Cairncastle Classic Fell Race – Racing is Back

On Saturday 12th June 2021, East Coast Athletic Club invited Northern Ireland’s fell running community to Ballygally, for the 2nd annual running of the Cairncastle Classic Fell Race.  The event was Race 1 of the NIMRA 2021 Championship, with approximately 2200ft of elevation over the 10 mile course. 

From Cairncastle Primary School, athletes raced uphill on the road, before joining the fells for the ascent of Knockdhu. In the battle for the men’s title, it was 2019 winner Timmy Johnston (Mourne Runners), Allan Bogle (City of Derry AC) and Larne man Ryan Stewart (Scottish Dental Runners) who led the field of 150 runners onto the hills.  They were closely followed by Mourne Runners pair Jonny Scott and Adam Cunningham.  Early in the race, Martsje Hell (North Belfast Harriers) had already taken a commanding lead over the female pack, with 2019 race winner Esther Dickson (Newry AC) and Elizabeth Wheeler (Glens Runners) in pursuit. 

On the higher slopes of Knockdhu (Checkpoint 1), the gaps began to appear as the athletes raced across the Sallagh Braes, before descending to the valley floor. By Checkpoint 4, Mourne man Timmy Johnston had almost two minutes on Stewart, with Bogle a further one minute behind. Martsje Hell led the ladies into Linford Car Park. At this point, it looked like the race was for 2nd place, with Dickson and Wheeler both moving well, and fifty seconds between the pair.

As the athletes moved onto the final summit of the day (Scawt Hill), positions didn’t change amongst the men. However, in the ladies race, the impressive Glens Runner Elizabeth Wheeler had significantly cut the gap to Esther, with both of them reaching Checkpoint 5 only two seconds apart.   With only the downhill stretch back to the coastal village of Ballygally remaining, the Newry AC lady showed her remarkable descending skills to again extend the distance between the two.

It was Timmy Johnston who led the field back to the new home of the race, at Cairncastle Primary School, taking the win in 1:11:08 (1st place).  In 2nd place was Ryan Stewart 1:14:44, followed by Allan Bogle in 3rd place (1:16:18).

Martsje Hell took the ladies title in 1:25:31 (1st place), with Esther Dickson finishing in 2nd place (1:32:35).  Elizabeth Wheeler crossed the line in 3rd place, with a time of 1:33:08


1.       Timmy Johnston (Mourne Runners) 1:11:08

2.       Ryan Stewart (Scottish Dental Runners) 1:14:44

3.       Allan Bogle (City of Derry AC) 1:16:18


1.       Martsje Hell (North Belfast Harriers) 1:25:31

2.       Esther Dickson (Newry AC) 1:32:35

3.       Elizabeth Wheeler (Glens Runners) 1:33:08

Full Results can be found here

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