Home Counties International Report Sept 2019

by Jonny Scott

This year the Home countries international was held in Wales. Originally the race was to start and finish in Bets y Coed, however it was decided to also use the race as the qualifier for the GB team for the World championship in Patagonia – therefore needing slightly less technical running, so they moved it to Llanberis. A town familiar with most of the NI runners who’ve been to the Snowdon race!

We began and our journey at Belfast international on Friday evening with Timmy, Jonny and Oisin flying over to Liverpool to meet Jack who’d travelled down from Glasgow. Unfortunately when we arrived at the airport we discovered our flight was delayed to 10pm. This wasn’t ideal as the hire car provider closed at 11pm!! A few phone calls back and forth and it soon became clear that if we didn’t make it to Liverpool before 11pm, we’d be spending the night at the airport! 

Mercifully the flight got us in around 10:30, we had a pre race jog to the car hire and began our journey to the hostel in Snowdonia. A 90minute drive later and we were ready for bed!

We awoke on Saturday morning to the most beautiful landscape. Sunshine, rolling hills and blue skies with not a cloud to be seen. Anyone who’s been to a race in Wales will testify that this is weather is unheard of – especially in late September!

We headed towards Llanberis looking for somewhere that served a good pre race breakfast of porridge and toast. Upon finding the breakfast of champions, we headed to pre race registration and then to take a look at the course that lay ahead of us.  

It soon became clear that this was going to be a very hot day! And with the race starting on a fairly steep incline , and fast throughout, hydration before the race was going to be essential. This became even clearer on our warm up as we came upon one of the NI junior girls lying towards the finish of their race, collapsed and suffering quite badly from heat exhaustion. 

The race field was quite small but in terms of quality it was huge. Andrew Douglas from Scotland was clear favourite and there were several others who we knew would challenge for the 2nd GB spot. Being realistic, we knew we wouldn’t be at the front of the race, but we could still do ourselves and our country proud with a good performance.

The course was just short of 8miles long with over 700metres climbing in total. From the off, Jack lead the NI team up the first long, steep climb. The speed of the race and heat made it obvious that if we started too fast we might not make it to the end! Jonny took the lead from Jack with Timmy following behind and we began to work together. Oisin, in his first senior race, was just behind and taking heed of the advice to not go out too hard at the start. 

Once over the first climb the race turned towards the smooth grassy slopes up Moel Eilio. Because the terrain was so good, there was no chance to break down into a walk or power hike so the pace was relentless. Timmy and Jonny reached the top close together and began the smooth, fast descent. Jack and Oisin were running well not far behind. 

The race then undulated for a few kilometres with some sharp climbs and short descents, but the views were truly magnificent with views all over Snowdonia. The last descent off the mountain brought us on to a gravel/ shale path and, upon glancing at my watch, I realised there was still over half the race distance to go to the finish – this was going to be fast!

Timmy had made his break on the descent and was well on his way to a top 20 finish. Jonny was trying to get his legs into road running mode and hit a 5-6min mile required to stay in position! Jack was struggling with heat but running well and Oisin was just behind but upon hitting the gravel track, the heat really got the better of him and he had to conserve his energy to the finish.

The race finished back down the hill we had started on and everyone made their way to the shade of some tress with bottles of water in hand. Timmy was first NI man home in 18th place in a phenomenal time of 61.07. Jonny was next in 26th place in 63.33, Jack in 40th place and Oisin 49th place. It is fantastic to see both these lads running for the senior team despite being under 23 and to see the strength of all the junior teams – really encouraging for the years ahead!

Once we had rehydrated we made our way to the lake for a swim/ shower! Then headed back to the airport for our flight (which was on time!) 

Huge thanks to everyone involved in organising a really great race, and to NIMRA to sending us over. It’s hard to believe that the 2019 mountain running season is over and it’s time for our winter hibernation/ training! See you all on the hills in 2020. 

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