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.

Garmin Mourne Skyline MTR 2015 – Race Summery and Images

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Iain Bailey and Diane Wilson were the 2015 champions for the 2nd edition of the Mourne Skyline MTR, the 6th and final race in the Skyrunning UK calendar.

Considered by many to be Northern Ireland’s toughest and most challenging race, the Mourne Skyline MTR covers 35km’s with a whopping elevation gain of 3370m. Starting and finishing in the seaside resort of Newcastle, the race is now considered to be a highlight not only of the Skyrunning UK calendar but also the racing calendar in Northern Ireland.

The first edition of the race was made especially difficult with gale force winds that at time lifted runners off their feet and ‘helped’ them along the course. It looked like a repeat day was in store for the 150-runners who would tackle the 2015 edition when overnight wind and rain battered the coastline.

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At 0800 leaving the promenade of Newcastle, the cold temperatures, strong winds and light rain certainly added to the trepidation of a tough day in the mountains. From the off, Dan Doherty dictated the men’s race but he was closely followed by the day’s main protagonists of Eoin Lennon, Ian Bailey, Jayson Cavill and Ally Beaven. For the ladies, Shileen O’Kane pushed the early pace ahead of Lizzie Wraith and Diane Wilson.

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At the col between Slieve Donard and Slieve Commedagh, with 6.6km covered, the action started to unfold as the runners headed out on the more demanding sections of the course. Climbing the rocky and technical Slieve Meelmore, the real race started to take place but at all times the main protagonists jockeyed for position.

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Iain Bailey and Diane Wilson took the respective race leads for the men and the women and this coincided with the skies clearing and the arrival of the sun. Finally, it was possible to see out across the stunning Mourne Mountains and take in the beauty this area has to offer. The sea glistened in the distance and the yellow and amber colours of the terrain provided a stunning backdrop to hard, tough and technical racing.

Overnight rain had made the course exceptionally difficult under foot and many runners commented post race how challenging it was to remain upright while descending.

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Slieve Bearnagh offered one of the toughest climbs of the day and then a drop down to Hare’s Gap where the ever-present Mourne Wall then guides the runners to Slievenaglogh, Slieve Commedagh and then final push of the day up and over Slieve Donard (2788ft) before dropping all the way down from the summit to the finish line in Newcastle.

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Pre race favourite Dan Doherty went to through a bad patch in these sections as he chased Iain Bailey who had a convincing lead of well over 5-minutes, “I am lacking energy and feeling tired,” Doherty shouted as he ran past hotly pursued by Ally Bevan, Eoin Lennon and Jayson Cavill. One would have thought that Doherty would not hold on to 2nd but he found the energy from somewhere!

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Bevan, Lennon and Cavill contested the final podium place and it was a close battle before Lennon found that extra few percent to open up a gap. Bevan looked secure for 4th but a charging Cavill looked like he may well have upset that as he raced for the line. Bevan held off for 4th by just 7-seconds.

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Pre race favourite Diane Wilson never looked back after taking over the front of the race and ran a well paced and controlled run to take victory, behind Helen Brown held off early leader Shileen O’Kane for 2nd and GB athlete Lizzie Wraith finished 4th ahead of Jaqueline Toal. “I had completely wrong shoes today,” said Wraith post race, “the descents were so slippery that I just couldn’t push the pace. I am happy though!”

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Although the start of the day was a tough one many commented that the conditions after a couple of hours of running were considerably kinder than the 2014 edition when the gale force winds battered the runners, this was reflected in a new course record by Iain Bailey of 3:51:22.

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A notable mention must also go to Garmin who for the first year sponsored the Mourne Skyline MTR and the input of the GPS watch brand was instrumental and securing a 30-minute program on the race for channel 4 TV. Needless to say this will be a great boost for the race, running in Northern Ireland and Skyrunning UK.

The program will be televised in November and we currently have a possible date of 8th.

Mourne Skyline MTR concluded the 2015 Skyrunning UK calendar. Just 2-years old, this series of races is now firmly becoming one of the most exciting race circuits. 2016 will see the series grow with points awarded for each race, prize money at every race and some special prizes on offer for the 2016 SKY and ULTRA champions, make sure you keep an eye on www.skyrunninguk.com

 

RESULTS

  1. Iain Bailey 3:51:22 new CR
  2. Dan Doherty 4:04:07
  3. Eoin Lennon 4:07:45
  4. Ally Beaven 4:10:21
  5. Jayson Cavill 4:10:28
  1. Diane Wilson 4:33:26
  2. Helen Brown 4:42:12
  3. Shileen O’Kane 4:50:19
  4. Lizzie Wraith 5:04:12
  5. Jacqueline Toal 5:25:03

 

Race images are available at iancorless.photoshelter.com

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Mourne Skyline MTR website HERE