Admin first – we’ll be doing Monday night social sessions around Belfast instead of Thursdays for the duration of the Hill and Dale series so keep an eye out for locations on Facebook, Whatsapp and Instagram.
2022 has seen the full return of the mountain racing calendar and it’s been a busy start to the season with BARF very well represented.
First up, the local races:
The Spud Run
The season kicked off with the Glenariff Spud Run on March 12, organised by Glens Runners and the only race that’ll you’ll go home with a bag of spuds (which you thankfully don’t have to carry up the hill). This was the last race that took place before the pandemic and was an appropriate start to the 2022 NIMRa championship. This is a race of four parts, with a fast and flat run along the Glenarriff river for the first 3 km followed by a quad-busting slog up the north face of the glen before turning around, hurtling back down and pushing the wobbly legs back along the river to the finish. 13 BARFers toed the line out of 116 runners, the highest single representation from any club.
First BARFer home was new signing Jonathan McCloy in 4th (who spectacularly photobombed his former Ballymena team-mates in his lovely new purple vest) followed by Mark “Selleck” Adamson in 9th, and BARF secret weapon Alice Flint in 12th, winning the women’s race and beginning an impressive streak (spoiler alert). Jim Brown was 2nd MV60.
Next up was the Fallows race, organised by Newry AC in Kilbroney. This 15 km race is a mix of steep climbs, forest track, and a blistering descent through Kilbroney forest. A route famous for tricky navigation, Mark Adamson recced the course the week before and managed to take every wrong turn possible but despite this it seems it was well marked on the day and he and everyone else managed to keep ‘er in between the hedges.
The weather gods smiled on Kilbroney and this time we had 11 BARFers reporting for duty, with Andrew Tees, making his race debut in purple and black, first home in 7th overall and 2nd MV40 in an impressive time of 1:20:08. Mark Adamson and Alice Flint were neck and neck throughout with Mark edging it for 14th overall in a time of 1:27:35. Alice came through 8 seconds later, winning (again, recurring theme here) the women’s race by a full 4 minutes and continuing to shake up the women’s championship. In the MV60 category Jim Brown once again came in 2nd.
The next week was the Slieve Gullion race – and short and fast race up and down this storied hill in South Armagh, courtesy of Armagh AC. The Cailleach who lives in the lake at the summit was clearly in a good mood as the glorious weather continued, with 11 BARFers racing. All eyes were on defending champion Andrew Tees. Would he hold the title? Would Alice make it a BARF 1-2 by continuing her winning streak?
In short, yes. Andrew came in in 30:33, almost a full minute ahead of 2nd place. Alice was 8th overall in 33:19 and 3 minutes ahead of 2nd place. Luke Tarry and Rohan Anand returned to the site of their first eye-opening experience of mountain running and smashed their previous times – those winter hill sessions clearly paying off.
NIMRA Seven Sevens
2 weeks later was NIMRA’s annual leg of the British Fell Running Championship, taking place this year on the Seven Sevens course. These races attract some very strong talent from GB and put our local scene into perspective while providing great inspiration. The Sevens are no pushover – 30 km (19 miles) of everything the Mournes has to offer, with 2600m (8500ft) of climbing. As anyone who has ever run the race will tell you it is an emotional rollercoaster, with the excitement of the climb up Slieve Donard tempered by worry at having gone too hard at the start, followed by an intense period of self-reflection crossing the bog below Doan and climbing Binnian – finishing with a desperate race against cramp, fatigue and the clock back to Donard park.
Scottish maven Finlay Wild won outright in a record-breaking time of 3:28 – despite the course being about 1km longer than usual! First local was Adam Cunningham of Mourne Runners, 6th in 3:46. 8 BARFers took part, with Mark Adamson striding ahead early on but losing a bit of steam by Binnian. First BARFer was Rónán Davison-Kernan, 45th in 4:58 followed by Mark in 49th at 5:12 and David Gallagher in 70th at 5:30.
For those who missed it, or fancy another go, fear not – BARF will be hosting the annual Seven Sevens race in conjunction with LVO in August.
Hill & Dale 1&2
Lastly in local mountain running was the return after a 3 year gap of Newcastle AC’s Hill and Dale race series on Thursday evenings – restoring balance to the universe. This is an accessible and friendly series of races in and around the Mournes, with hundreds of participants. First up was Castlewellan on 14 April, with an incredible 22 BARFers – once again second only to the host club. This was the first taste of the local race scene for many and all had a great time – especially those first timers who went to Maginn’s pub after and received the famous Hill and Dale mug. You’ll struggle to match Jim’s collection – going strong since the 90s.
Andrew Tees was 7th overall and 1st MV40, and Alice made it 5 for 5, winning the women’s race and 14th overall. Jim Brown won the MV60 category., and Mark Adamson and Rónán Davison-Kernan managed 34th and 36th respectively despite running the Sevens 5 days previous.
21 April was the Tollymore Hill and Dale with 22 BARFers once again! Another evening of glorious weather and great craic, another win for Alice (6 out of 6) in 8th overall and first BARFer home. Jonathan McCloy was first MV35 in 12th and Jim Brown once again MV60 winner in 40th.
Can anyone stop Alice’s victory streak? What will happen if Andrew Tees and Jonathan McCloy run in the same race? Will Andrew retain his title of “Hill & Dale Jamie Dornan lookalike”? Stay tuned!
Away from the local hills, there was a strong BARF presence at the Maurice Mullins in Wicklow in March, and smashing it up on the Ultra scene, Rebecca Hormann won both the 66 km Ultra trail Tarragona in Spain and the 81 km Ecotrail Porta in Portugal – continuing an incredible streak of results in only her second year of competing – and doing so on the world stage!
Even farther afield, BARF prodigal son Aaron Shimmons and all-round glutton for punishment ran the ridiculously scenic Gorge Waterfalls 100k in Oregon USA in 11:53, continuing a great run of performances in silly distance racing.
Martin Morrison also tackled the 2-day 94Km Ultra Tour of Arran. So scenic 😍
I’m sure I’ve missed a lot here so apologies – it’s been a busy few months racing, with plenty more to come this year.
Even for those of us not as talented at cruising up hills as Alice or hallioning down them like McCloy there’s plenty of craic to be had, and there’s always great atmosphere so get your finest purple vest on and come along.