2016 Season Opener on Slieve Gullion Race Report
Photos by Jayne Bell
March is here. That can mean only one thing – the hill running season is open for business and business is good.
This morning twice as many people as last year – that’s 85 runners folks – negotiated the ‘roads’ around Gullion to park the car in the hedge and embrace the muck; well in the case of one runner it was a case of just park the car in the middle of the road so it was blocked and head on up that mountain.
The mountain weather for March was good, with plenty of sun and mild temperatures. Of course that didn’t stop the hailstones from falling as we stood in vests and shorts at the start line enjoying the exfoliation treatment. Keep it a secret though as we don’t want to put the Donard Spa out of business.
The winter hasn’t been kind to any sort of soil based surface so when thinking of words to describe the conditions today I would reach for the thesaurus to look for variants on totally filthy muck bath.
The starting lane was like a cow’s trough and the normally drier stretch leading up to to the ramp up was so greasy that on the way back down I was standing bolt upright sliding forward like I was on ice skates – but full marks to me for not falling over.
On top the route was littered with ‘surprise’ muck pits; just waiting to capture the unexpectant runner. Even trying to be canny sticking to the heathery tufts didn’t seem to help; it was just a smorgasbord of the brown stuff.
The hillside was littered with body parts jutting out of the ground. Something Beverly Herron, Slieve Gullion race first timer, knows only too well; she was battling away on the descent only to sink to her waist and watch as her rivals headed down the hill. Eventually a white knight appeared to pull her out of her predicament.
When the starter’s whistle went Jonny Steede assumed pole position and held it all the way back to the finish. He said that on the way back he looked behind him to see no one – that must be nice Jonny, but I would need to run by myself to recreate that moment.
Hot on his heels all the way up to the South Tor was North Belfast man Tommy Simmons; however I don’t think Tommy must like descending as much as some of the mountain men and he ended up finishing in ninth place.
One of Newcastle AC’s off season signings, David Hicks, had a great run to finish in second followed by Colm Murtagh in third.
Just behind those two was a chasing bunch which included Gary Bailey, Sam Herron, Dale Mathers and Deon McNeilly. Mourne Runner Gary showing a promising return to form held off these guys to take forth.
It was good to see a great turnout for the ladies race. This was won by Newcastle AC’s Mari Troeng. Emma Wilson (unattached) was second followed by Lagan AC and wannabee Mourner Runner Hazel McLaughlin in third.
Afterwards a nice wash in a thermal spa, or was it a flooded field, hit the spot and everyone left with their spirits lifted. What can I say – better value than a tough mudder.
Thanks to Armagh AC for hosting another great race and putting on a great spread afterwards.
Next week see’s the first round of the NIMRA championship in the Queen of the Glens. Remember to qualify for NIMRA points you must have joined NIMRA before the race starts. You can enter online at www.nimra.org.uk
One last note – Please ensure you bring all mandatory gear to all races that includes waterproof top (with hood) and bottoms, hat, gloves, whistle, map, compass and emergency food (a couple of gels, bars, whatever). The race director will let you know what you need to carry on the day. If you do not have the mandatory gear you will not be allowed to run. This is for your safety.