Mourne Mountain Marathon 2019 – Race Report

Event Centre – Shimna Integrated College

Campsite – Silent Valley

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Marking up maps at the start of Day 2

The news on the starting line was that last year’s winners and favourites for this year, Paul Pruzina and Philip Vokes had transferred to the one day score class due to an injury problem. This way they felt that if the problem flared up, they could more easily bale out. This of course opened up the possibilities for a gaggle of the other top teams. So as the sun shone and a fresh breeze blew on a beautiful Saturday morning, they set off with everybody else from the green parkland of Donard Forest in search of the first marker.

The Courses

Terry Mc Queen’s courses are always challenging and this year was to be no exception, with all courses bar the D class, heading initially for the rough slopes east of Donard and Chimney Rock. From there, the Elite and B classes dived down to the Ben Crom Reservoir then climbed back up to eventually suss out markers on Slieve Muck, before racing to the campsite at the Silent Valley. The C and D courses kept to the east of the Silent Valley to eventually end up around the Tors and stony slopes of Slieve Binnian before dropping steeply to the campsite. The Score class ranged over all the day one markers.

The Score Class

The Score class had some good teams in it, but with Pruzina and Vokes on the loose it was expected that they would clean up easily. This didn’t prove to be the case though, as Mourne men Ricky Hanna and Gary Bailey gave them a real run for their entry fee, posting exactly the same score of 370 points. Pruzina and Vokes only won by having taken less time to complete their round. There were plenty of mixed teams in the Score and the top two had an equally close finish with just two points separating  Emma Stuart and James Chapman from Dale Mathers and Sarah Hanna for third place overall. Alwynne Shannon and Ian McCracken picked up the prize for best vet team and leading ladies were Helen Brown and Roisin Mallon.

Stephens and Moran set the pace

Meanwhile in the Elite race, Mark Stephens and Colm Moran set a pace which no other team could match, posting the fastest times for each leg bar two and coming in over half an hour ahead of Matthew Vokes and Ben Windsor. Matthew is a previous winner of this event and it was a first time visit for Ben but for Mark and Colm this was the chance to improve on last year’s second place. Third place went to the very experienced pairing of Paul Mahon and Adrian Hennessy, very pleased to be just ahead of the young gun teams of Kevin O’Boyle & Conor Short and Ruairi Short & Seamus O Boyle. Chris Jones, another former elite winner and Hannah Moulton were the leading mixed team and Clive Coffey and Helen Cassidy were the leading vet team in 8th place overall.

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Route choices of leading teams - Day 1

B Class

Another former Elite winner Shane Lynch and partner Karalee McBride were setting the pace in the B class but close behind them at the overnight camp were last year’s C class winners, the father and son team of Alan and Andrew Elwood and in third place were the mixed team of MMM regulars, Jon and Freya Shepherd. Recent completers of the Denis Rankin Round, Hugh Suffern and Leslie Mulholland were the fastest vet team and the leading ladies team in 6th place overall were Niamh Corbett and Aoife McCavana.

Father and Son

The C class was dominated by the father and son team of Billy and Peter Reed who flew round the course in just over two hours, nearly an hour ahead of the female team of Emer Perkins and Eadaoin McCavana, closely pursued by Kathryn Barr and Clare Stanfield.  Colin and Molly Brennan were the mixed team leaders and at this stage it looked like the veteran’s title was going to be a close battle as quite a few teams had age adjusted times very close to each other.  In the D class Claire and John Dowens were the clear leaders.

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Birthday Cake

As this was our 40th anniversary, we decided to treat the teams to some luxury and use what must be the “five star” Mountain Marathon campsite – the mown lawns of the Silent Valley Park. Despite yellow weather warnings of heavy rain, the balmy conditions of the day lingered late into the evening allowing the teams to mingle and catch up on the day’s events. Two of our regular competitors Pauline O’Hara and Denise O’Hagan had presented us with a large birthday cake which the marshals and helpers were to enjoy at our evening meal but we were so stuffed with casserole and Kerry’s special cup cakes that it was decided to hand it out at the finish line the following day. If you got a bit, lucky you and many thanks to the girls.

Rainy Night

The rain duly arrived during the night and by dawn a different world of gray clouds and wet grass greeted the campers. The rain held off as Paddy Mallon wended his way around the tents singing Danny Boy, much better than a hooter or somebody shouting about start times, and then it was up to the Silent Valley Dam for the start of day two. Heavy rain showers swept in as teams marked up their maps, causing problems as sharpies and pens failed but soon everybody was away on part two of their weekend’s running.

Mega Cluster

If the Elite runners had wondered about the lack of cluster controls on day one, they certainly got a big headache right from the get-go on day two. Terry had created a monster with points high on Binnian and around Lough Shannagh, then a technical group on the north slopes of Slievenaglogh before linking up the final few markers for the homeward run.  Day two was in effect a massive cluster spread over the central Mournes. The B class also had a large cluster to deal with on Binnian and then the Slievenaglogh markers but avoided having to cross to Lough Shannagh. The C class got the same treatment but were spared the technical challenges of the other classes and didn’t have to go near Binnian. The D class didn’t have to worry about such shenanigans and enjoyed a straightforward route through classic high Mournes country.

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Teams out on the hill near Binnian North Tor on Day 1.

Running in all directions

As mentioned, the rain made marking up maps difficult so teams had to be careful that they didn’t leave anything out. The leaders Mark Stephens and Colm Moran opted to climb to the North Tor of Binnian then drop down on their first controls, while Matthew Vokes and Ben Windsor ran to the Ben Crom Dam and climbed up from there. Ruairi Short and Seamus O’Boyle opted for the southern contour route around Binnian to get at these controls then all these teams had to drop back down into the Silent Valley and climb to the markers on the other side. Third placed Paul Mahon and Adrian Hennessy plus the leading mixed team of Chris Jones and Hannah Moulton opted for the Lough Shannagh markers first then took on Binnian and sadly overnight fourth placed team Kevin O’Boyle and Conor Short had to pull out due to injury. Course planner Terry was very pleased to see such a range of solutions to the problems he had set.

Stephens and Moran are the Champions

I see from the splits that the lead two teams were virtually neck and neck all day though they started 30 minutes apart so never saw each other on the course. In the end Mark Stephens and Colm Moran managed to be fastest by a few minutes which meant they were this year’s Elite champions with Matthew Vokes and Ben Windsor taking second. Ruairi Short and Seamus O’Boyle also had a good run that moved them up to the third place prize and Chris Jones and Hannah Moulton’s great fourth placed run secured them the mixed team prize. After some late calculations the veterans title went to Clive Coffey and Helen Cassidy who followed the most unusual route (and knowing them, probably a pretty good route) through the cluster.

Lynch and Mc Bride extend lead

Shane Lynch and Karalee Mc Bride started fast on day two and despite a determined chase from Alan and Andrew Elwood their challenge faded and it was the team of Helen Ockenden and Heather Corden who produced the day’s second fastest time and in the process captured the female title and fifth place overall. Third fastest time on the day and third place overall went to the mixed team of Gareth and Emily Penn who just managed to push Jon and Freya Shepherd into fourth place. Alan and Andrew Elwood’s efforts from day one ensured they were second overall and the veteran’s title went to Declan McGrellis and Trevor Wilson.

Girl Power can’t stop the Reeds

Billy and Peter Reed continued their charge through the C class with another dominant performance to claim the title ahead of Emer Perkins and Eadaoin McCavana who just about held off the day’s second fastest team of Jack Proctor and Josh Morrison for third place overall.  Another female team, Kathryn Barr and Clare Stansfield were fourth overall with the mixed team of Colin Brennan and Molly Brennan in fifth place. The vets title went to a surprised Peter Cole and Raymond Rowe who were down the field a bit, but that’s how the vets categories work now, taking into account actual age and gender in the process of calculating an adjusted time that can be used to compare all fairly. The Parent & Junior prize went to Charles and Conor Burns. Clare Dowens and John Dowens were once again fastest in the D class and so won that category.

Shimna Integrated College

Showers and mixed cloud had crossed the mountains during the day with nice spells of sunshine but as the later teams came in the cloud descended and visibility dropped to mere metres. Thankfully we had the gymnasium of Shimna Integrated College in which to hold the prize giving so as the showers passed outside, I was able to thank the College for the use of their facilities and the catering staff for all the food laid on for the competitors. Also, a big thank you to NI Water for the excellent campsite.

Thanks to the team

This event relies on so many people to make it work, marshals in the hills, helpers at the start, finish and campsite, bus drivers, people putting markers out, people bringing them in, people sorting the paperwork, people working the computer timing systems, lots of different people in fact and most importantly the small team who are the committee and spend a year building up for the next MMM. Thank goodness for every last one of them giving their time and skills so freely otherwise the MMM would not happen.

Sponsors

Sponsors are also vital for this event and we are so glad that Jacksons Sports of Belfast continue to be our main supporter. They are backed up by Mc Auley Financial and Brewin Dolphin so if you want good gear, visit Dion in has shop in Belfast or online,  give McAuley a call for a free financial health check or see Brewin Dolphin for investment advice.

Rankin Round

After the MMM prize giving we had our now traditional presentation of Rankin Round certificates and thirteen people were there to collect them personally from Madeline Rankin. Denis Rankin was the man who built this mountain marathon up into the event it is today.  It is forty years since the first runners set off into the hills with map and compass looking for numbered boards hidden in the heather. No big birthday party next year but we want you all to come back and support us as we take the first step to the next Forty.

Jim Brown, Race Director, Mourne Mountain Marathon

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