Garmin Mourne Skyline MTR 2016 Race Preview

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The Skyrunning UK season concludes in Ireland this coming weekend with the Garmin Mourne Skyline MTR. Now in its 3rd edition, the race has grown to become a beacon of the UK series. From the very first edition the race has sold out and demand continues to exceed places available.

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The big news for the 2016 edition is the presence of Skyrunner® World Series champion JASMIN PARIS running for inov-8 and the Salomon International runner, ROKI BRATINA who placed 4th at the recent Limone Extreme in Italy.

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Remi Bonnet a rising star of the sport of Skyrunning excelled in 2015 at races all over the world; two highlights coming in the USA with victory at The RUT and Hong Kong with victory in Lantau ahead of a world class field while a typhoon blew. Remi was due to toe the line at the Garmin Mourne Skyline MTR, however, a fall two days before the Limone Extreme race just last weekend has caused an injury and he will be unable to run.

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Roki Bratina will therefore replace Remi after a stunning 4th place at last weekend’s Limone Extreme Skyrunner World Series race. The Irish terrain may well provide a challenge for the Salomon young gun but he is most definitely a contender for overall victory.

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Joining Roki is lady of the moment, Jasmin Paris. Jasmin has rocked the world of fell, ultra and Skyrunning in 2016 and is without doubt one of their most inspiring runners in the sport. Her relentless enthusiasm and ability to race and run week-in and week-out is stunning. In 2016 she placed 6th at her first attempt at UTMB, she set three course records on the legendary UK rounds – Bob Graham, Ramsey and Paddy Buckley and in the process set the fastest accumulative time for anyone brave enough to run all three in one year. But it doesn’t stop there! Jasmin won Kilian Jornet’s and Emelie Forsberg’s Tromso SkyRace and then followed it up with victory at the Salomon Glen Cole Skyline – the latter providing her with the 2016 Skyrunner World Series title for the Extreme Series. Somewhere in and amongst all this, Jasmin also placed 3rd at the Skyrunning World Championships behind UTMB winner, Caroline Chaverot. It would be an understatement to say that Jasmin is the favorite for victory in Ireland.

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Michelle Maier from the Salomon International Team will certainly add some spice to the ladies’ race and then of course we have Sarah Ridgeway, Sarah Sheridan, Katie Boden, Sarah Morwood and Shileen O’Kane amongst many others.

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Roki will have strong competition from Julien Jorro from Team Garmin France, Germain Grangier from Team Garmin France, Ian Bailey, Casper Kaars Sijpesteijn, Paul Tierney, Eoin Lennon, Konrad Rawlik and the UK series contenders of Michael Jones, Bjorn Verduijn and Ben Hukins amongst a very stacked field.

It’s also important to remember that although a race is on for podium places the Skyrunning UK Series champions will be confirmed in Ireland. The battle is on for a male and female champion. This battle has been given an edge with results from the Salomon Glen Coe Skyline and more importantly the recent cancellation of any points from the 3 x 3000 race due to a lack of course marking making the race a navigational event and not a Skyrunning event. This latter decision impacted heavily on the 3 x 3000 winner Michael Jones. Therefore, Michael will race in Mourne looking for victory once again in an attempt to take victory from Bjorn Verduijn.

Sarah Ridgway has been extremely consistent in 2016 with victory at the Lakes Sky Ultra and the Peaks SkyRace. A podium place at the Salomon Glen Coe Skyline places her in a great position for the series title with competition coming from Sarah Sheridan and Katie Boden.

Points update after Skyline Scotland are as follows:

  • Sarah Ridgway 200 points + 78 points for 3rd place at Glen Coe Skyline – 278 points
  • Sarah Sheridan 216 points + 58 points for 10th place at the Ring of Steall –  274 points
  • Katie Boden 166 points + 66 points for 6th place at Glen Coe Skyline – 232 points
  • Bjorn Verduijn 224 points + 50 points for 13th place at the Ring of Steall – 274 points
  • Ben Hukins 172 points + 52 points for 12th place at the Amores VK and 30 points for the Ring of Steall – 254 points
  • Michael Jones 100 points + 38 points for the 19th at the Mamores VK and + 64 points for 6th place at the Ring of Steall – 202 points

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To clarify, the four best results from the 2016 Skyrunning UK calendar provide points that will determine the male and female 2016 Skyrunning UK Champions. The ladies’ race will be a nail biter between the two Sarah’s and should either have a bad day, this will open the door for Katie Boden.

Michael Jones would have been leading the 2016 ranking with an additional 100 points (302 points) had those points not been removed from the 3 x 3000 and so therefore he will be going into the Mourne race with something to prove. Add into the mix a wealth of local talent and the 2016 Garmin Mourne Skyline MTR is going to be quite an epic race.

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Owned by the National Trust, the Mourne Mountains are an area of outstanding beauty, it includes Slieve Donard (850m), the highest mountain in Northern Ireland and Ulster and as such it provides a perfect location for a mountain race.

Among the more famous features, the Mourne Wall is a key element of this region and a key aspect of the race. Comprised of forest path, fire roads, single track, granite trail and tough uneven broken fell, the race is a tough challenge. In just 35km the course has a brutal 3370m of ascent and no less than 9 peaks, the highest being Slieve Donard at 850m.

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“…this would be a tough one, with 11,000 feet of climbing over 22 miles, a serious amount of ascent and descent that equated to 500 feet per mile,” said 2015 5th place runner and Lakeland 50 champion, Jayson Cavill. “That is almost double the climbing of the Yorkshire Three Peaks route over a slightly shorter distance.”

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The coastal town of Newcastle hosts the start of the race and a short section of road leads into Donard Park via the promenade entrance and the ‘Granite Trail’ awaits for a long and relentless climb. Dundrum Bay is visible to the west, before a fast downhill section to a climb of the stony and challenging Glen River Path to the Col between Slieve Donard and Slieve Commedagh.

At Hare’s Gap, the first major peak awaits, Slieve Bearnagh, first passing the North Tor before reaching the summit quickly followed with the technical ascent of Slieve Meelmore. The Mourne Wall becomes a key feature of the race and for the first time the runners follow its line for just 0.4km before veering right and descending towards The Mourne Way path.

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Fofany Dam precludes the only road section of the course which leads to the Mourne Wall and the style between Ott and Slieve Loughshannagh. The climbs and summits come thick and fast now; Slieve Loughshannagh, Slieve Meelbeg and the course continues to follow the Mourne Wall leading to a repeated climb of the technical and challenging Slieve Meelmore, this time in the opposite direction. The toughest climb of the day follows, Slieve Bearnagh.

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Passing around the North Tor it is downhill towards Hare’s Gap and a steep climb next to the Mourne Wall towards Slievenaglogh and Slieve Commedagh, Northern Ireland’s second highest mountain. It is ironic that Slieve Commedeagh should lead into Slieve Donard and the highest point of the race. On a clear day the views are magnificent out over the sea, inland towns and villages are visible and of course, the Mourne Mountains. From the summit, it’s all downhill to the finish via the rocky Glen River Path and a fire road that leads into Donard Park and the finish.

You can follow the race in words and images at iancorless.com and a race summary and image selection will be posted on skyrunninguk.com

RUNNING BEYOND BOOK news

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My new book Running Beyond will be released on November 3rd and features the Mourne Skyline MTR. However, with the approval of the publisher Aurum, I will have 10-copies available to sell and sign at the Garmin Mourne Skyline MTR and I will have an additional 15-copies that can be signed and posted out after the race. If you like to secure a copy an advance of the race, please contact me HERE

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In other news, the Skyrunning AGM will take place in Ireland and you can expect announcements in regard to the 2017 calendar in the first week of November. We hope to be able to confirm and announce new races!

Finally, it’s with some sadness that the Peaks SkyRace will not be in the 2017 calendar for Skyrunning UK. So, if you are planning on accumulating points for the 2017 series you need to be aware of this. Skyrunning UK would like to thank the Peaks SkyRace for the support in the first three years, the race provided a perfect entry level challenge for any runner.

However, as Skyrunning grows in the UK and runners gain more experience for the unique challenges that these races provide, Skyrunning UK as a series want to make sure that our races follow as much as possible the pure ethos of Skyrunning. Many thought this was not possible in the UK, but we have proven that with the V3K, Lakes Sky Ultra, Skyline Scotland races and the Mourne Skyline MTR we are able to fulfill the needs and demands of the International Skyrunning Federation. Expect new additions to the UK series to be challenging, demanding with an abundance of technical terrain and vertical gain.

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