Or not, in some cases. You’d have had more chance of scooping a winner in the Grand National than finding a lucky four leafed clover on Saturday afternoon in the Mourne Mountains, County Down. The phrase coined in old mining times and derived from the Gaelic word luc, a shortening of gheluc, apparently means happiness and good fortune. I can categorically confirm that neither applied.
Our friends at NIMRA over the Irish Sea had come up with a corker of a route for the Northern Irish counter and first British British Fell Championship race of 2018. The ‘race route’, specially created for the championships, was sold as a 15.3km point to point with1,400m of climb across the mighty Mournes finishing in Donard Park, Newcastle.
At the race briefing, no nonsense RO Richard Cowan, advised the 285 runners that the race was set to be a ‘pea souper’, the last words you want to hear at the start of any race. True to his word, as the convoy of buses headed up into the hills, the mist started to get thicker and thicker and there was a distinct lack of runners looking to get off once at the start to do a pre-race warm up. There was however plenty of nervous chat around compass bearings, particularly which direction to run off the first summit and the best line to take over featureless ground to the 1st checkpoint on Slieve Meelberg. Most of the runners, even the hardier lot from the bunch, had donned long sleeve tops and waterproofs to keep the cold and rain at bay, also never a good sign. Any chance of assuming you would follow your leader disappeared within seconds of the off, with visibility down to a few metres.
With runners scattering off in all directions after the first summit, (which wasn’t too challenging to find) neither compass use or sheep mentality appeared to apply. All bets were off and it was a case of every man and woman for themselves, take your chances and hope for the best.
Ross Gollan, making his first appearance for the club on the British scene, got himself to the front with man of the moment, Carl Bell of Keswick. The pair managed initially to navigate through the cloud going toe to toe until checkpoint 3 on Slieve Bearnagh. At this point Rob Jebb and club mate Josh Jardine of Helm were hot on their heels. By the time they reached checkpoint 4, Carl had taken a slight lead with Josh, Rhys Finlay Robinson of Dark Peak and Mark Lamb of Keswick getting involved. At penultimate checkpoint 5, Carl, Ross and Mark were in pole position for a race to the finish, all that was left was the descent of Slieve Commedagh. But these boys somehow all managed to go the wrong way off the hill, losing vital time and covering extra ground. Enough to gift Josh the lead who went on to win in a time of 1:35:02. Rhys was 2nd and Jack Wood of Ilkley Harriers took 3rd. Carl trailed home in 9th with Ross,13th. A great finish for Ross in his first crack at the British Championships but rued by the fact that the win, or at least a podium finish, was maybe there for the taking. If only he’d had taken heed of the pep talk that Carl had announced before the race that his navigation wasn’t great. At least they didn’t manage to lose the Mourne wall, unlikely some other unfortunate runners. Robert Simpson, not running due to injury, was spotted on Commedagh but he looked worse than some of the runners and was probably too late to send the leaders in the right direction.
In the vets race, Karl Gray, of Calder Valley had a superb run to finish 5th with Rob Jebb 2nd (8th overall). Gavin Mullholand took the minor honours (25th overall) which was enough for Calder Vally to take the MV40 team prize. Kenny Richmond and John Connaghan were battling it out behind, well John was anyway, trying to keep Kenny in his sights. Both finished 35th (6th MV40) and 39th (7th MV40) respectively. I was next home in 54th, which I think was enough to land us 2nd MV40 team behind Calder Valley.
The ladies race was won by Jasmin Paris of Carnethy, straight back to the top of her game after recently having her first child. Impressive stuff. Caitlin Rice of Ribble Valley was 2nd with FU23 Bronwen Jenkinson of Eryi, who also appeared to have got lost at some stage, took 3rd.
Local(wish) lad Ryan Stewart appeared in and out of the cloud on numerous occasions but the mist got the better of him too going a little off piste (61st)! Steve Winter had a steady run in (81st) and he was followed home by Ross Cruickshanks (91st) who had a top run and got his first taste on Irish soil after injuring himself in the warm up to the 2017 race.
Some of the boys spent the sabbath day taking in some sights of the local castles, below (there appear to be a lot of them) and also did a recce of the actual race route off Commedagh. Pity they didn’t think of this on Friday!
Plenty of time to get it right for the next British Championship 23 mile beast in the Lakes in June. At least Carl won the race last year so there’s some hope at the front …..
Results and splits can be found here: Mourne Highline results
Photos (courtesy of NIMRA, Jayne Bell and Richard Cowan) can be found here: Donard Forest photos and Finish photos
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