Mourne Skyline Mountain-Trail Race 2018:
Scott Running athlete Brennan Townshend smashed the Mourne Skyline Mountain Trail Race course record as the Northern Ireland race brought the Skyrunning UK 2018 Series to a close (Saturday 20th October 2018).
Northern Ireland international Martsje Hell (North Belfast Harriers) edged out 2017 Champion Shileen O’Kane (Lagan Valley AC) to secure top honours in the ladies race.
Conditions could not have been more different to 12 months ago, when competitors not only faced the gruelling 35k course with 3,370m of ascent, but also the wind and rain from ‘Storm Brian’.
At sea level in Newcastle, warm temperatures and sunshine enhanced the atmosphere while above the coastal town, in the towering hills, there was mist, but competitors caught glimpses of the magical Mourne Mountains throughout the day.
It wasn’t only the views which caught the eye – up and coming British mountain runner Brennan Townshend produced a superb performance to secure victory in a new course record.
Early on, the Scott Running athlete had Martin Lynch (Milford AC), an adventure racer from County Donegal, Alex Van Tuyl (Maverick Trail Division) and reigning Champion Ian Bailey (Newcastle AC) for company.
However, as the race progressed, Brennan showed his class as he opened up a gap on the field. By half way, he had 20 seconds on Martin Lynch, who in-turn, had moved clear of Ian Bailey – there was just over a minute between them.
On the tough return route, which took in five summits over 700m, including Northern Ireland’s highest peak, Slieve Donard (850m), Brennan pushed on and dropped the impressive Martin Lynch. Behind, Javier Rodriguez (Spain), a 5th place finisher at the ‘TDS’ last year, was beginning to show and by the penultimate summit at Slieve Commedagh, he had overtaken Ian Bailey and moved into third place.
Nothing changed as the men descended towards the finish in Donard Park, 400m from where they had started from that morning, Brennan Townshend who reached the at finishing straight first, breaking the tape in an excellent 3:45:32 for 1st place.
Martin Lynch claimed a well-deserved 2nd place in 3:51:53, before Javier Rodriguez completed the podium in 3:52:21 (3rd pace).
Dutch native and Northern Ireland resident Martsje Hell dominated the ladies race from early on, leading the field through the first checkpoint. 2017 Champion Shileen O’Kane and fellow NI international Gillian Wasson (Ballymena Runners) were in pursuit.
There was no stopping Martsje as she reached the half way point two minutes ahead of Shileen – Lagan Valley AC lady Shileen continued to push on the undulating second half but Martsje summited peak after peak relentlessly and therefore held her lead.
In the end it was Martsje Hell who ran out victorious, battling all the way to the atmospheric finish line to win in 4:44:00 (1st place). Despite losing her title, Shileen’s brave efforts were rewarded with her fastest time over the route, as she crossed the line in 4:45:44 for 2nd place.
In what was an excellent race for the final podium place, Beta Running’s Sophie Grant came through to pass Gillian Wasson on their second time over Slieve Bearnagh to claim 3rd place, reaching the finish in 4:59:15.
Helios IT #DonardDescent:
In the race for the new Helios IT sponsored prize for the fastest descent from the final peak at Slieve Donard to the finish line in Donard Park, David Holmberg (Sundsvalls OK) and Bernadette O’Kane (Dub Runners) picked up the awards. David covered the technical 5k downhill in 25:37, with Bernadette clocking 31:25.
Full results for the Mourne Skyline MTR 2018 are available HERE.