NIMRA ‘The Mountain Runner’ Newssheet April 2024

Welcome to our fourth edition of the monthly NIMRA newsletter ‘The Mountain Runner’, and we are pleased to show off the April 2024 edition updating you with any news or highlights from the previous month and what is coming up for the month ahead. Members can use this as a focus point to stay updated with all the goings on, and we appreciate if anyone would like to make any contributions throughout the year, please get in touch and we’ll do our best to include in the latest bulletin.


*Hill & Dale Series (Races 1, 2 & 3)

Davy Hicks getting reminder in Castlewellan why the Hill & Dales are as fun as they say

With Easter out of the way and the clocks rolled forward, Newcastle AC’s evening Hill & Dale series kicked off on 11th April in Castlewellan Forest Park. This year is looking like the biggest yet with large numbers signing up and taking on the races. Race 1 in a gloomy enough Castlewellan had 354 racing and were led home in 1st and 2nd by the 2022 and 2023 H&D champs Tom Crudginton and Ashley Crutchley from the host club, followed in 3rd by Andrew Tees of BARF. Annadale Striders’ Catriona Edington was the first woman home in thirty-fourth place. Martsje Hell, of North Belfast Harriers and Sarah Grant, of North Down AC were second and third, both finishing in the top sixty. Full report on the Newcastle AC website here

Zak cruising to victory in Tollymore

Tollymore the following week had another magnificent turnout with almost 300 toeing the line. Last years race was baked in evening sunshine but conditions this time was rather chilly and breezy. With last weeks male podium all racing in England at either Keswick or London Marathon, it was the turn of Zak Hanna and his Newcastle AC junior comrades Ethan McMullan and Patrick McDaid taking 1-2-3, and Davy Hicks recovered from his fall in Castlewellan to take 4th, so a good night for the host club. Martjse Hell and Catriona Edington swapped finishing positions this time around with Martjse 40 seconds clear, and Diane Wilson taking the bronze. Full report on the Newcastle AC website here

Tollymore’s lung busting finish line

Slieve Martin the following Thursday certainly ramped up the difficulty meter, however again with 300+ showing up to run they were ready to take on the challenge. Tom Crudgington picked off were he left off in Castlewellan with a comfortable win, followed in by his club mate Ashley Crutchley and BARFs Niall McCartan taking bronze. With the ladies it was Martsje Hell taking the win again, having company on the podium by the returning Esther Dickson of Newry AC who had a great battle downhill with Newcastles Tanya Cumming for second and third. Full report on the Newcastle website is here. We also like to wish Ricky Cowan a very speedy recovery after a tumble at the race

It’s a long way to the top….

*Granite Peaks 50K/25K (Saturday 20th April)

Only 49.9999k to go

Just shy of 130 runners competed in the gruelling Granite Peaks 25KM or Ultra (50KM) event at the end of April. With Tollymore National Outdoor Centre a splendid setting to start from, participants were treated to near-perfect conditions as sunshine shone over The Mournes. Twenty-six braved the ultra which commenced at 9am. Simon Hodge was the first home in a brilliant 7:26:40. Seven and fourteen minutes later, respectively, Matt O Reilly completed the course excellently to complete the podium positions with three sub-eight-hour runs. Rachel Burgess, in a top-ten finish, was the first female in recording a fine sub-nine-hour time of 8:59:09. In thirteenth and nineteenth, Karen Shannon and Ciara O’Neill followed with 9:34:52 and 10:07:13 times. Congratulations to all who completed the daunting ultra.

And the rest out for the fun run

Kicking off two hours after the ultra, the 25K-ers. Dispatched into dazzling sunlight after kit had been checked and trackers applied, 95 runners hared off hoping to get around. In a speedy 2:24:02, Adam Cunningham was the winner with Jack Proctor and Jack Duncan only fifteen minutes adrift as they recorded impressive sub-three-hour times of 2:39:17 and 2:39:34, respectively. In twelfth, Naomi McCurry was the first woman home in a cracking 3:17:43. Emily Ryan and Niamh Marrs, both in the top twenty-five, took the other two podium places with brilliant sub-three-thirty finishes of 3:22:08 and 3:26:53. Terrific running from everyone!

Simon Hodge winner of the 50K with RD Ciaran

Huge credit goes to Race Director, Ciaran McAleean and the whole NIMRA team for organising two incredibly demanding races so well. Thanks to all volunteers at reception as well as all the Marshalls stationed at checkpoints and invaluable water stops. No doubt, this won’t be the last instalment of the Granite Peaks. In the meantime, for those seeking more immediate mountain involvement, the 2024 Hill and Dales series continues at Slieve Binnian this coming Thursday.

Adam Cunningham 25K winner with RD Ciaran

We have a race report from Chairman Ciaran here

*IMRA Races April 2024

Shirley hanging on tight on the Annagh Hill ski slope

BARFs Shirley Farnan took on the last race of the Leinster Spring League at an extremely slippy Annagh Hill on Sunday 7th April. This was Shirleys 4th race so she qualified on the final standings on the league table. Well done!

The following Saturday 13th April was the first race of five of this years Leinster Championship, beginning with Dargle Four Peaks in Wicklow. An interesting aspect of this race was the 4 peaks could be reached in any order, and complemented with roaring westerly gusts and the sunlight interrupted with hailstorms or thick clag, the pre and post race analysis was rather hectic. No bother to the evergreen Robbie Bryson who was participating in his first IMRA race in about 5 years and in a high quality field at the top end of the standings came in 14th place. He was joined on the day by fellow Newcastle runner Pearse Brogan arriving in not long after for 24th place. Next race in the LC is Circuit of Avonbeg on Sun 26th May which looks like tough going!

Robbie Bryson in his element

Same weekend as Dargle was the Euro Uphill & Classic trials on the Friday evening and Sunday morning at Seefin in Ballyhoura, Co Limerick. Plenty of northern representation made the long trip down for the chance of an Irish vest to run at the Euro Champs in Annecy, France later in the year. In the uphill race on Friday it was Zak Hanna and first place (which normally go hand-in hand) a good minute clear of his closest challenger Killian Mooney. Killian just pipped East Downs Aaron McGrady into 3rd place. In the ladies race Áine Gosling took 5th place, ahead of her club-mate Damien McDaid running in the mens race.

On the Sunday it was the up and down race, and Killian Mooney was not to be stopped this time round taking 1st, however hot on his heels was Jared Martin from Ballydrain Harriers 13 secs behind to take second place. Well done to Jack Proctor and Catriona Edington who also took part on the day. The juniors also took on the short courses on both days with their report in the junior section below.

*Inter-Counties 2024 (Sunday 21st April)

Go team!

Many congrats to our green-ribboned NIMRA teams that battled competitively at the British Inter-Counties on Sunday 21st April in Keswick, England. Report for the day is available here and link to main individual and team results is here


*NIMRA Championship 2024/Membership

Four races done and dusted so far but with plenty to go throughout the season, you can still easily finish the minimum 7 race championship (10 races left), and not too late to sign up for membership here beforehand. There is one champ race of each category to complete in May, Slieve Donard, Annalong Horseshoe & Pat Dunbar Memorial (all details below) We are expecting demand to increase for races towards the latter end of the season and with entry limits they are likely to sell out fast. Please keep an eye on our FB/X pages for the latest info.

*Ulster Championship 2024 (w/IMRA)

Together NIMRA & IMRA are staging a provincial Ulster Championship for this season. This will be a 5 race series (with 3 races to qualify) spread across the province and primarily away from the Mournes bar The Two Towers. The first race was Glenariff so current league standings are on the IMRA website. All the races (except Carnaween) are also in the NIMRA championship so the overlapping allows you to compete in both. However you must be a paid up member of IMRA separately to qualify. The remaining Ulster Championship races are below:

Sun 16th June: Flagstaff To Carlingford (Armagh/Louth)

Sat 29th June: Mullaghcarn Giant Race (Tyrone)

Sat 6th July: Carnaween (Donegal)

Sat 24th August: The Two Towers (Down)

*International Selection Criteria 2024

Saturday 11th May: Senior Home International (Perth, Scotland)  – Teams have now been selected and list below.  Unfortunately on this occasion we will not be sending a womens team.

Ryan Stewart – Team Captain

Joshua McAtee

Keith Johnston

Andrew Tees

Ashley Crutchley U23

Ethan McMullan U23

Many congrats to the runners selected and best of luck!

Saturday 20th July: 47th International Snowdon Race (Llanberis, Wales)

· DATE: Saturday 20th July.

· VENUE: Llanberis. Gwynedd. Wales

· TEAMS: 4 senior men and 4 senior women + 1 coach

· 10 miles ascent/descent · WEBSITE:

Teams will be selected on current form normally based on at least three of the following: 20th April Granite Peaks 25km or Ultra, Slieve Donard or Inter Counties Race 11th May, Annalong Horseshoe 18th May and Pat Dunbar 25th May. Teams will be selected on 1st June (after Carncastle) and successful athletes contacted shortly after that. Comparable races will also be considered to show current form but reason must be given for not competing in selection criteria races. You must register interest in selection before 29th May by emailing or Whats App Anne Sanford (07779245808) at

For full details and selection info please visit here

*Develop your Runner Mindset

NIMRA multiple ladies champ Esther Dickson is hosting an online Zoom event to highlight the importance of mindset in running. Monday 13th May @ 8pm, Live on Zoom. There are many ways we can train our mental muscles that will enhance our running journey, whether beginner or elite. I want to share some of my daily habits and beliefs that help me to continue loving the sport, achieve my goals, win races and even overcome obstacles such as injury and self doubt.

Don’t let fear and limiting beliefs hold you back any longer!! You are capable of so much more than you can imagine.

If you would like to attend either PM me (include your email address so I can forward the link) or pop an email to with the subject RUNNER MINDSET. Feel free to include any topic you feel is limiting your running journey and I will endeavour to discuss. If you can’t attend on the night I will be recording the call and can share on request

*Junior News Updates

After a successful N.I. & Ulster trials, the next key event for our Junior athletes was the Irish Team Trials in Ballyhoura, Co. Limerick. The standard of runner at this event has risen steadily over the last couple of years, with a concerted effort by the IMRA managers to promote and recruit talented athletes from school XC and Track and field, who many not have come across Mountain running previously. The consequence being that selection has become very difficult, with a number of the chosen athletes having achieved top 20 spots at Irish Schools, the premier event for U19 athletes in the country.

Ethan McMullan was selected for both races in France, well done!

To have 5 athletes from NIMRA successfully gain selection then at this level is a fantastic achievement and should rightly be celebrated. The following NIMRA athletes will represent Ireland at the upcoming European Championships in Annecy, France – 

U20 Male – Uphill race

Ethan McMullan

Rudy Mayne

U20 Female – Uphill race

AlannaRose Farley

U20 Male – Classic race

Ethan McMullan

Tiarnan McManus

U20 Female – Classic race

Katie Graham

We would like to wish all these athletes the very best of luck for their final preparations for France travelling out on the 29th May.

*Denis Rankin Round April 2024

A big well done to Conor Morrow who took on the classic round on Saturday 27th April. Starting at 3am at the Donard Arch, he returned a very impressive 19hrs 14mins later, so very little slack over the 55 odd miles. Also well done to Jonny Clarke who was out the same day, and while 30 mins or so over the 24hr limit, made it to the finish

*Did you know?

Some of the 50k Granite Peaks runners will remember this view

24 May 2024 is the 91st anniversary of the opening of Silent Valley reservoir. Did you know that, due to the geology of the valley floor, a 212 feet deep cut-off trench had to be constructed to eliminate the risk of water pressure uplifting and moving the dam?  An ingenious method of construction using air locks and compressed air (35psi) kept the water out of the excavations.

*Upcoming fixtures

May 2024 (IMRA)

Wed May 17:00 PMGarryduff Woods, RochestownMSLCorkIMRA Race200m6.50km
Wed May 17:30 PMScarrLLWicklowIMRA Race410m8.50km
Sun May 511:00 AMTory HillSELKilkennyIMRA Race175m6.00km
Sun May 512:00 PMGlengarriffWJLCorkIMRA Race375m8.00km
Mon May 610:00 AMU18 World Mountain Running Championships – TrialsWicklowIMRA Race239m5.70km
Wed May 87:30 PMArdgillanTLDublinIMRA Race190m8.99km
Sat May 1112:00 PMUnion WoodTWLSligoIMRA Race228m8.00km
Sat May 112:00 PMSlieve DonardAICDownIMRA Race850m10.00km
Sun May 1211:00 AMTomies / Purple MountainMCKerryIMRA Race867m12.50km
Wed May 157:30 PMSugar BowlLLWicklowIMRA Race450m7.50km
Fri May 178:00 AMBeara Way UltraIUCCorkIMRA Race5500m161.00km
Sat May 187:00 AMWicklow Way RelayWicklowIMRA Relay3500m104.00km
Sat May 1812:00 PMBeara Way ChallengeCorkIMRA Race1300m30.00km
Wed May 227:30 PMBrockaghLLWicklowIMRA Race443m11.00km
Sat May 2511:00 AMCarrowkeelTWLSligoIMRA Race300m10.00km
Sun May 2611:00 AMCircuit of AvonbegLCWicklowIMRA Race1345m25.50km
Sun May 2612:00 PMSlievenamonMCTipperaryIMRA Race580m8.04km
Wed May 297:30 PMPrince William’s SeatLLWicklowIMRA Race405m9.37km
Wed May 297:30 PMDarby’s BedMSLLimerickIMRA Race250m6.00km

May 2024 (NIMRA)

Thur May 207:30 PMHill & Dales BinnianDownHill & Dales 2024550m4km [S]
Sat May 11th2:00 PMSlieve DonardDownNIMRA/IMRA Champs850m10km [S]
Thur May 16th07:30 PMHill & Dales RockyDownHill & Dales 2024400m6km [S]
Sat May 18th11:00 AMAnnalong HorseshoeDownNIMRA Race2000m20km [L]
Thur May 23rd07:30 PMHill & Dales LukesDownHill & Dales 2024450m7km [S]
Sat May 25th11:00 AMPat Dunbar Memorial RaceDownNIMRA Race565m13km [M]
Thur May 30th07:30 PMHill & Dales MillstoneDownHill & Dales 2024450m7.5km [S]

*On this month (Archives)

Another Slieve Donard Race Scorcher  July 2000

The fine continental type summer continued into Saturday with heat and humidity greeting the 148 runners who gathered for the 56th Annual Slieve Donard Race.  This year the race counted towards both the British and a Northern Ireland Fell Running Championships and despite the prohibitive mid-summer travel costs, 80 runners made the trip from England, Scotland or Wales. 

The race reverted in 1998 to its original format, starting outside the Newcastle Centre, going along the Main Street, up the Glen River, on to the top of Donard and back to finish in Donard Park by the direct route.  With a high quality field assembled, the records of Robbie Bryson, 52 minutes 28 seconds, and Valene Murney, 77 minutes 20 seconds, both set in 1999, looked in severe danger.

Down District Council Chairman, Albert Coleman, started the race on the dot of 2pm after briefly welcoming the runners.  He completed an excellent public relations day for the area and for his job as Council Chairman by being present to welcome the runners into the finish and to present the prizes at Leslie’s Bar in the Avoca afterwards.

Paul Low from Pudsey & Bramley in Yorkshire set the early pace and led into Donard Wood.  However, it was not long before the really big guns hit the front.  On the steep climb of the Glen River in the Wood, 24-year-old Rob Jebb of Bingley was first to show at the front of a bunch containing Mark Rigby of Ambleside, Mark Roberts of Borrowdale, and favourite, the current British champion, Ian Holmes of Bingley. 

Onto the mountain and the conditions really began to hurt, strong sun, humid heat and no protection.  Behind the leaders, Ballydrain’s Brian Ervine was having, arguably, his best race ever in 5th place alongside Borrowdale’s Gavin Bland.  The first lady, Angela Mudge, current British champion and last week’s winner at the Snowdon Race in Wales, was having a tremendous climb and was to reach the top in 41 minutes and 30 seconds in 27th place, the best climb of Donard ever by a lady by a long way.

To add spice to proceedings, Newcastle’s Deon McNeilly and North Belfast’s Neil Carty ignored the Black Stairs and stayed in the Glen, climbing to the Saddle and up the Mourne Wall to the summit.  McNeilly topped out in 9th place in 38 minutes and 26 seconds.  Back on the ‘direct route’ the runners now climb and descend the Black Stairs on the right hand side as you look from Newcastle.  This is a recent innovation, is steeper and requires negotiating a few 4 to 5 feet rock steps, but does seem to be faster for most.

As the runners approached the Summit, it was Jebb who retained the lead with a climb time of 35 minutes and 39 seconds, 24 seconds ahead of Rigby with another 6 seconds back to Roberts and Holmes in fourth, 35 seconds down. 

This is where the real fun in the race started.  For anyone who knows Slieve Donard, and knows how rough the ground is down the front over the scree, and who knows how treacherous the Black Stairs can be – even walkers do not normally descend on the left hand side – never mind the tree roots alongside the breakneck descent by the Glen River in the wood, what unfolded next almost defies belief.   Still, descending is a vital part of a fell runners make up and, arguably, the best descenders in the world were in this race.  Jebb knew he had to push hard as his training partner and friend Holmes is fast on the drops, but Rigby is no stranger to Donard having set the record a few years back for the Trassey Bridge to Newcastle leg of the Rostrevor to Newcastle relay which includes this same descent.

Rigby pushed hard, but still couldn’t catch Jebb before Holmes flew past.  Soon he was on the tail of Jebb and passed him on the Black Stairs – one slip from disaster – but completely focused on retaining his title.  50 minutes and 30 seconds after leaving Newcastle Centre, Holmes crossed the finish line victorious recording a phenomenal 14 minutes and 16 seconds for the descent.  Holmes smashed the one year old record by just under two minutes.   Nick Sharp from Ambleside recorded the second fastest descent time in 14 minures 22 seconds to pull through to 8th from 10th at the top.  Behind Holmes, Roberts came in second some 36 seconds behind, the only other runner to descend in under 15 minutes.

Rigby was 3rd only four seconds behind, with summit leader Jebb a mere 4 seconds further back.  First NI runner was Brian Ervine in 6th just pipped to the line by Borrowdale’s Gavin Bland both recording 52 minutes and 28 seconds, equalling the old record.

An amazing 31 runners broke the magic one hour barrier, including first Veteran 40 in 10th overall, Dave Neill from Staffordshire Moorlands in 54 minutes 10 seconds.  First Newcastle man was Deon McNeilly in 19th overall in 57 minutes 31 seconds, following a more steady descent losing 10 places.  He was nearly caught by 2nd local Damien Brannigan who came home in 22nd in 57 minutes 42 seconds, with a good descent time of 16 minutes 09 seconds.  Third Newcastle man home was Davy McKibbin in 25th place in 58 minutes 48 seconds.

Carnethy’s Angela Mudge descended in just under twenty minutes following her brilliant climb to win in 61 minutes 09 seconds (36th overall), to knock an amazing 16 minutes off the old record.  2nd was Ambleside’s Jenny Rae was second in 56th overall in 66 minutes 13 seconds with Louise Sharp 3rd in 70 minutes 09 seconds.

First Veteran 50 was Dave Tait of Dark Peak in 60 minutes and 4 seconds followed home 19 seconds later by ex Mourne Mountain Marathon winner Rossendale’s Ken Taylor.  3rd Veteran 50 was local man Jim Patterson, home in 61 minutes 20 seconds.

First Veteran 60 was Carnethy’s Brian Waldie in 55th overall in a superb 65 minutes 57 seconds, well clear of Roger Bell of Ambleside who was nine minutes adrift, with Roger Grimshaw 3rd in 83 minutes 35 seconds.

First lady veteran 40 was Victoria Musgrove of North Wales club Eyri Harriers in 80 minutes 50 seconds, closely followed by Carnethy’s Moira Stewart and Dark Peak’s Jacky Smith.

The race has been around for 56 years and North Down’s George Graham completed his first in 1956.  This year he completed his 44th race finishing in a very respectable 87 minutes and 57 seconds.  Also of note was the participation of local man Patrick Rooney who has some way to go to beat his father’s record of four wins in the Donard race in 1948 to 1951, his fastest in 68 minutes – Patrick came home in 103 minutes and 41 seconds.

All in all the best Donard race in years and the organisers would like to thank the support they received from Down District Council, its Chairman Albert Coleman, Deep River Rock for much needed refreshment for the runners coming off the mountain and the Avoca hotel for the hospitality at the presentation.  Following this many of the runners demonstrated their well known capacity for drinking local hostelries dry and the party lasted to gone 3am, before many weary legs took a trip to Spelga to look over the venue of next year’s Championship venue – the long and arduous Spelga Skyline which will take place on 31st March.

BOGBOY (from Northern Exposure August 2000)

*Mountain Of The Month

Name: Slievenaglogh

Height: 586m

Location: Bryansford/Kilcoo

Info: Flanking the northern ridge of the Mournes (and not to be confused with it’s other namesake near the Silent Valley) Slievenaglogh is nestled in between Bearnagh & Corragh. The Mourne Wall runs over the top from the west at Hares Gap. The mountain boasts it’s summit as well as an east and north top.

Race you will visit?: Granite Peaks, Lukes Hill & Dale, maybe Seven Sevens & Two Towers!?

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