Heaven for Hell – and Hicks as well.
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.
Normally Jonny Steede’s sub four hour run and second fastest ever Seven Sevens time would have received most of the attention in the race report, but the ladies record was smashed by a towering performance from Dromore athlete Diane Wilson. In conditions which were close to ideal, warm, with light winds and firm under foot conditions, Diane was soon flying with a good smooth rhythm which she maintained throughout the race to become the first lady to dip beneath the five hour mark. In fact she dived way past that mark to beat Shileen O’Kanes record of last year by half an hour. Second lady Denise Mathers also ran a personal best for a finish time of 5hrs- 13 min- 6 seconds, which only a few short years ago would have been a record performance.
A few important changes have had to be made to this year’s race due to the Festival of Flight event, which is happening in Newcastle at the same time. The main change is that the event centre has had to be moved to the Greenhill YMCA at grid ref (369 303), post code BT33 0GR. Access will be from the Tullybrannigan Road which runs around the west side of the Donard Park playing fields. A parking area has been set aside for our use at grid ref (371 305) and a short walk of about 200m will take you to the YMCA. Avoid the main Donard car park which will be closed on the day. Bring a change of clothing and a towel as there are showers at the centre and refreshments will be available after the race.