Donard Challenge – 29 March 2014

Slieve Donard – 29th March – British Champs Race 1 – Short

Rob Hope ascending the misty slopes of Slieve Donard - photo c/o NIMRA

Rob Hope ascending the misty slopes of Slieve Donard – photo c/o NIMRA

So here is a round up of the first in the British Champs races for the 2014 season. Thirteen intrepid P&B runners took the trip across the pond to Newcastle in Northern Ireland. Arriving late on Friday night, due to a delay on the flight following an attendant pulling a sickie, and after Rachel negotiating with the mafia-esque hire car insurance sales, last minute carbo loading was secured 5 minutes to ten at the local Italian and we were all set.

The morning of the race came, and after a great breakfast at our accommodation at “Mountain View” we looked out to the mist and the murk and the owners announced that yes, really the house does have a view of Slieve Donard and that they didn’t want us taking them to trade descriptions.

So that was that – the maps came out, bearings were written on the back of hands, bum bags were packed and (well for me) the panic set in.

After the usual race briefing and safety check, we set off into the woods up the hill and usual proceedings began with Rob Hope and the leading pack storming up to checkpoint 1 and into the mist of Millstone Mountain.

Given that there wasn’t much to see other than grey mist, tussocks, hill and the odd bit of rock – this is generally how the race went…..

Most participants made it to the top of Millstone (CP2), but then after that the track had well and truly gone and misty mayhem ensued. Some headed right off the mountain and down to Bloody Bridge to the south – some taking in another mountain entirely in the shape of Crossone. Fell runners appeared at all angles in the eerie mist and when I got to the top of Donard marshals in high vis (well in visibility of about 10 metres nothing can be called high vis) – some had a flashlight to guide the way to the summit cairn.

Turning round to get back, compass was whipped out and 40 degrees was the direction I was headed, along with a couple other fell runners from Mercia including Emma Gould who came second, a young lad from Calder Valley and Matt Lockyer had made and appearance to join in the fun. I can’t run down hill so my group kept waiting for me as I scuttled over the rocks like a beached seaside crab, compass in hand as I randomly pointed my finger for them in the rough direction and descended down the mountain with my new friends.

In a moment of fate Rachel and Graham Pilling “found” each other on the top of Donard and like any great romance they skipped down the fell with each other and headed down towards the finish to the joyful sounds of Niall shouting encouragement to Graham to “NAIL HER” at the finish.

Rob, after a brief foray into the fog, came in a solid 14th, Ian had a great run coming in 23rd, and Niall headed off down the hill with legs as fast as a sheeps lips for the 3rd P&B counter (just look at a sheep when it is eating grass and you will know what I mean). Danny and then Darren were in 4th and 5th counters for P&B with Alex, James, Matt and Caroline all emerging from the fog behind. And great running from Jo Schreiber coming in 3rd ladies counter just behind Rachel.

Alex smiling on the way up - photo c/o NIMRA

Alex smiling on the way up – photo c/o NIMRA

On the way down, with a great stroke of immense luck, I hit the flags to the top of the quarry and got down to CP4 with no navigational errors on the last section. To my surprise someone shouted I was 3rd Lady and whilst counting in my head how many other of the ladies were ahead and must still be out somewhere in the thick murk, I tried to run as fast as I could on jelly legs through the twisty forest tracks to the finish maintaining my position to the finish.

Arriving in, the leaderboard was set up more like a raffle draw than a show of sporting finesse, barring some great runs by those that could navigate through the fog. Local lad Allan Bogle sprinted off at the end to take the win, Jackie Lee and her steadfast navigation gave her the ladies victory, but top fellruners were scattered all over the leader board. For P&B this is how the results stacked up:

13Rob Hope01:10:35MO
22Ian Nixon01:12:57MO
34Niall Bourke01:18:27MO
38Danny Hope01:20:39MO
45Darren Kay01:23:03MV40
66Claire Green (3rd)01:27:33FO
132Graham Pilling01:39:50MO
133Rachel Pilling (24th)01:39:50FO
138Joanna Schreiber (26th)01:40:21FV40
153James Titmuss01:45:02MO
154Alex Jones01:45:05MO
166Matthew Lockyer01:48:26MO
199Caroline Harding02:06:28FV40

The results meant that in the team event the ladies are currently 2nd in the British standings and the men are 6th.

After the race, and a whole plate of cakes and a gallon of tea each later, there was just the small matter of a trip to the local Guinness selling establishment for some rather sweaty dancing with the topless men of fell running and the unusual ladies of Dark Peak. I’m not saying any more.

Next up the mighty Ennerdale where we should see some big changes on the leaderboard. For those that are interested the race photos and the full results are up on the NIMRA website.

Oh, and in the other couple competition, yes Niall beat me to the top of the hill – but like an assassin in the mist I’ll get you next time 🙂 ………

And for those interested, good old Strava has revealed some further misty mayhem had by some on top of the mountain – good times!


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