Stephens Thunders to Victory
You would think the Weather in August should be summery, but how often over the years have I been found studying weather forecasts in the days before the event wondering if this was to be the year I had to call it. This year was no different, initially it was fears of high winds but as we got closer to the Saturday the big threat was from thunder and lightning. Midday Friday and a yellow thunder alert was issued for most of Scotland and Northern Ireland. Things looked bleak at that point but as the day progressed into the evening the Met information changed from probable… to possible localised thunder and lightning in the Mourne’s area. We made the final decision at 7.00am Saturday morning with our information indicating periods of heavy rain and quite warm air temperatures.
Eighty two runners took off at 10.00am and were soon catching the three hundred odd walkers on the challenge walk which is now organized by Lagan Valley Orienteering club. Club mates Mark Stephens and Seamus Lynch ran the first three mountains together and it was only on the descent of Slieve Bernagh that Stephen began to pull away. By the time he reached the Dam he had about three minutes of an advantage. Mournes Runner and Seven Sevens regular, Clive Bailey was leading the battle for third place and club mate Sarah Hannah had a comfortable lead in the ladies race.
There may have been no thunder but the air was warm and clammy and the ground underfoot was heavy from the soakings it had received in the preceding days. It sapped the strength and cramps were a problem for many a runner. Clive Bailey had problems which allowed Oisin Brennan to almost catch him on Slieve Beg, but a packet of salted peanuts saved the day. Mark Stephens also nearly ground to a halt, at the Ice house within touching distance of the finish, and had to battle cramp right to the finish line but it was worth it for not only did he win but he also just managed to record a sub four hour time, remarkable considering the less than ideal conditions. Seamus was about six minutes behind for second and Clive held on for third as Oisins challenge waned.
Sarah won the ladies title comfortably from Paulette Thomson who produced a real gutsy effort to come second ahead of Ballymena’s Gillian Wasson.
Other notable performances came from Dale Mathers, now a Vet 55 and finishing 7th overall and unattached runner Ronnie Smith who claimed the Vet 50 title just ahead of Pete Grant. Pete tells me he has now done 13 consecutive Seven Sevens, but Team Purples Kevin Murdock is out there in front with 15 consecutive appearances. Just think, that’s 105 Seven Seven Peaks he has done at race pace. Not bad but I wonder if he would like the weather to give him a break some year and force me to cancel? Hopefully not. Hopefully better conditions next year.
Full Results can be found here