Garmin Mourne Skyline MTR 2016 Race Preview

©iancorless.com_Mourne2015-7808

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.

iancorless-com_glencoe2016-1134

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.

iancorless-com_limonesky2016-8967

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.

iancorless-com_limonesky2016-9484

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.

©iancorless.com_Tromso2016-8875

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.

iancorless-com_glencoe2016-1193

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.

©iancorless.com_Mourne2015-7703

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

ukranking

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.

©iancorless.com_Mourne2015-3752

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.

©iancorless.com_Mourne2015-3746

“…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.”

©iancorless.com_Mourne2015-4493

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.

©iancorless.com_Mourne2015-8085

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.

©iancorless.com_Mourne2015-8499

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

RunningBeyond_JKT

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

Mourne Skyline MTR

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.

Skyrunning UK Garmin Mourne Skyline MTR 2015 Race Preview

©iancorless.com_Mourne-6702

Ryan Maxwell, race director for the Garmin Mourne Skyline MTR provides an insight into the racing that will take place in the Mourne Mountains of Northern Ireland this weekend.

The Skyrunning UK series comes to a great conclusion for 2015 with its 6th race.

The eyes of the Skyrunning world will be on Northern Ireland, and in particular, the stunning Mourne Mountains, as the 2nd annual Mourne Skyline Mountain-Trail Race once again attracts a plethora of talent from across the globe.  The event will be filmed by Channel 4 and broadcast in November 2015.

This year, world renowned producers of innovative GPS products for the recreation and wellness markets, Garmin, have come on board to support the event, which is now named, the Garmin Mourne Skyline Mountain-Trail Race.

Closing the 2015 Skyrunning UK season, action will kick off at 7.30pm on Friday 23rd October 2015.  Close to 100 competitors will take on the unique ‘Granite Trail Race’ (‘GTR’), a 2 mile uphill only event, starting on Newcastle Promenade (County Down) and finishing approximately 1,000ft above sea-level at Millstone Quarry.

The impressive field will be headed by Northern Ireland international Seamus Lynch (Newcastle AC) and winner of the Mont Blanc 10k, Paul Navesey (Centurion Ultra Running Team).  The ladies race will include highly respected European Cross Country (team) and World Mountain Running Championship (team) medallist Sarah McCormack (Ambleside AC and Ireland) who just last month secured a top ten place at the World Mountain Running Championships in Wales, finishing just ahead of former World Champion Kasie Enman (USA).  Sarah will be joined on the ‘GTR’ start line by the in-form NI & Ulster Half Marathon medallist Laura Graham (Mourne Runners).

On Saturday 24th October 2015, the Garmin Mourne Skyline MTR will see 200 hardy competitors from fourteen countries cover a gruelling but incredibly scenic and rewarding 35k course, which incorporates 3,370m of ascent.  Northern Ireland’s highest mountain, Slieve Donard, which stands at 850m above sea-level, will be the final peak, before the athletes descend quickly into the Donard Park finish area.

Garmin Mourne Skyline MTR logo

Although last year’s worthy Champions and course record holders, Kim Collison (England) and Stevie Kremer (Team Salomon), are unable to return to defend their titles, this year’s race will undoubtedly provide the same exciting spectacle.  There are at least thirty athletes who have represented their country at international level due to start, meaning that both the male and female fields provide incredible strength in depth.

There really is all to play for ahead of this event, and here are some of the athletes who will be gunning for the honour of being crowned Garmin Mourne Skyline MTR Champion.

Garmin Mourne Skyline MTR winners medals

The Men:

Dan Doherty (Scott Trail Team), Paul Tierney (Ambleside AC), Jayson Cavill (Ultra Runner Store Trail Team), Eoin Lennon (Carnethy HRC), Ally Beaven (Unattached), Iain Bailey (Newcastle AC), David Steele (Newcastle AC) and Sam Herron (Mourne Runners) look to be the strongest candidates for the podium places in a field littered with talent from across the globe.

Irish international Dan Doherty has increased his profile considerably since stepping onto the international stage in 2011.  His 17th place finish at this year’s IAU Ultra-Trail World Championships in France cemented Dan as one of the UK and Ireland’s most respected ultra-distance athletes.  The 2013 Anglo-Irish Plate winner also impressed at the gruelling Tor Des Geants, where he worked his way through the field to move into 2nd place before a knee injury cruelly ended his race with approximately 100k to go – 12 months earlier, Dan had claimed the runners up spot at the 330k event, which includes an incredible 24,000 metres of ascent.

©iancorless.com_Mourne-0885

 

Dan’s Irish International teammate, Paul Tierney will also go into the event with confidence high after victory in the Lakeland 100 in the UK, a top placing at the Skyrunning UK Lakes Sky Ultra and representing Ireland at the IAU Ultra-Trail World Championships.

Scotland based Northern Ireland man Eoin Lennon has been in the form of his life since claiming the runners up spot at the Mourne Skyline MTR in 2014 – Eoin recorded 3:59:42 to finish behind Kim Collision and has went on to impress at several notable events, this includes a 4th place finish at the prestigious HOKA Highland Fling and a win at the recent Glencoe Marathon, both in Scotland.  Eoin has also shown his speedy edge with a 16:16 5k over the Summer.

Newcastle AC men Iain Bailey and David Steele, and Mourne Runners’ Sam Herron will know this course better than most.  All three will be in the mix for a high placing, but it’s Iain’s strength on the climbs that will ensure that he plays a prominent part in in the race for a podium place – he finished in 5th place at the British Championship event in the Mourne’s in August.

©iancorless.com_Mourne-6371

If podium places were calculated for all of the Skyrunning UK events since the Series’ inception in 2014, Jayson Cavill would no doubt be one of the highest ranking athletes.  He (Jayson) is never off the podium and as per usual, deservedly claimed his spot there at the Salomon Glencoe Skyline event in August (2015), where he took 3rd place in the men’s race.  Jason also won the Lakeland 50 in the UK. Steve Franklin (Totley AC), a 14th place finisher at the aforementioned Glencoe Skyline and top fifty finisher at the Mont Blanc Marathon, will finish well up the pack.  The same can be said for 2014 4th place finisher Ally Beaven; despite focusing more on his training, rather that racing recently, Ally should be there or there abouts.

Profeet UK athlete Victor Mound will also run well, as will Richard Ashton (Orion Harriers), Bjorn Verduijn (Shettleston Harriers), Barry Hartnett (Dundrum AC), Gary Bailey (Mourne Runners), Shane Donnelly (Acorns AC), Peter Cromie (Roe Valley CC), Billy Reed (East Antrim Harriers) and Dale Mathers (Mourne Runners).

 

The Ladies:

©iancorless.com_DragonsBack2015Day2-5763

Team GB star Lizzie Wraith, a podium finisher at this year’s Dragon’s Back 200 mile race, will start as pre-race favourite. Despite the fact that Lizzie is used to covering much longer distances, it will be her ability to deal with the leg-sapping climbs and descents that may well just give her the edge.  The Lakeland 100 winner (in 2013) is excited about visiting and racing in Northern Ireland for the first time and will prove difficult to beat.  In saying that, local hero Diane Wilson (Dromore AC), winner of the Ben Nevis Mountain Race and a podium finisher at the Mourne Skyline MTR in 2014, knows exactly what to expect and is going into the event in the form of her life.

©iancorless.com_Mourne-6427

Newly crowned Northern Ireland Mountain Running Association (NIMRA) Champion, Shileen O’Kane (Lagan Valley AC), will be another athlete who will be in the thick of the action, but the local lady, who won 5 NIMRA Championship races this term, will have to see off some formidable opposition if she wishes to secure a podium spot – none more so that Mynydd Du Mountain Runners athlete and recognised international Helen Brown, who secured 14th place in the World Mountain Running Championships less than four weeks ago.  Interestingly, Helen has stepped onto the podium on three of the previous four occasions she has raced in Northern Ireland.  Arguably her best performance on these shores was a win at the Silent Valley Mountain Race in 2013, which was part of the British Fell Running Championships.

Jacqui Toal (BARF) and Fran McFadden (Springwell Running Club) enjoyed an epic dual at the 26extreme Causeway Coast Ultra last month (September 2015), with Jacqui coming through to win late on after Fran had led from the off.  The pair will resume battle here and will be joined by another highly respected ultra-distance athlete, Comrades finisher and podium regular Joanne Curran (BARF).  Aisling Allum (Carnethy HRC) will be one to watch – after moving to Scotland earlier this year, Aisling has shown superb improvement and less than four weeks ago, the former triathlon star picked up a prize at the Glencoe 10k, after finishing in 3rd place.  Aisling will smash her 5:54:43 clocking from 2014, which saw her take 10th place in the ladies race.

Lagan Valley AC’s Hazel McLaughlin will claim a top ten place, while Ireland based ladies Jolene Mellon (Unattached) and Elizabeth Wheeler (Unattached) will be hoping for the same.  Versatile Springwell Running Club athlete Sonia Knox will go well, as will 2:50:52 marathoner Georgia Wood (Unattached) and local ladies Taryn McCoy (BARF), Paulette Thomson (Newcastle AC) and Anne Sandford (Lagan Valley AC).

View the galleries from the 2014 edition of the race, Stevie Kremer and Kim Collison were the champions.