Pete no stranger to fine display in 11-mile hill race

Pete no stranger to fine display in 11-mile hill race

22 June 2022

IN 1978 Kate Bush was top of the charts with Wuthering Heights and 44 years later she’s had her second number one with Running Up That Hill. Stranger things have happened.

Nevertheless two good numbers that a squad of hardy fell runners can relate to. Sunday was the latest NIMRA championship race, and it was the medium Flagstaff to Carlingford route, a linear 11-mile jaunt through the Cooley mountains with  3,000 feet elevation to take on.

The first dibbing point was the step up on to the bus which ped the runners at a lonely path on the Armagh/Louth border, to head straight into the climb for Anglesey Mountain, before traversing boggy ground to Clermont on the Ravensdale side.

The next five miles or so were all fairly runnable, taking in the next three checkpoints, firstly the mast on Clermont Carn/Black Mountain, a nice path towards Carnavaddy, before dropping down to the Windy Gap at the Long Woman’s Grave.

A quick sup of water here and then route choice became random and sporadic towards the last checkpoint on the high point of Co Louth, Slieve Foye, steeply overlooking the finish down in Carlingford.

Five Newcastle AC runners took on the field in fairly pleasant conditions. The double threat of either white-out or a scorcher luckily stayed away.

Seamy Lynch won the last edition in 2019 and Pete Grant was next best home in ninth place, taking his age category.

One of his favourite races, he came in 15th this time, took the age category again and clearly produced a similar effort to 2019 by improving on his time (2:01:27) by two seconds.

Alan Ritchie no doubt had the speed to take on the top 10, but was unfamiliar of the route. A bit of advice from the chairman the night before and he was hopefully more content.

He found himself chasing down first lady Esther Dickson towards the finish in an eight-strong group led by Pete all in within two minutes to come 21st in 2:02:56.

Pearse Brogan had eyed this race up for a while and had his bearings recited in case the cloud rolled in — luckily line of sight was available.

Despite sitting around 40th at the halfway mark, a combination of good nav towards Foye and solid chasing down saw him climb to 31st place with 2:14:40.

The two men with the sun hats on and who enjoy the not-so-short races were Gerry Kingston and Declan McElroy.

Gerry was in familiar ground, having competed in 2019 and before, and a great push in the second half saw him take 46th position with 2:21:22.

Declan had targeted 2 hrs 30 mins, having done previous editions, and was thrilled to arrive into Carlingford not long after Gerry in 48th place with 2:22:32. Fair play to ya Declan.

Some may have been turned Upside Down coming off the very steep Slieve Foye but a great race finish setting right on the non-mountain surroundings of Carlingford’s Main Street with plenty of busy pubs and restaurants. No doubt some of the runners might have just stayed on for the day.

Refreshments were provided in Foy Centre afterwards and Pete lifted his age category award. Afterwards there was a dash home for some guests of honour for participating dads on Father’s Day. Others were opting to get their cars fuelled up and some Mourne Runners saved a bit of diesel by taking the ferry home out of Greenore across the lough.

Once Drinahilly wraps up the Hill & Dale series, the next NIMRA race is only round the corner on Saturday, July 2. It’s the long category Spelga Skyline, hosted by BARF. Bring your suncream and ice lollies.