Local mountain runners produce impressive performances outside NI:
Dromore AC’s Diane Wilson and Newcastle AC man Jim Patterson excelled as a host of top Northern Ireland mountain and trail runners produced excellent performances around the world.
There was local representation at the famous Ben Nevis Mountain Race in Scotland, the World Masters Mountain Running Championships in Slovakia, the Ultra-Trail du Mont Blanc events in France and two notable events in Ireland.
Ben Nevis Mountain Race (Scotland):
Diane Wilson, the first ever Northern Ireland winner of the Ben Nevis Mountain Race back in 2015, claimed another memorable victory at the event (Saturday 2nd September 2017).
Ben Nevis is the highest mountain in the UK. Standing at 1,344 metres (4,409ft) above sea level, it is located at the western end of the Grampian Mountains in the Lochaber area of the Scottish Highlands, close to the town of Fort William. The mountain is a popular destination, attracting an estimated 100,000 ascents a year, the first of which was back in 1771, by James Robertson. Now in 2017, Northern Ireland runners continue to make the gruelling ascent to the famous summit, not to mention the tricky descent.
On what now, compared to previous years, would be considered as a ‘slower’ course, Diane conquered the route in an exceptional 2:01:21, taking 1st place in the ladies race. The talented Dramara based athlete, who will take on NiRunning’s Garmin Mourne Skyline MTR later this year, was understandably “delighted” with the victory, adding that she “could hardly believe it”. Given the large local contingent who celebrated Diane’s famous first victory at the event two years ago, it’s fair to say that this achievement would have went down equally as well with the group!
In the men’s race, Northern Ireland athletes Jonny Steede (Glens Runners) and William McKee (Mourne Runners) secured top twenty places against top quality opposition. Former NIMRA Champion Jonny, having won the classic Lurig Race in impressive fashion in August, covered this course in his quickest ever time. Despite a late fall, Jonny recovered well to cross the Fortwilliam finish line in1:44:24, taking 10th place overall. Current NIMRA Champion William was next home, in 1:46:52, 15th place for the debutant.
Another Mourne Runner, David McKee took 28th place in 1:52:20. Jonny Scott (Mourne Runners) completed the out and back course in 2:01:19 (68th place). Another mountain runner in a bit of form is Richard Hanna (Mourne Runners) – Richard clocked 2:01:45 for 71st place. Garth McGimpsey (Mourne Runners) took 76th place (2:02:44), before Ballymena Runners’ Connor Reid claimed his slot in the top 100 participants, finishing in 91st place in a time of 2:06:16.
A regular at this event, Mourne Runners man Sam Herron (125th place – 2:11:25) led a tribe of Northern Ireland competitors across the line, including Newcastle AC’s Pete Grant (146th place – 2:14:57), Mourne Runners’ Richard Bell (156th place – 2:16:26) and Ballymena Runners’ Tim Lowry (221st place – 2:24:49 ); all made the top 10 Northern Ireland finishers.
Dromore AC’s Alan Elwood impressed, finishing in 2:32:18 (263rd place), before Darren Herron (300th place – 2:37:27) and David Bell (315th place – 2:40:39), both of Mourne Runners. Newcastle AC pair Brian Wilson (349th place – 2:44:22) and Martin Brogan (350th place – 2:44:26) followed in quick succession. Ronan Barr (Newcastle AC) followed his club mates to the finish line in 2:50:05 (376th place) before NIMRA Chairman Ricky Cowan (Mourne Runners) completed his challenge in 2:55:23 (403rd place). Newcastle AC’s Brian McBurney (405th place – 2:56:03), and Mourne Runners duo Ciaran McAleenan (416th place – 2:58:05) and Claire Withers (423rd place – 2:59:46) all finished under the 3 hour mark, before Sean Rice (3:05:37) took 438th place to complete the Northern Ireland involvement in the race.
Local Lochaber AC member Finlay Wild was the first finisher for the eighth consecutive year, with a time of 1:31:37, almost six minutes ahead of second placed Brice Delsouiller (Pudsey & Bramley AC), who recorded 1:37:22.
WMRA World Mountain Running Championships (Slovakia):
On the same day (Saturday 2nd September 2017), in Pruske, Slovakia, a number of familiar faces from Northern Ireland were in action at the World Masters Mountain Running Championships.
Most notably, this included Newcastle AC’s Jim Patterson. The consistent Vet70 athlete was in good form and claimed gold in a closely contested race. Over the 9.6k distance, which included 606m of ascent, Jim edged top spot with nineteen seconds to spare, crossing the line in 55:03 (1st place). German athlete Wolfgang Huber followed in 55:22 (2nd place)
In the Vet40 ladies event, Gillian Wasson (Ballymena Runners) claimed an individual bronze medal. The Northern Ireland international completed the tough course in 51:08 to take 3rd place. Hazel McLaughlin (Lagan Valley AC) also competed well, taking 12th place in 59:57. Both ladies were competing for Ireland and given their positions, picked up bronze medals in the team competition.
Shileen O’Kane (Lagan Valley AC) claimed 7th place (52:32) in the ladies V45 event, before her club mate Anne Sandford (Lagan Valley AC) crossed the line in 1:04:47 for 13th place in the Vet50 category. In a competitive Vet60 men’s race, Peter Bell (Pegasus AC) impressed, taking 46th place in 1:05:03.
Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc Events (based out of Chamonix, France):
Further afield, on Thursday 31st August 2017, Friday 1st September 2017 and into Saturday 2nd September 2017, a number of athletes from Northern Ireland were in action at the famous Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc events, which are based out of Chamonix in France. The iconic event, which includes four individual races (the OCC, TDS, CCC and UTMB) as well as a team event (PTL) attracts the best long distance runners from across the globe.
In the OCC, which covers 56k and 3,500m of ascent in the Swiss Valais Region, Willowfield Harriers athlete Neill Weir ran well in his first attempt at an event of this nature. Neil finished 62nd place overall in 6:38:50.
The CCC and UTMB races started on Friday 1st September 2017. In the CCC®, a semi-tour of Mont-Blanc, starting from Courmayeur with 101k and 6,100 metres of positive height gain, north coast man Richard McLernon (North Coast Runners) completed his journey in 20:55:03 for 704th place.
Later in the day (Friday 1st September 2017), four NI runners started the UTMB (Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc). The UTMB is a complete tour of the Mont Blanc and passes through three countries: France, Switzerland and Italy, making it a race that every ultra-trail enthusiast should finish at least once in their life. Le tour of Mont-Blanc, started from Chamonix and covers 170k with 10,000 metres of positive height gain.
Of the 2,500 people who registered for the event, Martin Mullan (BARF) was the first local athlete to cross the finish line, completing the massive task in a fantastic 36:58:59 (475th place). Next home was Ivan Sadlier (Unattached) in 644th place, with a time of 39:02:02. Jacqueline Toal (BARF) added a UTMB finish to an incredible 18 months of competition, arriving back in Chamonix with a time of 39:15:57 – this saw Jackie take 54th place in the ladies race. Declan Faulkner (Knockmany Runners) battled well to completed the 105 mile route in 42:08:55 (1,032nd place).
Kerry Way Ultra Lite:
On Saturday 2nd September 2017, Seapark AC duo Gary Connolly and Gillian Cordiner both took part in the Kerry Way Ultra Lite race in County Kerry. Although a shortened version of the 200 kilometre Kerry Way Ultra, competitors were challenged over the 58k route from Sneem to Killarney. Gillian completed the predominately trail course in 7:52:05, claiming 8th place in the ladies race, while Gary followed close behind in 7:52:15 for 28th place in the overall competition.
Glendalough Clover Ultra:
Also on Saturday 2nd September 2017 (6am), Northern Ireland athletes took on the inaugural running of the Glendalough Clover, in the Wicklow hills (County Wicklow). The course, which was designed by Irish Ultra Team Manager Adrian Tucker, was an 84k mountain based route, taking in ‘out and back’ sections (in the shape of a ‘clover’) along the Wicklow Way and St Kevin’s Way.
Billy Reed (East Antrim Harriers) led the NI contingent over the finish line, completing the new route in 8 hours 48 minutes for 5th place. Another experienced ultra-man, Dale Mathers (Mourne Runners) was in close proximity, taking 6th place with a time of 8:56. Aaron Shimmons (BARF) having gone off course, recovered well to secure 15th place in 10:05. Reports suggest that the event was successful and may be popular amongst Northern Ireland competitors in future years.