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.

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