Early Season Round Up

By Sarah Graham


There was an early season opener on the local mountain scene as NIMRA held the MMR Trail Race, a fundraiser in aid of the Mourne Mountain Rescue Team. A strong field of 83 runners took to the start line in Donard Park, Newcastle in beautiful weather. The course was short but sharp, with runners covering 5 miles and 300m of ascent, including the well known and leg sapping Granite Trail. Timothy Johnston wasn’t hanging around and completed the course in a superb time of 31:15 with fellow club member Jonathon Scott in 3rd and John McKee in 4th. Sarah Graham led the ladies race, arriving home in 37:16. There were also prizes in the Vet50 class with Dale Mathers and Anne Sandford both picking up top honours and possibly a bottle of wine or a box of chocolates.

Mitch Buchannon gets running

A great and enjoyable event and most importantly, a total of £1,072 was raised for the Mourne Mountain Rescue Team. Mourne Runners want to take this opportunity to thank the Mourne Mountain Rescue team for their invaluable work and contribution to the community.


Club Member Dale Mathers has been clocking up the miles recently as he embarks on the start of his Ultra running season. First on the calendar for Dale was the Glendalough Clover Ultra 80km which took place on Saturday 24th February in County Wexford and featured part of the Wicklow Way and St Kevin’s Way. Now in its second year, 57 runners including Dale started the event in near perfect, if slightly cold conditions. While distance alone would be enough to put off even the most hardened mountain runners never mind a staggering 3000m of ascent, Dale went on to complete the race in an impressive time of 9 hours and 20 minutes. However this is only the tip of the iceberg for Dale as he builds up to the Lakeland 100 in July, an iconic Ultra race in the Lake District and one of the most spectacular long distance trail races in the UK.


A huge field of 486 runners congregated in Castlewellan Forest Park on Saturday 24 February for the eighth and final race in this year’s Belfast Telegraph Run Forest Run Series. Another great turnout from Mourne Runners with strong performances across the board but it was Joanne Graham who took to the podium, picking up 3rd place in the ladies 10km in a time of 44:32.


Congratulations to Damien Cunningham who has successfully completed the Abbott World Marathon Majors, a series of six of the largest and most renowned marathons in the world. A fantastic achievement and not one many people can boast.

An incredible journey which has taken 11 years, Damien started in 2007 in London and with the running bug well and truly under his belt he quickly set his sights on the New York Marathon and his second major which he completed in 2008. Damien’s love of running continued, completing many more marathons both at home and abroad, however it wasn’t until 2017 that he decided to finish the Abbott Marathon Majors Series. In an impressive feat, Damien successfully completed Boston, Chicago and Berlin Marathons in one year with a personal best in Berlin of 3:31. Finally on 25th February, 11 years since his first major, Damien ran in Tokyo, ticking off his sixth and final major and his 35th marathon to date.

To put it into perspective how much work, time and effort goes into marathon training, when Damien crossed the finish line in Tokyo, he had run the equivalent of the circumference of the earth! However there’s no time to rest, as Damien aims to complete the London Marathon for the 4th time later this year! Congratulations to Damien on a huge achievement!


Northern Ireland International Laura Graham took almost 2 minutes off her personal best half marathon time with a 1:15:15 finish time at The Big Half Marathon in London on Sunday 4 March. Laura was originally due to run the Bath Half Marathon which was cancelled due to adverse weather but quickly re-arranged travel plans and with the support of her husband Thomas, the pair made their way to London where race officials managed grant Laura a place on the start line. Despite last minute alterations to travel plans, Laura not only managed to smash her PB but was placed 12th lady. An exceptional performance and one the club is extremely proud of.


On Saturday 10 March, 140 runners gathered in the village of Waterfoot, County Antrim to take on the Glenariffe Race and the first round of the NIMRA Championship. Poor visibility, plenty of rain and a generous helping of mud didn’t put off the strong contingent of Mourne Runners or hinder their performance but perhaps this was down to the free bag of potatoes guaranteed with every entry! In the men’s race NIMRA Champion Willy McKee ensured a strong start to the season storming home in 2nd place with fellow club member Timothy Johnston following suit with an impressive performance to take 5th.

In the ladies race Sarah Graham took home 3rd for Mourne Runners and a great run across the board for the Mourne women (Sarah Graham, Bethany Haugh, Denise Mathers Beverly Herron and Anne Sandford) saw them scoop up the overall ladies team prize. A great run by all club members and the large bag of ‘spuds’ made up for the weather. Thank you to Glens Runners and in particular Johnny Steede for organising a great race.


In early January over 100 people signed up for a nine-week ‘Couch 2 5km’ programme, which was very kindly organised for the second year in a row by club member Ruth Haugh. The programme is designed for beginners to gradually build up their running ability, so they can eventually run 5km without stopping. Meeting three times a week, the C25K crew ran in rain or shine, taking everything the weather could throw at them in order to complete the recommended sessions. Finally on Saturday 10 March, everyone who completed the programme met in Castlewellan Forest Park and ran their first official 5km! Ruth commented, “Everyone was able to complete the 5km Park Run and are looking forward to keeping up their running and increasing their distance. It has been a pleasure to help so many runners meet their goals.” A huge thank you to Ruth for all her hard work and to all of the willing volunteers and club members who gave up their time to help each week.

Christmas Round Up

by Sarah Graham

It was a busy Christmas period for Mourne Runners with some fantastic results throughout the club across a number of races.

Nimra Dinner

The Northern Irish Mountain Running Association annual prize giving and dinner took place in Newcastle on Saturday 25th November and paid tribute to those hardened fell runners who completed the 2017 NIMRA series. Once again, a great performance from the club with five members finishing in the Top 10 including Gary Bailey, David McKee, Timothy Johnston and Richard Hanna. Top honours went to William McKee who took overall victory of the series for the second year running.

Special mention must go to Harry Teggarty who picked up the NIMRA Inspirational Runner of the Year Award for completing ‘Cassie’s Challenge’, a gruelling 58 mile run over 50 Mourne peaks and 6,800m of climbing which he completed well within his 24 hour deadline. Harry is a very active member of the Mourne Mountain Rescue Team and gives a lot of his time back to both his club and the local community. The club are delighted to see Harry receive his award.

Harry Teggarty receives the NIMRA Inspirational Runner Award

The Turkey Trot

On Boxing Day, seven members of Mourne Runners made their way to Tollymore to take on a new and lengthened ‘Turkey Trot’ race. Clive Bailey had a strong run finishing 8th overall while Bethany Haugh stormed home to take victory in the ladies race.

Club Handicap

The annual Club Handicap Race took place in Kilbroney Park on Saturday 16th December. As tradition goes, club members are set off in intervals with the fastest runners starting last – with the aim of everyone sprinting for the finish line at the same time. This year, it was Ciaran McAleenan who was crowned ‘Club Champ’ with Virginia Ervine taking 2nd place and William McKee 3rd. A special thanks to Samuel and Beverley Herron for their time spent organising the race and supplying a generous amount of tea, coffee and homemade mince pies!

Committee Member Samuel Herron presents Ciaran McAleenan with the Club Championship Trophy

Castlewellan Christmas Cracker

It was a record turnout for the Christmas Cracker as 30 Mourne Runners ‘paired up’ and took to the start line for an enjoyable 9 mile race, taking in road, trail and a generous amount of mud around Castlewellan and its forest park. With just under 700 pairs out on the course, it was Laura Graham and William McKee who took a convincing victory in the mixed pairs category and an impressive 12th overall. A thoroughly enjoyable day with great performances across the club.

Laura Graham and William McKee
Lynne Spence and Karalee Porter
Stuart McNeilly and Samantha Edgar

New Years Day Run

Starting 2018 in style, Mourne Runners took to the hills on New Years Day with a strong turnout of club members enjoying a social trek up Donard in minus temperatures, followed by a well-deserved brew in the local café.

The team
Cold up top

Ahoy 2018!

Four hardcore members of the mountain running division assembled this morning in Bloody Bridge car park: Mountain man, Man of stone, Mr NIMRA and myself.

Early doors

It had been -5 degrees when I was driving through Ballynahinch but I was pleased to find it was a few degrees warmer by the ocean. I can say that conditions can be described as not as icy as I expected – so pretty decent really.

Chomping it out

The hardy group did an out and back route to the top of Bearnagh via the Brandy Pad.

It was great. I loved it.

Looking forward to Sunday’s in 2018.

This is what hardcore looks like

All artistic photography ©William Marks 🙂

Festive Handicapper 2017

You might think the weather has been unseasonably warm this week, but really it’s just the heat generated by the 2017 club champion Ciaran McAleenan as he blazed from the bottom to the top of Slieve Martin to leave the whole damn hill burning like a volcano. Choking on his fumes were Virginia Irvine 2nd and Willy ‘I wish I could run’ McKee 3rd.

Club Champ 2017: Ciaran McAleenan

Shoe Fetish Bailey relegated himself to lantern rouge by stopping off mid rampage for a chat with some folks; if you can just keep that up for the 2018 race season that is fine with me.

As always festivities were rounded off with a batch of superstar baker Bev’s mince pies.

Did somebody say mince pie?

Merry Christmas y’all

Ben Nevis 2017: Rubber Trouble

by Sheugh-hopper

Like all pilgrimages, this one has its rituals; the trip to the foot of the fabled Ben always the first – maybe it is just to check that it is still there but tradition dictates that all will jog to the first bridge. On this occasion the elite squad took off in advance, in pursuit of Mikkelson-Barron, brows furrowed at the prospect of barbed wire interfering with the traditional route.

The captain of the Mourne Runners cyclocross section lagged behind though, keen to regale all who would listen with tales of his exploits on the first race of the season and by the time the runners returned 40 minutes later none of the assembled throng at the Ben Nevis Inn could quite understand how he hadn’t won it.

The guns

Puzzled faces peered out from under the covers on Saturday morning; not only were there blue skies and not a breath of wind but no sign of rain. The dire predictions of mist, storms and torrents came to naught. A unique experience for most would follow – a Ben race where the course was visible from top to bottom.

But first the vital pre-race preparation with porridge and eggs on the menu. A well-known national pub chain seemed to do its best but even Oliver Twist wouldn’t have been asking for more of the gruel and the scrambled eggs seemed to have been devised in the Goodyear school of cooking.

So it was a mean and hungry looking bunch who took their places behind Lochaber Pipe Band for the nerve jangling shuffle to the starting pen. At the gun the McKees moved effortlessly along the Achintee Road with William reaching the gravel track in 6 and a half minutes and David hard on his heels.

On to the steep and rough terrain above the Red Burn and a group of Mournemen, Jonny Scott, Richard Hanna and Garth McGimpsey traded places with eventual ladies’ winner Diane Wilson also in the mix. The duel continued on the descent with Scott eventually leading the trio home with a slightly battered Hanna just 25 seconds adrift. A superb run by McGimpsey saw him improve on his 2016 time by a remarkable 12 minutes, proving that all those years of sharing with Ricky have finally paid dividends with some of the stardust drifting down from the bunk above. With all three within 2 and a half minutes of the coveted two hour mark, 2018 must be the year.

Tough work

Sam Herron, after a season spent nursing a persistent niggling injury which allowed little or no mountain training, showed his class with a finish on 2.11 with Richard Bell just five minutes behind.
Further down the field there were rubber problems of a different variety with Darren’s soles not up to the demands of a storming descent where he made up a ten minute lead to catch the chairman just below the river crossing and leading to an appointment with his new best friend in the beautician’s following up last week’s wax with a pedicure. There was much learned debate about the speed of his descent with club scientific adviser McAleenan noting that the force of the impact was equal to mass multiplied by velocity and while there was some control over the speed there wasn’t much that could be done about the weight.

Prior to the race Herronsports were offering attractive odds on the chairman returning to Claggan Park with at least one limb either a different shape or in more than one piece but after a rash of bets the bookies took a hammering with Bell arriving home at a leisurely pace but intact.

Dead beat

Of the race virgins Jonny Scott was first home in an excellent 2.01, Clare Withers, unflappable as ever showed no fear on the lengthy run down, shadowing specialist descenders Ciaran McAleenan and 14 times veteran Ricky Cowan off the summit but wisely backing off on the craggy rocks half way to the Burn. McAleenan flew off the summit matching Cowan step for step until the stile.

Back at the sharp end William McKee was the top Club finisher in a brilliant 15th place with David just over five minutes behind, iodine patches doing the trick, on a mountain that neither of them had ever seen before.

The star of the show this year though was the weather with a treat for those travelling slowly enough on the descent to be able to lift their eyes. The Halfway Lochan sat shimmering in the middle distance against a backdrop of an azure sky and the mirror-like Loch Linnhe beyond. If you were taking it seriously though you might not have seen any of that with more than one Mourne runner heard to remark afterwards, “What Loch, I didn’t see one”.

In keeping with tradition, post-race celebrations were muted with Horlicks the predominant beverage of choice. Ricky Hanna in particular needed to keep his wits about him as he stalked race winner Finlay Wild around town hoping to extract training tips, eventually cornering him in the Pizza Corner where his favourite toppings were carefully noted. Anne is now under strict instructions that the Hanna Sunday lunch from now to next September must be Hawaiian with extra pineapple.

Results were carefully digested in Glasgow airport en route home and the club performance director pronounced himself well satisfied with the outcome, especially the team result which saw Mourne finish in 5th place ahead of several legendary hill running clubs including Clayton le Moors and Helm Hill whose team included former winner Rob Jebb. There was heartfelt concern that the best Fell Running Club in County Down could only manage 32nd place although at least it was an improvement on 36th last year.

A postscript was a bit more rubber bother on the road from George Best to the Kingdom with the Honda limping to a halt suspiciously close to Brennans. Is it true that they serve pizza at 1am?