Mourne Skyline MTR 2018

Another year, another stunning edition of the Mourne Skyline MTR awaits. This race over the last-years has personified the true ethos of going fast and light to the mountains. Created by Justin and Ryan Maxwell, the race has been a permanent fixture on the Skyrunning UK calendar.

In 2018, over 250 runners will toe the line to undertake what is one of the toughest challenges out there, a 35k race, incorporating 3,370m (11,057ft) of accumulative ascent, set in the heart of the scenic Mourne Mountains in Northern Ireland.  The event, which is now in it’s 5th year, will take place on Saturday 20th October 2018, starting at 0900. The race is brought to you by NiRunning (Northern Ireland Running), Northern Ireland’s most popular running website, with assistance from the Northern Ireland Mountain Running Association (NIMRA).

Race website HERE

The Mourne Mountains are a granite mountain range in County Down in the south-east of Northern Ireland. Owned by the National Trust, 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. Construction of the wall was started in 1904 and was completed in 1922; its purpose, to define the boundary of an area of land purchased by the Belfast Water Commission.

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.

“…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.”

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. 

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. 

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 visibleand 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.

J Marshall Thompson, an experienced ski mountaineer from the USA raced the 2014 edition and placed 3rd, an incredible result for someone who had never experienced such technical terrain.

“That was some of the most crazy terrain I have ever run. It was relentless. It was beyond technical. You had no idea where to put your feet and I can’t tell you how many times I fell over; I loved it’

But the technicality and challenges the Mourne Mountains offer are not for everyone, Jo Meek has raced for team GB and has placed top 5 at the iconic Comrades Ultramarathon in South Africa:

“I really did push and race hard but the relentless ankle twisting and gnarly terrain beat me down and in the latter stages. I eased off a little knowing that 2nd place was secure.”

The mountains of Northern Ireland may not have the height or elevation gain the the Alps or Pyrenees offer, but what they lack in height is more than compensated for in technicality and repeated roller coaster climbing. Ask anyone who has run it, the Mourne Skyline MTR is no easy race.

The race description is taken from the book RUNNING BEYOND HERE

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Garmin Mourne Skyline MTR 2017 Race Summary and Images

Misty skies, gale force winds, mud, rain, relentless climbing, technical terrain and an incredible field of runners made the 2017 Garmin Mourne Skyline MTR a tough one! Now in it’s 4th edition, the race has over the years been known for its tough conditions, many said, post race, this tear was the toughest!

Concluding Skyrunning UK’s 2017 calendar, the Garmin Mourne Skyline MTR really was a fitting end to what has been an incredible year. The course, organisation and the field of runners made this a special and unforgettable day in the mountains.

The addition of Ian Bailey, a previous champion of the race, it was always going to be a quick race up at the front, especially with Seamus Lynch toeing the line. In the early stages it was Lynch who lead the duo but with half the race covered, Bailey took the reigns at the front and never looked back forging a convincing lead. At the finish, Bailey crossed in 3:57:18, just over 10-minutes ahead of Lynch.

It was another 5-minutes before Ryan Stewart arrived rounding out the top-3

In the ladies race, Shileen O’Kane would bring local knowledge, fell running experience and being a participant in the last three editions, this would no doubt provide and advantage? It did! O’Kane pushed from the front throughout the race but she was constantly shadowed by Megan Wilson. The duo traded blows and on the climb to Donnard, it looked like Wilson may take the lead… O’Kane kicked though and descended to the finish line with almost a 4-minute margin over the Dark Peak fell runner, 4:56:43 to 5:00:09. Catherine Forsythe was the 3rd lady, crossing the line in 5:40:26.

The 2017 Garmin Mourne Skyline MTR once again established itself as a must-do race. The combination of location, local infrastructure, great organisation, enthusiastic locals and a brutal course will guarantee that demand will be high for the 2018 edition.

Covering 35km and a total elevation gain of 3370m, the Garmin Mourne Skyline MTR is everything a Skyrunning race should be.

Full Results HERE

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Garmin Mourne Skyline MTR 2017 Race Preview

The Skyrunning UK season concludes in Ireland this coming weekend with the Garmin Mourne Skyline MTR. What a year it has been! From the very first edition, the GMSMTR has sold out and demand continues to exceed places available. It’s a testament to the team behind the race.

The 2016 edition was won by Germain Grangier in a time of 3:49:39 and the ladies’ race was dominated by Jasmin Paris running 4:30:02. However, the ladies course record still stands with USA based runner and Salomon athlete, Stevie Kremer.

Ian Bailey, former course record holder at the Garmin Mourne Skyline MTR returns in 2017 and will not only be looking for victory but dipping under the 3:49:39 set by Grangier last year.

Skyrunning UK Series champions will be confirmed in Ireland. The battle is on for a male champion, Tim Campion-Smith is the odds-on favourite with a convincing 25-point lead. Jason Millward, Tomasso Migliuolo and Jonathan Palmer are in with a shout. Tim Campion-Smith will not run in Ireland, however, Jason Millward will! With a 20% bonus at stake for the final event, if Millward wins or places 2nd, he would leapfrog Campion-Smith for the 2017 overall title by dropping his lowest ranking points (9th at Ben Nevis Ultra) and replacing them with points from the Mourne Skyline MTR – 1st would provide 30 points, 2nd 26.4 points and *3rd would provide 22.8 points.

It is likely that Jonathan Palmer will move from equal 3rd to 3rd overall after the Mourne Skyline MTR. Of course, if Millward has a poor run and Palmer has a great run, this could change!

*3rd place would not be enough for overall victory, it would provide a total of 45.8 points to Campion-Smith’s 48-point tally.

The ladies race is wide open! Kirsty-Jane Birch currently leads the ranking with 11 points but it looks like she will not race in Ireland and therefore she will not have three qualifying races. This leaves the door open for 2nd placed Rebecca Morgan who has 5 points and will race at the Mourne – in many respects, she just needs to finish the race but a top-10 would guarantee overall victory.

As in previous editions, there is a wealth of talent toeing the line. Look out for:

Seamus Lynch, Jonathan Palmer, David Hicks, Barry Hartnett, Ryan Stewart and Shane Donnelly.

Linda O’Connor, Megan Wilson, Martsje Hell, Elizabeth Wheeler, Karina Jonina, Jacqueline Toal, Shileen O’Kane, Hazel McLaughlin and importantly Janne Geurts who placed 2nd at the V3K but this is only her 2nd Skyrunning UK race and therefore cannot qualify for the Series despite having the most points.

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.

 

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.

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.

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 Commedagh 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

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The Causeway Crossing Preview

Ireland Graphic 23The Lost Worlds Causeway Crossing – three unique events along the Giants Causweay Coastline and the Moyle Way. A unique landscape – the Giants Causeway Coastline and the Moyle Way. Individuals can take part in a 25k, 50k or 100k event.

Taking place on Saturday 4 May 2013 the main event of the weekend, The Lost Worlds 100k will see a top quality line up. Most notable is the late inclusion of US based runner Dave James.

Dave has a very strong reputation on the US ultra scene. He is a USATF national champion and has run some incredible times over the 100 mile distance, his PR is 13:06:52.. He has already had an an impressive 2013. He secured another win at the multi stage,  The Coastal Challenge in Costa Rica and then just one week later raced at Fuego Y Agua to get second place behind Nick Clark. Dave loves to run and is currently in Europe in preparation to take part in the 2013 Skyrunning calendar. It is not his first time in Ireland, he represented Team USA (2011) IAU World Trail Championship. He is racing The Lost Worlds Tuscany event and just 7 days later  the Causeway Crossing. he will head to La Palma for Transvulcania, just two weeks later he will race at Zegama and then the big one! Rond del Cims in Andorra. A super tough 100 miler that has a profile that looks like JAWS dental records. Without doubt Dave will be competitive in Ireland but he has a busy diary… he is going to need to keep some powder dry.

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Courtesy of Ryan at Ni Running, here is an update on the local talent:

Jonny Steede (Balllymena Runners):  Jonny is a VERY strong contender in my opinion.  He has represented Northern Ireland in Mountain Running previously, then gained a lot of speed by moving to the roads (as well as still competing over the mountains).  He has really found his niche on the trails, his strength and speed will suit this course.  Jonny recently won the prestigious Wickow Way Ultra (51k) in March 2013, and is definately a future star in the Ultra world!  He really hammered a few big names in Wicklow!  This will be his first attempt at 100k, but he has put in the training for it… much of which is with well-known Irish Ultra runner Martin Rea (North Belfast Harriers) and my brother, Justin Maxwell (Larne AC), who is taking part in the Sky Running World Series this year (starting in Transvulcania).

Geoff Smyth (Unattached): Geoff was the winner of last years 100k, running 10:04:22.  He knows the course well and has also won the Causeway Coast Ultra (39miles), which covers the coastal section of the Lost Worlds course in 2011.  He won the Dervock marathon in 2:56:29 last year, this was a tough rural road marathon.  He has a road marathon PB of around 2:48, so he isn’t an ‘elite speedster’ as such, but a real ‘battler’… he will run steady and prove hard to break.  There was word that he may have picked up a niggle, but I cant confirm this!

Ivan Sadlier (Unattached):  Ivan is an experienced Ultra runner and was 3rd in 100k here last year.  In truth, he’ll only be a contender should there be drop outs or lack of depth in the field.  Mentally and physically, he’s a tough man… but it’s his speed over the distance that will be a disadvantage.  His times for some well known Ultra’s are SDW100 (100m) – 22:56:04 and Highland Fling (53m) – 10:43:00

 

Hanna Shields (City of Derry AC): Hannah is somewhat of a local hero to some, having conquered Everest.  She is an experienced Ultra runner knows the course well. She was 3rd in the Causeway Coast Ultra (39 miles) and 3rd in the Mourne Way Ultra (52 miles) in 2012.  She has also placed well this year, preparing for this event with a 2nd place finish at the Wicklow Way Ultra (51k) and a 3rd place finish at the Connemara Ultra (39.3m) a few weeks ago.

Of course a 50km event is also taking place, favourites are:

Jolene Mellon (Setanta Triathlon Club):  Jolene is from Ireland (Southern Ireland) and a strong contender for a podium place in the ladies 50k.  She originates from a Sportiff cycling backround but moved into Triathlons for a bigger challenge.  She went on to complete and Ironman/women event.  She is a strong runner and won the Mourne Way Ultra (52miles in 9:45:58) in 2012.  She completed the tough Cooley Legends HM last weekend as preparation for this race last weekend, she finished in 3rd place.  She won the Cooley Legends HM in 2012.  The reason I pick out this HM is because a lot of the terrain is similar to what the Causeway Crossing course will be like.

David Gamble (Seapark AC):  David has good experience in Ultra running, he is strong and a consistent top ten finisher in Ultra distance events in NI and Ireland.  He has completed the Mourne Way Ultra (52miles in 10:30:18) and the Causeway Coast Marathon on several occasions, with the terrain of the Mourne Way event and the knowledge gained during his participation in the Causeway Coast Marathon I think he could go well in the Lost Worlds event.  He has been off the radar ‘racing wise’ recently, probably getting himself into good shape for this.

A word from Tim Holmstrom

Tim Holmstrom from Lost Worlds Racing is very excited about the Irish leg of his series “We have Team Red White and Blue participating in a 4 person team relay of 100k. More info on this amazing organization here: http://teamrwb.org. Also, most exciting for me is that this series will be culminating next ummer in Greece at  Lost Worlds Meteora : 100M/50M mountain ultra. Participants will experience Meteora and an amazing part of Greece.”

When asked about The Lost World series, Tim says, “It is about World Heritage and a deliberate effort to create a singularly unique experience for our participants based on many facets. It is a chance to have meaningful cross cultural exchange in a race setting with an international field. Lost Worlds Racing also provides a window for participants into amazing cultural and historically significant places of natural beauty, as well as remarkable trails and terrain when considering our race venues. These are more than races. My hope is that they feel like a step back in time into locations that should be on everyone’s bucket list as an important part of their own earthly experience and collective heritage as humans.”

Other notable locations of the Lost Worlds Series are:- Ometepe, Nicaragua; Tuscany, Italy; Belize Crossing, Belize; Dominica Crossing, Caribbean.

The Route/ Race

All Lost Worlds Causeway Crossing events will be fully waymarked and will follow the paths, tracks, beaches and coastline of the Moyle Way and Causeway Coast Way – probably one of the most spectacular coastlines in the whole world. The entire route of the 50k and 25k events pass through magnificent coastline scenery with fine views of wide bays, sandy beaches, dramatic cliffs and offshore rocks, all of which characterise the GiantsCauseway Causeway Coast, making its beauty and uniqueness world famous. All events will run through the world famous Giants Causeway with the 100k event passing past this famous landmark twice.The 100k route also follows the route of the Moyle Way, along tracks and trails where few feet ever venture and along majestic streams and pathways which will test the fittest participant over the first 50k.

There will be a high level of support and feed stations en route. Participants in all events will use a timing system for this event and split times and finish times will be available for all participants after crossing the finish line of the event.

Links and info

I will be at the event producing race coverage and photography. Please check Facebook, Twitter and of course this website.

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