Weekend Preview: The mountains are calling…

Weekend Preview: The mountains are calling…

Jonny Muir’s quote “the mountains are calling, I must go…” is well-known and well used but there would be few times that it would be as appropriate as this coming weekend.  There is an abundance of exceptional mountain running events coming up over the next few days; some will cover the whole weekend!

Close to home, we cannot look past the very prestigious Mourne Mountain Marathon – further afield, there is the 34th annual running of the World Mountain Running Association (WMRA) Championships in Andorra and the very popular Skyline Scotland events in the famous Glencoe region of Scotland.

There is also some excellent road and trail races locally and we would expect good Northern Ireland representation at the ongoing World Masters Athletics Championships in Malaga (Spain) and the BMW Berlin Marathon in Germany.

Our preview will focus on the three main mountain running events of the weekend, but as always, we will list what is happening here in Northern Ireland and note what is going on further afield, that we are aware of…

World Mountain Running Association (WMRA) Championships 2018:

Four local athletes will be part of a strong Ireland team at this weekend’s World Mountain Running Association (WMRA) Championships in Canillo, Andorra (Sunday 16th September 2018).

At the Uphill Only Championships, Senior athletes will cover an 11.93k course with 1,028m of ascent, while Junior competitors will negotiate a 7.3k course with 576m of ascent.

Fresh from his recent at the Mill Hill Mile, Newcastle AC’s Zak Hanna will lead the line for the Irish team and he will be joined by recently crowned NI & Ulster Half Marathon Champion Andrew Annett (North Belfast Harriers).  Eoin Flynn and Mark Ryan complete the Senior Men’s team.

In the Senior Ladies team, emerging star Sinead Murtagh (Newcastle AC) will feature alongside the well-known Sarah McCormack.  Talented pairing Sarah Milligan and Becky Quinn complete the ladies team.

In the Ireland Junior Men’s team, there is local interest with Anthony McCambridge (St Malachy’s AC) set to compete alongside team mates Alex Hunter, Iosac Coleman and Ruairi Long.

Skyline Scotland Events (inc Skyrunning UK and Skyrunner World Championships):

In Scotland, an impressive field of athletes from Northern Ireland will take part in the popular Skyline Scotland weekend, based in Kinlochleven.  This year, as well as the Skyrunning UK Series, the event will incorporate the Skyrunner World Championships.

Earlier this evening (Thursday 13th September 2018), the Salomon Mamores VK opened the weekend festivities.  Full results for the event are available HERE.

On Friday (14th September 2018) experienced ultra-marathoner Donal O’Kane (BARF) and former North Belfast Harrier Alan Ritchie will take on the new Ben Nevis Ultra course.  The shortened ‘bad weather route’, measures 47.5k in distance (1.640m ascent/descent) has been inacted because of predicted severe weather.  More details are available HERE.

Saturday (15th September 2018) will see the most popular event take place, particularly from an NI perspective, the Salomon sponsored Ring of Steall Skyrace.  Approximately twelve local athletes will take on the world’s finest Skyrunners, including Spaniard Kilian Jornet, over the technical 29k course.  With 2500 metres of ascent/descent, this mountain race has spectacular views of the aforementioned Ben Nevis from the Mamores, includes short sections of scrambling and will test even the hardiest of competitor.

Irish International Ian Bailey (Newcastle AC) and Northern Ireland International Ryan Stewart (Shettleston Harriers), competing in his second race of the weekend will be joined by Sharon Dickenson (Lagan Valley AC), Brian Linton (Crusaders AC), Tony McGuckin (Acorns AC), Martin Mullan (BARF), Andrew Tees (Orangegrove AC) and BARF’s Donal O’Kane (also his second race of the weekend). Northern Ireland International ladies, Martsje Hell (North Belfast Harriers) and Hazel McLaughlin (Lagan Valley AC), as well as the speedy Elizabeth Wheeler (Glens Runners) are likely to be the amongst the first NI ladies to cross the Kinlochleven finish line.

On Sunday 16th September 2018 the iconic Glencoe Skyline event will take place, concluding the weekend’s events in style.  Described as ‘pure’ Skyrunning and falling within the ‘Extreme’ Series of events, this race takes in some scenic but dangerous ridges and the most technically challenging Scottish mountain terrain.  Ironically, one of Northern Ireland’s toughest female competitors will take part in this, Jacque Toal (BARF).  Jacque, an Irish International Ultra distance runner will complete the NI participation in the world class events.

In 5 weeks’ time the Skyrunning carnival will arrive back in Northern Ireland, for the Mourne Skyline Mountain-Trail Race in Newcastle, County Down (Saturday 20th October 2018), if you are interested in helping out at the event, there are still roles available. Please check out www.mourneskylinemtr.com for details.

Mourne Mountain Marathon 2018:

At home in Northern Ireland, we will have our own mountain spectacular, in the form of the famous Mourne Mountain Marathon (Saturday 15th and Sunday 16th September 2018).

Hundreds of hardy mountain runners will take on the gruelling two day event; like 2017, this year’s event will also include a ‘Score Class’ race on the Saturday. The nature of the Score class means that it is suitable for beginners and top end athletes alike.

Interestingly, competitors (teams of two) only receive their event maps on starting the race; they then plot their course in a way that will allow them to cover all checkpoints in the quickest time possible.  In the two day event, there are three distances on offer to participants; they are 55k (‘A’ Class), 45k (‘B’ Class) and 35k (‘C’ and ‘D’ Class).

In the Elite ‘A’ Class 55k, 2017 winner Paul Pruzina will return with a new partner – last year, Paul won alongside Matthew Vokes.  This year he will line up with Philip Vokes and despite being the joint youngest pairing in the 14 team field, they will be considered pre-race favourites.  David Hicks and Neil Andrews will also play a part at the front end, while Moire O’Sullivan and Paul Mahon are sure to be podium contenders overall.  Moire and Paul claimed third place in 2017 after leading the mixed teams home.  Experienced endurance athlete Cathal McGreey and Kevin Murdock will be worth watching over the course of two days.

A total of thirty teams will contest the 45k ‘B’ Class event, with runners up from 2017 Alasdair McCallum and Tim Begley returning this year.  In the absence of reigning Champions Conor Short and Conal Whelan, Alasdair and Tim will be keen to go one better this time around.  However, despite their experience at the front end, they will have to fend off some good teams if they want to top the podium, including Mark Alexander / Tim Lowry, Trevor Wilson / Declan Mcgrellis and James Speight / Kelly-Anne Speight.  Stephanie Pruzina and Kathleen Monteverde will go well in the ladies team competition.

Sophie Pruzina and Fionn Clarke were the top ladies in the 35k ‘C’ Class race twelve months ago and the ladies will again be chasing top honour in the most popular competition of the two day event.  A total of fifty three teams will start the race and that includes father and son pair Alan and Andrew Elwood, who will again be chasing a prize.  Gillian Wasson and Ruth Aiken are a very interesting and talented pairing in this category and will go well.

The ‘D’ Class race will also cover 35k, but with a less competitive edge given its ‘novice’ status.  However, aiming to complete the event in a decent time whilst increasing their experience will be Ken Strang / Josh Strang, Helen Pruzina / Fiona Peterson and Padraig Matthews / Claire Matthews, amongst others.

The entry list for the 1-Day Score Class event throws up a host of familiar faces from the local mountain running scene.  This includes Sarah Graham / Ricky Hanna, Sam McNeilly / Stephen Rice and Nigel McKinney / Orla McElroy.

Full start lists for the event are available HERE.  Live results and information from the event will be available over the weekend on the official race website, which can be found HERE.

Other events taking place in Northern Ireland this weekend…

Friday 14th September 2018:

  • Bob & Berts North Coast 10k & 5k: East Strand Watersports Centre, Portrush – 7pm (Entry AVAILABLE on race day!)

Saturday 15th September 2018:

  • Tafelta AC 10 mile Road Race: Meadowbank Sports Arena – 12pm (Entries AVAILABLE on race day!)
  • O’Brien Challenge Trail Race: Davagh Forest – 12pm (Entries AVAILABLE on race day!)

Sunday 16th September 2018:

  • Tower of Lake: The Courtyard, Clandeboye Estate, Bangor – 2:30pm (Entries AVAILABLE on race day!)

Events taking place outside Northern Ireland this weekend…

Outside Northern Ireland, local athletes will continue to represent both Ireland and GB & NI at the World Masters Athletics Championships in Malaga, Spain.

City of Lisburn AC’s Kelly Neely will be hoping to add to her brilliant gold medal in the 800m when she takes on the 1500m.  #DreamRunDublin18 athlete Tracey Atkinson (Albertville Harriers) will be at least one familiar face who lines up in the half marathon event.

In Germany, a large number of familiar faces are expected to take on one of the world’s most famous events, the flat and fast Berlin Marathon.  The event has proved success for local competitors in the past and will attract athletes who are seeking to improve their 26.2 mile personal bests.


As always, Northern Ireland’s twenty six parkrun events will take place as normal. For more information on parkrun, or to locate your nearest event, please visit our dedicated ‘parkrun’ section within our fixtures page.