Four miles in the Mournes

Report by Jon Asroft

The key definition of an A class hill race is at least 250ft of ascent for every mile of distance. The Slieve Bearnagh race in Northern Ireland’s Mourne Mountains may only be four miles, but it packs in almost three times this ratio of ascent. It does this by first going over Slieve Meelbeg, then the merciless Bearnargh, and finally Slieve Meelmore for dessert.

The race was this year’s Northern Irish component of the British Championship, and as usual attracted a very competitive field. Unfazed by the blast of wintry rain just before the start, 12 Carnethies joined a record field of over 220. The first climb was long but steady, followed by a short drop and a tricky boulder-skipping traverse. Then the steep pull up Bearnargh, where hands were in use nearly all the way. The descent back down was a semi controlled fall where positions were readily swapped around. Then back up over granite boulders and slabs to the tower on Meelmore, where Ladies Captain Joanne was perfectly positioned to cheer us on.

Stewart & Steven came in 29th & 30th, separated only due to Steven’s stumbing at the finish line. Ronnie & Adrian were close in 42nd & 44th, & Jon squeezed into the top 50 to gain the last of the Championship points . Graeme Carracher transferred his cross country abilities to the steeper terrain, and Colin Wilson made light of the rough ground to stay in front of Bruce Milne. The Carnethy ladies were tightly knit most of the way around, and Joan powered down to the finish 33rd female, with Kate Friend seconds behind & Lorna close too. Peter Walker finished just as another wintry shower hit. Overall, the Male Vets team came a very respectable second to Borrowdale, the Men’s Senior team was 5th & the Women’s team 6th.

Race over, the rest of the weekend was put to good use indulging in ice cream, riding the dodgems, blethering, and gazing out over the water from the comfy cottages at Dundrum. Sunday allowed more lengthy and relaxing forays back into the Mournes, with plenty of time to enjoy the fantastic views and scramble over the granite tors. It might seem a long way to go for a short race, but as usual it was worth every bit of it. Thanks to NIMRA and all those who orgainsed the race.




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