On Saturday morning Aaron Shimmons took on the Mourne 500 . A gruelling route around the Mourne Mountains taking in all 39 summits over 500 metres in height and over 60 km in distance and total elevation gain of 5000 metres plus . It also has to be completely unsupported and everything needed has to be carried by the challenger on the day . Aaron completed the route in 12 hours 38 minutes breaking the previous record held by Billy Reid of 13.10. His route choice took him to a distance of 62.5 k in what was superb run and his local knowledge definitely proving beneficial as he prepares for even bigger challenges ahead ! Well done Arf ! Arf!
This year’s Mourne Sevens Seven’s Race on the 10th August
will start from its traditional start at the Pavilion in Donard Park as Shimna College
is unavailable. The race will be held in conjunction with the annual challenge
walk and will be in an anticlockwise direction, which is Slieve Donard and
Commedagh first followed by Bernagh, the Meels, Bencrom Dam, Binnian, Lamagan
then back to the finish line in Donard Park. Marshals will be at the cols
between Donard / Commedagh, Hares gap, Meelmore/ MeelBeg, The Dam and Binnian/Lamagan
which you check into after completing Binnian.
It will be an entry on the day race costing £10.00 for
registered runners (£11.00 unregistered) and entry’s will be taken from 8.00am
until 9.40am. The race will start at 10.00 promptly. Please do not enter the
race if you are a walker who has failed to get an entry for the walk, as there
are cut off times which you will fail to make unless you are running. The main
cut off time is 14.30 at the Ben Crom Dam which is half way round the route. I
have decided to have a second cut off time of 12.00 at the col between Slieve
Donard and Slieve Commedagh, as anybody going at that pace is unlikely to make
the Dam cut off time.
When you enter the race you will be issued with a set of
green plastic tabs and an electronic Si dibber. Insert the dipper into the
control boxes on the Summits and at the Dam to record your times. Hand a green
tab to each group of marshals you pass and this way we know exactly where you
have been. At the finish hand in the dipper and your last remaining plastic tab
which will be a small white one.
This is the longest toughest race on the NIMRA calendar so
come prepared for any eventuality. Full waterproof kit, gloves and hat must be
carried together with map, compass, whistle and food. We would recommend that a
space blanket or better still the bag version is carried as it could save your
life if you go down injured in bad weather conditions – yes we have previously
dealt with hypothermia cases during this event in beautiful summery August…..
So as I said before, be ready for any eventuality. If the weather forecast is for hot conditions,
remember that water is in short supply for long sections of the route so plan
accordingly. If you are carrying a phone the emergency event number is 07802
All the best with your preparations and if you are not
running but are available to help out please get in touch as it is always a
challenge getting enough helpers to ensure the success of the event.
After 37 years of the annual Annalong Horseshoe Fell Race being run from the driveway at Dunnywater, the event moved to a new location at the nearby NI Water Silent Valley complex for this year’s running of the event. This necessitated a change to the traditional route, adding both distance and climb, but given the benefits of a building to act as race HQ, toilet facilities for all participants, omitting the increasing risks associated with the public road section and ample car parking.
The weather on race day was dull and overcast, cloud covering the majority of the peaks on the race route. Pre-race discussion was all about the second half of the race and the route to the finish, both additions to the old course.
67 nervous souls toed the start line for the 3 mile run along the tarmac access road to the first checkpoint and out onto the open mountain. A few were later to regret their attempt at a parkrun PB at this stage of the race. Timmy Johnson of Mourne Runners was straight into the lead, with Mark Stephens of Newcastle AC deciding to keep pace with him, not wanting to concede any advantage. Johnston reached the first checkpoint in the lead, with Stephens seconds behind. Onto the first climb to Lamagan summit and it was Stephens ever so slightly in front, Johnson right on his heels in second. Although the summits were shrouded in mist with very little visibility, few navigational mistakes were being made over the first section of the race.
Stephens continued to lead Johnston over Cove and Commedagh summits by only a few seconds but started to pull ahead by a minute at the top of Slieve Donard, the highest point on the race course. At the next checkpoint on Chimney Rock, Stephens had extended his advantage over Johnston to just over two minutes.
Behind the leading pair, a five-way battle for 3rd place was taking place. Neil Andrews of East Down was holding onto 3rd place, with Shane Lynch, Clive Bailey of Mourne Runners and cousins Stephens and William Shields in close proximity.
In the ladies race, Gillian Wasson had started off at a fast pace to be the leading lady over the first section of the race, but Ciara Largy had caught up by the 3rd checkpoint on Cove and gradually started to pull away. Ciara continued to add to her lead over the section from Chimney Rock to Binian, using her orienteering skills to good effect. Ciara held her advantage to finish as first lady in 23rd position overall, Gillian Wasson finishing second with a fast-finishing Lynne Spence holding off her Mourne Runners club mate Karalee Porter for third place.
From Chimney Rock, Stephens used his orienteering skills to his advantage, pulling away from Johnston in the mist. Johnston started feeling the strain on the ascent of Binian, giving up on the chase for second, stopping for 10 minutes to eat and drink the remaining contents within his rucksack before finishing the climb to the Binian checkpoint. Mark Stephens was first across the finish line in a very creditable time of 2:38, Timmy Johnston finishing in second place 14 minutes behind in 2:52.
Behind the leading pair, Andrews was holding 3rd place at Chimney Rock, a minute ahead of the four-person chasing pack behind. On the next leg to Binnian, former Mourne Mountain Marathon winner and ultra specialist Lynch used his endurance strength to pull away and draw slightly ahead of Andrews at the checkpoint, extending his lead on the rough downhill section to the finish by over three minutes, finishing in 2:57.
Meanwhile, behind the leading groups, plenty of drama was happening due to the poor visibility. One pair reached checkpoint 2 on Lamagan, promptly got lost on the way to checkpoint 3, ended up back at the bottom of Lamagan, at the point which they had started their climb, then went to the last checkpoint on Binian, before jogged into the finish. Another runner reached checkpoint 4 on Commedagh, only to get lost on the way to the Donard Commedagh saddle, ending up in Newcastle and cadging a lift back to the finish in Silent Valley. The various route choices from Chimney Rock to Binnian and then to the finish line provided plenty of discussion at the finish.
Ciara Largy’s achievement in winning the ladies race deserves special mention as it means that Ciara now has the distinction of holding the Ladies course records for both the old course and the new course at the same time.
After ‘retiring’ from mountain running, former multiple British Veteran Fell Running champion Jim Patterson made a welcome return to racing again. Even at the age of 72, over half the field was behind him at the finish, as he finished in 30th place overall, winning the MV60 age category. In no way was Jim decision to race prejudiced by the race organisers offer of a free race entry to over 65’s!
We also had a visitor from London taking part in his first Northern Ireland mountain race, his local training ground being Richmond Park, which certainly contains none of the terrain that he faced on Binnian today!
At the finish, all runners enjoyed the post-race refreshments provided by the B.A.R.F. hosts. Prizes were distributed by B.A.R.F. member Ian Taylor, in his position as President of NI Athletics. Ian has completed 33 of the 38 Annalong Horseshoe races held to date, unfortunately having to miss this year’s event due to injury.
Many thanks to all who participated, organised and assisted in the race. Special thanks to NI Water for permitting the use of the Silent Valley complex for our use.
This year’s Annalong Horseshoe Fell Race will forsake its base for the last 37 years at Dunnywater and will now start and finish at Silent Valley Reservoir, within the NI Water complex.
The number of entrants last year put severe pressure on the existing facilities at Dunnywater and it’s felt that rather than limit the number of entrants, a move to a new location would solve the current issues with the Dunnywater venue. Last year we had a record entry of 100 runners, which meant that we struggled to accommodate parking for the number of competitors vehicles along the Dunnywater avenue, causing complaints from the residents on the avenue regarding access. With an increase in competitors, the lack of toilet facilities and the health and safety risks associated with the road section also raising concerns, therefore it’s a logical move to Silent Valley, which will address all of these issues for this year and years to come. Continue reading →
I had thought that the weather was going to be good for the runners this year with light winds forecast, no rain and mild temperatures, but in the event it was the humidity which sapped the competitors strength. Many a challenge floundered on the slopes of the Meels, as cramp set into legs fatigued by the long slog up from the dam over rough ground, without hardly a breath of wind to disturb the stifling air. It was a long day for many but for me it was actually a short day, as there was no associated walking event to provide late finishing weary walkers, stumbling through the Donard woods as darkness descended. Continue reading →
Once again Christmas is nearly upon us and the annual Boxing day migration of mountain runners to the Trassey Track car park for the Turkey Trot race will be occurring. It would be a big help if as many competitors as possible could share lifts as car parking space is restricted. The race start time is 12.00am.
The Turkey Trot may be regarded as a bit of a fun event, and indeed we want to keep it as light
hearted as possible, but please remember that the mountains in winter can be a dangerous place so please heed the rules and come prepared. You should choose your running clothing to suit the expected conditions and footwear which will give you grip in the potentially icy conditions which often occurs on the high sections of the course. Full waterproof body cover must be carried along with a hat and gloves. The other mandatory items of kit are a map, whistle, and compass and although not mandatory, I would recommend runners carry a foil space blanket or bag which can be a lifesaver if you become immobilised in the wilds. There will be a kit check before the race. Unfortunately, you cannot enter this race if you are under the age of 18 years. Also, dogs are not allowed. If the weather forecast turns bad please check this site in the days preceding the event for more information.
Following the race, there will be mince pies, mulled wine and other goodies at the Northern Ireland Mountain Centre and a selection of prizes of dubious nature supplied by members of BARF.
Normally Christmas trees are cut and extracted from the forest well before the big day but this year one of our first tasks was to remove one which had fallen across the Trassey track, near the start line. The icy gales of the preceding night had brought it down and though the sky was cobalt blue, those Baltic winds were still blowing hard as the runners set off. They would also have to deal with ice and slippery conditions on the high sections of the course.