Commedagh Chase – Race Report
After a week packed with delightful weather mountain running lovers woke on Saturday April 26th to some shaky conditions. It looked like we would be turning up to race, organise and spectate at Commedagh Chase in lashing wind and rain; however once again we were spared and we arrived at the mountains to find bright, dry conditions with the hill tops just nestling in the clouds.
The race starts at the bottom of Trassey Track, up to the Hare’s Gap, along the ridge to the top of Commedagh and back to the stile halfway down Slievenaglogh which leads you down a gully to Trassey Track and the finish.
This race was the second of nine in the NIMRA championship. There were 51 runners on the starting line ready to run in the clouds.
In the men’s race the pre-race favourites: Jonny Steede (Ballymena Runners), Seamus Lynch (Newcastley AC) and Alan Bogle (City of Derry AC) pulled away from the rest on the fast run up the Trassey Track. They were followed by another trio William McKee (Mourne Runners), Sam Herron (Mourne Runners) and David McNeilly (Newcastle AC).
As they approached the Hare’s Gap it looked like The Steede wanted to take the high path to the right but upon seeing Seamus and Alan going straight up the direct rocky line went with them. The groups following behind were faced with similar dilemma. Sam Herron and Deon McNeilly were amongst those who opted for the high path.
Jonny Steede ran strongly along the ridge and had a 20 second lead on Bogle and Lynch at the summit of Commedagh in a time of 37.40. A couple of minutes behind them was the group containing McKee, Herron and David McNeilly.
A determined looking Steede was the first runner through checkpoint three on Slievenaglogh. He was closely followed by Lynch who had managed to open a small gap on Bogle. It was status quo to the finish with those being their final positions.
The group of Herron, McKee and David McNeilly all arrived at checkpoint 3 together. On the descent to Trassey McKee managed to open a gap on the other two. As Sam and David headed over the last short section of open mountainside to the sheep pens it looked they would have to sprint it out for fifth position; unfortunately for David he took a bad tumble and left Sam running on to take a great fifth position.
There was a good turnout for the ladies race with Diane Wilson, Shileen O’Kane and Hazel McLaughlin all ready to battle for the honours.
After the climb to the Hare’s Gap Diane had a good lead on Shileen who in turn had a decent advantage over Hazel. Diane was the first to the summit of Commedagh, in a time of 47.38, followed by Shileen then Hazel. The ladies all ran strongly to the foot of Trassey maintaining their podium positions in that order.
The night before the race the Ballymena Runners had been on facebook boasting of the car load of international mountain runners they were sending to steal all of the prizes. Even though it was hoped that some of the locals might school them in the way of mountain racing it turned out that, for once, their boasts were not hollow and the boys set off on the long journey home with the team prize.
The Mourne Runners hosted this race and in keeping with tradition served up a great selections of sangers and home baked goods in the Trassey car park. This led to most runners eating more calories than they had burnt on the race through the clouds, but when the baking is that good it would be rude to say no.
Thanks to all those who supported the event. The next NIMRA Championship is the Annalong Horseshoe on Saturday May 10th. For more details see www.nimra.org.uk.