NIMRA juniors show that local mountain running is in good hands…

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Northern Ireland Mountain Running Association (NIMRA) represented at WMRA level:

Last week, a group of junior athletes from Northern Ireland represented the Northern Ireland Mountain Running Association (NIMRA) at the prestigious 11th International Mountain Running Youth Cup in Janske Lazne, Czech Republic.

The team showed that local mountain running is in good hands going forward, with some impressive results against high level opposition.  Team Manager Phil Hodge and his colleagues worked hard to pull the team together and deserve credit for looking to the future of mountain running in Northern Ireland.

Phil kindly provided us with the following report on the trip…

11th International Mountain Running Youth Cup in Janske Lazne, Czech Republic:

On Thursday 23rd June 2016 the N.Ireland Youth Team of Scott McKeag, Aaron Harrison, Jack O’Farrell and Ethan Dunn headed to the Czech Republic, to compete in the WMRA World Youth Cup in Mountain Running.

With temperatures in excess of 30 degrees, in the confines of an aging bus, they made the 3-4 hour journey north to Janske Lazne a small town in Krkonose National Park only a few miles from the Polish Border. After some confusion at registration and a hunt for keys to their accommodation, they eventually found their hotel and settled in for the night. Friday greeted us with more heat as we went with the other 17 teams to reece the course. The terrain was very similar to the trial course at Kilbroney, reassuring the team of what to expect. How to cope with the heat however, was more of a concern.

At noon, the same time as the race the next day, their foolhardy team manager ran the course, in conditions that were to be even hotter than race day. This further confirmed the need to stay in the shade as much as possible, especially for race day warm-up the following morning.

Much to the relief of the team and coaches, at a technical meeting it was revealed a second water stop was to be provided at 3.7km in addition to the one at 1.8km. No other water was permitted to be given to runners during the race.  Race day arrived, and after a warm-up in the shade of the forest the lads headed out into the sun for the race start.

After 50m on grass, the race heads up over a steep bridge, followed by a short section of single track and then onto the first climb of the day. The team held back at this stage, which showed their maturity and settled into their pace, slowly working their way past runners who were suffering from, going out too hard in the heat.

A short downhill 1km into the race, followed by some flat running, saw Jack, Scott and Aaron together before moving onto a long and steady climb that was exposed to bright sunshine. It was here that water had been promised. The N.I. coaches being stationed in the latter stages of the course, did not realise that the first water stop had been abandoned and instead some teams had been told that they could give water to their runners. The boys were to soon realise that the second water stop had also been cancelled. This fact makes the boys running in the closing sections of the race all the more impressive.

The team had picked a point at approximately 1km to go, where they would up their pace and begin passing runners in front. Scott was first up and even though a significant gap had opened up between him and the runners ahead, he ran steadily catching four and passing another just before the line, finishing 39th in 31:53.  Aaron was next and having run the middle section of the race steadily; found this last tarmac section extremely hard. He still managed to gain a place, evidence of the excellent pacing implemented by the team. He finished 50th in 32:54.  Jack was close behind, after having lead the trio for the first 2km of the race, he maintained his position, finishing 55th in a time of 34:22.  Ethan confidently ran his own race, leaving his final surge for 1km to go. This strategy proved good, as he passed 6 athletes, including the third IMRA runner to place 59th in 34:53, just 31 seconds behind Jack.

All the team should be delighted with their performance which resulted in them tying with the Slovenian team with 144 points and 15th place.

The IMRA team had an excellent race, particularly the performances’ of Alex Hunter and Iosac Coleman finishing 21st and 34th respectively, to rank them 12th team overall.

The race was won in spectacular style by Turkey, who excelled in the heat with 6 runners in the top ten, claiming both Gold and Silver in the team competition. Italy secured bronze in a close battle with England and Germany.  The team arrived back to Dublin with their southern counterparts, where they said their goodbyes and headed for home.

The team produced a great ‘Benchmark’ for the future of N.I. Youth Mountain Running and we look forward to seeing the lads progress in their mountain running careers over the future months.