than worried about the weather. However the event passed without incident, producing probably the best in depth performances for many a year with no less than 32 runners finishing in under 2 Hours.
Woods and Deon McNeilly of Newcastle AC led the record field up the first peak. The Newcastle man was first to the top closely followed the Mourne pair of Edward Hanna and Stephen Cunningham and Neil Carty of North Belfast Harriers. Course record holder McNeilly made all the running and forged ahead in determined style over the next three peaks. Woods worked himself back into contention having taken a bad line on the first peak and by the half way stage at the Windy Gap McNeilly had a 15 second lead over Hanna and Woods. Hanna took the lead on the steep climb out of Windy Gap but Woods powered away on the long climb over Slieve Foye and down to Carlingford to win by 2 minutes, clocking 1 hour 33minutes and 37seconds. Hanna was runner up 9 seconds ahead of McNeilly, with Cunningham, Carty and Newry Marathon winner Don Travers (Newry City Runners) completing the top six.
Last year Alwynne Shannon became the first woman to break the 2 hour mark. This year she sliced a further 17 seconds off her record clocking 1.59.27 despite having missed most of the season so far because of injury. Not far behind, her clubmate Tish McCann clocked the third fastest women’s time ever of 2.01.43, well clear of Jackie Toal (BARF) who won a close battle for third.
Mourne Runners continued their winning ways and from their entry of no less than a dozen runners, apart from the male and female awards, also took the team award with all 3 of their scoring team in the top four – Des Woods 1st, Eddie Hanna 2nd and Stephen Cunningham 3rd. Newcastle AC, a long standing mountain running outfit took 2nd team with record holder Deon McNeilly 3rd, Barry Wells 13th and Mark Kendall 19th. In 3rd came one of the newest contending teams Newry City led by Don Travers 6th, Dale Mathers 11th and Pete Grant 20th. This was an excellent result for Newry City who also provided the V40 Women’s winner Denise Mathers.
The various categories of veterans all provided good competition with runners from Donegal, Down and Antrim all sharing in the prize list. Leo Murray Tir Connell was 1st V40 in a time of 1.51.08 – V45 went to Dale Mathers of Newry City – V50 was won by Peter Howie of Larne AC – V 55 was William J Brown of Mourne Runners a real veteran of this race having first run in the inaugural race away back in 1980 – and V60 went once again to Jim Patterson of Mourne Runners. The Junior race only attracted one runner Tiarnan Muldoon who was lying 46th overall at the 3rd checkpoint at Clermont Cairn in a time of 40.50 – unfortunately the split times couldn’t be recorded at the Windy Gap so we don’t know his final time. The inaugural 2 Man Relay attracted one team also with the Kerr brothers Brian and Denis completing the course in 2.10.05. Both had run a tough 5 Miler in Navan on Friday night so did well to turn out again on Sunday.
Since last year the old caretaker of the Church Hall in Carlingford Fred Adamson passed away at the age of 93 having looked after our post race needs for many years. Armagh AC decided to remember him with a Perpetual Cup to be presented annually to a person deemed to have made a long term contribution to the race. The first recipient was Jim Finnegan who along with Brian Vallely did the first run across the course in the late 70’s and thought it had the makings of a great race. Jim has participated every year since, either as a runner or dedicated race marshall.
This year the after race get-together moved to a new home in the Sl Foye Centre courtesy of it’s Director Sean O’Riordan. The facilities here were excellent with changing and showering facilities and we have been assured it’s use for future races. The Centre also has Hostel accommodation and would be ideal as a centre for a weekend’s training in the Cooley peninsula mountains which are quite extensive and offer a lot of challenge and variety both terrain wise and navigational complexity.
It’s hoped to once again stage the Mountain Trial in early September and Armagh AC are hoping to attract many more runners this year particularly those intending to do the MMM.
The wins will be a boost for Woods and Shannon as they head to Cumbria for the third race of the British Championship at Tebay in two weeks time. The next round of the NI Championship is at Newcastle on 4July, with the sixth and final round at Donard – Commedagh on 22August.
Compiled from reports by Brian Vallely and Brian Ervine
Note: one athlete left a running top on Clermont – contact Brian Vallely or Ian Taylor to enquire about getting it back.