The World is Watching: Mourne Skyline MTR 2018!

The World is Watching: Mourne Skyline MTR (Skyrunning UK Series) 2018…

The stunning Mourne Mountains will once again play host to the World’s finest athletes, as competitors from across the globe descend on the coastal town of Newcastle, County Down for the 5th annual running of the Mourne Skyline Mountain-Trail Race.

Northern Ireland internationals Ian Bailey (Newcastle AC) and Shileen O’Kane (Lagan Valley AC) used their local knowledge in tough weather conditions to secure victory twelve months ago.

Both Ian and Shileen will return to defend their titles but will face strong opposition as athletes battle it out for the prestigious and unique Mourne Skyline MTR winner’s medal, handcrafted by The Steensons Jewellers.

The event will also mark the end of the Skyrunning UK Series for 2018 with winners being announced at the prize-giving.

At 35k in distance with 3,370m of ascent, the course is notoriously difficult.  Two-time Skyrunner World Series Champion and former winner of the Mourne Skyline MTR, Stevie Kremer famously said after winning in 2014:   “That is the hardest race I have ever done! Harder than Zegama Aizkorri, it was just brutal. Relentless climbing, technical and with the wind it was just soooo hard! I loved it!”

Current Champion Ian Bailey represented Ireland at this year’s WMRA Long Distance Championships, claiming 33rd place – he then went on to secure 34th place at the Skyrunning (Skyrace) World Championships in Scotland.  The Newcastle AC man, a two-time winner of the Mourne Skyline MTR, has made it clear that he not only wants his third victory on home turf, but he also wants his course record back – Germain Grangier’s 3:49:39 is the current course record.

Brennan Townshend (Scott Running) will be aiming for success in the Skyrunning UK Series and will undoubtedly be Ian’s biggest challenger.  The rising star claimed a very credible 23rd place at the recent Ring of Steall Skyrace, which doubled up as the Skyrunning (Skyrace) World Championships.

Javier Rodriguez (Spain), a 5th place finish in the Skyrunner World Series (Ultra Distance) and 5th place finisher in the famous UTMB ‘TDS’ Race last year (2017), will also be worth watching.

Irish international athletes and ultra-distance specialists Paul Tierney (Ambleside AC) and Tom Hogan (SBR Ireland) will cope with the massive ascent well, while fellow Irish internationals Gavin Byrne (Donore Harriers) and Martin Lynch (Milford AC) could turn out to be surprise packages.  Gavin, who represented Ireland at the World Trail Running Championships in Spain this year, won the Glendalough Clover – a 50 mile race with 3,000m of ascent.  Meanwhile endurance adventure racer Martin ran a swift 2:36:19 at the recent Berlin Marathon.

Local man Colm Murtagh (Newcastle AC) impressed at this event in 2017, finishing in 5th place; he’ll again be amongst the front runners.  Another local athlete to look out for is long distance specialist Neill Weir (Willowfield Harriers), who has both the speed and endurance to put himself in the mix.

In the ladies race, local hero Shileen O’Kane, a very popular winner in 2017, will face formidable opposition in the of Great Britain & NI international Georgia Tindley (Hunters Bog Trotters).

26-year-old Georgia has won some of the UK’s most notable races, including the Glencoe Ring of Steall and the Mamores VK.  This year, she was also runner up at the prestigious 3 Peaks Mountain Race in Yorkshire and placed 28th in at the WMRA Long Distance Championships in Poland.

Georgia will be aiming to complete the Skyrunning UK Series, as will Beta Running sponsored athlete Sophie Grant.  Sophie represented Great Britain & NI at the World Trail Championships earlier this year and also won the Lakes Sky Ultra.

Martsje Hell (North Belfast Harriers) has shown great strength in her climbing throughout the Northern Ireland Mountain Running Association (NIMRA) season and this will undoubtedly lead to a high placing, while Denmark’s Katrine Jakobsen has performed well at the Skagen Odde Ultra-Trail Race and the La Sportiva SkyTrail in the lead up to this race.

Northern Ireland internationals Gillian Wasson (Ballymena Runners) and Mari Troeng (Newcastle AC) should claim top ten places, while Irish international Karina Jonina (Trailheads) will also be be worth watching.

The Mourne Skyline MTR 2018 kicks off at 9am on Saturday 20th October 2018, starting on the Promenade in Newcastle (County Down).  The finish area is located a short distance away in Donard Park, where the first finisher is expected to arrive at approximately 12:45pm.

Full details in relation to the race are available on the official website at

On race day, LIVE athlete / race tracking will be available via live.primaltracking/mourneskyline

Also in the mountains, but further from home…

The British Athletics Fell and Hill Running Championships  2018 (submitted by Newcastle AC):

The British Athletics Fell and Hill Running Championships is an annual event that takes place in England, Scotland and Wales. It takes place this weekend, on Saturday 20th October 2018.

The level of competition at the event is always high, as fell runners across the country get the chance to represent their club and run as part of a team – a rare opportunity for what is often a very individual sport.

Newcastle AC have made the trip across the water on a few occasions in the past. The most successful trip was in 2003 when the male vet team won silver at Church Stretton. This team included Robbie Bryson, Richard Rodgers, Dermot McGonigle, Cookie O’Hagen, Jim Patterson and Deon McNeilly. The team were sitting in 5th position when Deon McNeilly had a strong final leg passing 3 teams to finish in silver. The last time the club attended the event was in 2015 when it was held at Pendle Hill. 147 teams took part with the Newcastle men finishing 19th, the vet team 16th and the ladies 29th in their respective categories.

This year is the event’s 30th year and will be hosted by Ambleside Athletic Club. 250 teams are entered and the competition looks as high as ever. The event will be based in Grasmere with the routes for all legs running on the iconic fells. This promises to be the toughest relay in years, with big climbs and rough ground taking competitors over sections of the Bob Graham Round.

The relays take four leg format with teams of six runners. Leg 1 will be a Solo Leg taking in Seat Sandal. Leg 2 will be a bruiser of a longer leg for pairs taking in Great Rigg Man, Fairfield and a rough descent via Cofa Pike to Deepdale Hause before returning via Grisedale Hause. Leg 3, again for pairs, will be a navigation leg giving route choice. Leg 4 is the final solo leg over and goes out over Heron Pike via Alcock Tarn with a fast descent over Stone Arthur.

In the last three years since the club attended the event a lot has changed. Brexit is looming, Trump is now president and Colum Campbell hung up his inov8 shoes having retired from mountain running.

However, it’s not all doom and gloom as this year Newcastle is sending a record 4 teams showing how the club is going from strength-to-strength in the mountain running scene. When Campbell heard the club were going to the relays it even lured him out of retirement. He has dusted off his inov8s and if his past few “tester” races are anything to go by he’s in fine form! We have also converted a track runner to the hills – Joanne Mills has traded in her spikes and laps of the Mary Peter’s track and has been running up the Mourne’s the past few Sundays. What is the world coming to!

The full teams are as follows:

Men: Leg 1 – Luke McMullan, Leg 2 – Seamus Lynch & Zak Hanna, Leg 3 (Nav) – David Hicks & David McNeilly, Leg 4 – David O’Flaherty.

Vets: Leg 1 – Jack O’Hare, Leg 2 – John (Hen) Kelly & Pete Grant, Leg 3 (Nav) – Deon McNeilly & Eamon McCrickard, Leg 4 – Colum Campbell.

Open: Leg 1 – PJ McCrickard, Leg 2 – Stephen Wallace & Dominic McInerney, Leg 3 (Nav) – Eugene McCann & Owen Brady, Leg 4 – Seamus White.

Ladies: Leg 1 – Joanne Mills, Leg 2 – Bronagh McInerney & Grace Neville, Leg 3 (Nav) – Sam McNeilly & Linda Rogan, Leg 4 – Catherine McIntosh.

Other events taking place in Northern Ireland this weekend…

GR8 Dundrum Run (information submitted by organisers):

On Saturday 20th October 2018, Murlough AC will welcome a record number of athletes to their annual GR8 Dundrum Run, a challenging multi-terrain race, covering a scenic 8 mile course on road, trail, boards and sand, starting and finishing on the atmospheric Main Street in Dundrum.

Over one thousand competitors will be in competition at the event, with a number of athletes likely to battle it out for top honours.

In the men’s race, its hard to look past Dromore AC man Stephen O’Gorman when considering potential winners.  However, Phil Wood (Invictus TC) should provide good opposition if he is in form.  John Neill (East Antrim Harriers) and Jordan Heron (Larne AC) will lead the way for a large contingent of athletes from their respective clubs.

Karen Wilton (Jog Lisburn AC) should control the ladies race given her recent form.  In the race for the remaining podium places, triathlete Laura Wylie (East Antrim Harriers), Helen Weir (North Belfast Harriers) and Catherine Roberts (North Down AC) should be there or there abouts, while Maeve Taylor (Whitehead Runners) and Sarah Bickley (BARF) should place well.

The race will kick off at 1pm and there will be a LIMITED number of on the day entries available, it is therefore recommended that anyone wishing the obtain a late entry arrives early.

Killyclogher 10k (submitted by organisers):

Following a very successful event in 2017, the organisers of the Killyclogher 10k and associated 5k race, are expecting large numbers for the 2nd annual running on Saturday 20th October 2018.

The race will start and finish in the village of Killyclogher on the outskirts of Omagh. Local names to look out for are Stephen Duncan and Marty McDermott, both Omagh Harriers, and Paul Barbour who was runner up at the recent Omagh 5. Hayley Ballard from Omagh Harriers will feature highly in the ladies race, as will Paula Donnelly and Irene Clements.

In the 5k race, as well as the senior runners, there is a host of junior talent vying for the top spots with Oisin McGuigan and Sorcha Mullan of the local Omagh Harriers club best placed if they choose to run. Start time for the 10k is 11.30am with the 5k going off 11.40am.

Runher Titanic 10k Road Race 2018 (submitted by organisers):

The ever-popular Hoka One One Runher Titanic 5k and 10k returns to the Titanic Quarter on Sunday 21st October 2018 (9:30am) with some 900 ladies, ranging in ages from 11 to 72 expected to take to the start line.

The races will be started by highly respected City of Lisburn AC athlete Kelly Neely who returned last month from Malaga in Spain as a double World Masters Champion including an Irish record in the 800 metres.

Runher Titanic, which  was recently nominated in the NI Health & Fitness Awards, makes its way from the start line behind Titanic Belfast, past the dry dock housing, the Samson and Goliath cranes, where a live band ‘Run for Cover’ will be keeping up the spirits.

Here, the 5k does a U-turn with the 10k heading out via the Sydenham and Airport Roads to Victoria Park before returning.  As well as the podium prizes, there are age-group awards.

A junior race for the Under 10’s around the Slipways at 9am precedes the warm-up and there is a free massage afterwards courtesy of NiRunning Injury Clinic hosts Apex Clinic.

There will be NO entry on race day. However, you can register up until Saturday 20th October 2018 at the Pure Running shop in Belfast.

Remaining Fixture List:

Saturday 20th October 2018:

  • Fergals 10 mile Road Race: Davagh Forest – 12pm (Entries AVAILABLE on race day!)
  • Comber Cup XC: Billy Neill Playing Fields – 12pm (Entries AVAILABLE on race day!)

Events taking place outside Northern Ireland this weekend…

A large number of athletes from Northern Ireland will travel to the Autumn Open Cross Country Festival in Dublin this weekend (Sunday 21st October 2018).

Amongst those expected to compete are Adam Kirk-Smith (Derry Track Club), Neil Johnston (Springwell RC), Ben Branagh (St Malachy’s AC), Emma Mitchell (QUB AC), Fionnuala Ross (Armagh AC), Jessica Craig (North Down AC) and Rachel Gibson (North Down AC).

This year’s festival, which is held in association with Fingal County Council, will take place at the National Sports Campus, Abbotstown.

This event will give athletes the perfect opportunity to kick start their 2018 cross country season, showcasing their form ahead of the Irish Life Health National Cross Country Championships in November & the European Cross Country Championships in December.

Full details of the event are available HERE.


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