Weekend Review British and Irish Mountain Running Championships
24 September 2019
The Northern Ireland Mountain Running Association (NIMRA) took a squad of 16 athletes to the British and Irish Mountain Running Championships on 21st September in Llanberis (Wales), with positive results from each of the teams.
The presence of teams from each of the home nations as well as the race’s status as British trial for the upcoming Mountain Running World Championships, meant that the races were highly competitive affairs.
Set in the scenic surroundings of Snowdonia National Park, the course took athletes up to the summit of Moel Eilio before a long, fast and gruelling descent back to Llanberis. The route involved a steep start, followed by a more gradual, yet constant uphill which gave the athletes the opportunity to recover slightly before another steep and seemingly unending climb to the summit.
Confidence, nimble feet and an alert brain were needed to tackle the steep descent to the finish, a descent that some athletes described as “vertical”, with a steep tarmac section that even the most experienced athletes found almost unbearable.
In stifling heat, which really took its toll on the athletes, the first race of the day began with the U17 and U20 Females. First up and down the mountain, in a time of 37.22, was Lauren Dickson of Scotland, taking the U20 win. She was followed 38 seconds later by the U17 winner, Eden O’Dea from Wales.
First home for Northern Ireland in the U17 race, with a time of 41.32, was Amy Greene in 7th place, an exceptional performance in what was her first mountain race. She was followed by experienced mountain runners, Sorcha Mullan and Rebecca Magee, who took 12th and 13th place respectively. The U17 team was completed by Amelia Tyler, who fell victim to the gruelling course and heat, fainting only 800m from the finish line. Thankfully, team manager, Declan Rice, was on hand to make sure she got the help she needed and to her credit, Amelia managed to cross the finish line some time later. Two other athletes, Tara McDonough and Eimear McBrian, participated as a NIMRA development team, with Tara finishing in a time that would have placed her 14th in the championship race had she been a scoring member. Unfortunately Eimear was forced to pull out due to injury.
In the U20 event, Ella Quinn ran a well-judged race to lead the team home in 13th place, in a time of 46.15, followed by Niamh Heaney in 18th and Aoife McGrath in 19th position. Looking back, Sorcha described it has the “hardest race of her life, tougher than the European Championships in July [which was uphill only] because of the challenging descent”.
An hour after the female race, it was time for the U17 and U20 male race. With all four athletes from GB & NI’s recent European Championship winning team competing, standards could barely be higher. First to complete the 7km race, in a time of 30.27, was Joseph Dugdale, the reigning European U20 champion. NI & Ulster’s Ronain Maguire managed to split the rest of the European gold medal winning team when he produced perhaps the performance of the day, storming to 5th place overall in a time of 32.27. He was backed up by Jared Martin in 13th position, an improvement on his 17th place finish in 2018, and Matthew Neill in 16th place. Reflecting on his performance, Ronain described how he “climbed very well, keeping steady and not losing any places”.
Fraser Sproul, from England, was the first U17 athlete in 32:22. The Northern Ireland & Ulster team was led home by 15 year old Tom Crudgington, who beat many older athletes in his first international event to finish in 11th place, with a time of 37.21. Tom was followed by Sean McGinley in 13th, Luke Kelly in 16th and Joe Haynes in 17th position, all strong results for a young team still fairly new to the sport.
Once the juniors were in, it was time for the seniors to run their 12km course. NI & Ulster only fielded a men’s team for this event, which was led home by Timothy Johnson in 18th position followed by Jonathan Scott in 22nd, Jack McKenna in 27th and Oisin Brennan, who has only just moved up to the senior category in 30th.
Each of these performances resulted in Northern Ireland placing 4th across the board out of the five home nations present, a real achievement given its status as the smallest country present and the star-studded quality of the field.
Each of athletes should be hugely proud of themselves, having pushed themselves to their limits (sometimes quite literally!) and delivering many excellent results. With almost the whole team eligible to compete next year, and with Northern Ireland hosting the event, NIMRA looks forward to another set of fantastic performances next year.
Report written by: Jared Martin, Sorcha Mullan and Amelia Tyler.