Seventy One runners turned up for this year’s race and lined up on the playing fields of Shimna Integrated College for a socially distanced mass start as is befitting of these strange times. High cloud dulled the suns strength and a breeze give false hope of cooling winds on the summits but in the event the air was warm and sultry at times, leading to cramping issues for many as the day progressed.
Following the long slog up Slieve Donard two runners were out ahead setting the pace, Glen Runners Jonny Steede a former winner of this event and Adam Cunningham of Mourne Runners, the winner of the Annalong Horseshoe race back in June. By the time Binnian was reached Adam pulled ahead on the climb but his choice of the rough direct descent from the North Tor allowed Jonny to stay in touch by using the more conventional Lamagan col descent. Behind them, two more former winners were battling it out with Newcastle’s David Hicks ahead of Mourne runners Gary Bailey. Newry AC athlete Esther Dickson was comfortably leading the ladies category.
The climb up from the Ben Crom Dam saw Adam once more opening a lead but the wily Jonny Steede found a better route and closed him down again only to see Adam move inexorably ahead again after he connected up with the Mourne Wall. From this point on Adam continued to extend his lead right to the finish line finishing in 4hrs 4mins. Jonny was a comfortable second place ahead of Gary Bailey who had managed to pass David Hicks. North Belfast’s Andrew Tees completed the top five.
Easter cruised home in 3hrs 38mins, an impressive 7th place overall and North Belfast’s Martsje Hell claimed second spot ahead of the ever improving Debbie Mc Connell of Lisburn.
A big thanks to Lagan Valley Orienteer’s who organized the challenge walk which ran concurrently with the race and provided most of the marshals and the timing systems, not to forget the soup, sandwiches and tea afterwards. Also thanks to Shimna College for the use of their excellent facilities.