By Sheugh Hopper
The grey and sometimes mundane existence of the citizens of Fort William was transformed last weekend as the Aughnahoory elite swept into town in a glamorous swirl of expensive motor cars, chic fragrances and fast women.
The charm of the hunky piper at the Avis desk left the impressionable young clerk simpering like a star struck teenager as he casually impressed with tales of his MDF moulding machine and so overcome was the rep that within minutes Hanna was cruising out of the car park, sunglasses at a rakish angle, silk scarf fluttering in the breeze, David Beckham aftershave wafting from the windows in a metallic E class Mercedes. And so, the tone was set.
Soon the Mourne team, fully fortified with the new secret weapons, dark chocolate rice cakes and draught beetroot juice, were installed at Calluna the predictions of how the ban from the grassy bank would cause times to lengthen gradually dispelled with Sam, no birth certificate required, Herron rallying the troops.
The Race Day dawned with the traditional torrential drizzle but miraculously by 12.45 the clouds had risen and the sun threatened to break through. Lochaber Pipe Band led the 479 runners to the start line and Sam Herron was off with the leading pack, reaching the Red Burn in 37.15, Ricky Hanna following in 43.40 and William Marks and Garth McGimpsey both on the 47th minute. David Bell had Marks just in sight on 49.10 but gradually lost touch as Willie, veteran of both the Bob Graham and Denis Rankin Rounds this summer made short work of the unforgiving second half to the summit. Darren Herron crossed the Burn at 54 minutes followed by Ricky Cowan.
As eventual winner Finlay Wild made the 4406 foot summit in around the hour Sam continued his excellent run to hand over his tag after 1.12 en route to a finish time of 1.52 and 32nd overall.
Further up the mountain Ricky Hanna was encountering his own fast woman with an epic duel with Diane Wilson. The lead between the pair switched repeatedly on both the climb and descent with eventually the Mourne man ending up on his rear end on the scree – it makes a change, for years the women have been falling for him.
Meanwhile Darren Herron was dodging the paparazzi on the climb and despite Mike Barton’s advice took no part in the search for Pokemon and Geocaches on the summit.
Garth made it to the top in 1.27, still in touch with Willie Marks on 1.26.30, David Bell following on 1.30 and Darren in 1.54.
The dire talk of no grassy bank had its plus side in quads that actually operated the next day and most thought that the change had refreshed the route. Legs were fresher on the descent and minds alert enough to detect the Asics tape.
As Beauty and the Beast continued their downhill tussle the Beauty made it first in 2.03.02 with Ricky hot on her heels just 11 seconds behind a little puzzled but no doubt helped by frantic encouragement from Sam whose watch had stopped and who thought his clubmate had a sub two hour time in sight – next year Ricky! You might think there was no room but such was the dash for the line that there was another Northern Ireland runner sandwiched between the two with Alex Brennan of Ballymena finishing on 2.03.05.
William Marks made it back to Claggan Park in 2.11.18 with Garth McGimpsey on 2.13. David Bell was greeted by Kathleen McPherson bearing refreshments as he crossed the line after 2.28 with Darren Herron on 3.00 and Ricky Cowan 3.01.
Lochaber’s Finlay Wild finished in 1.28.45, his 7th successive victory and the fastest time for 15 years; perhaps the grassy bank will not be missed after all?
After a celebratory milk shake and the customary early night after the race the Club reconvened bright and early in Glencoe the next morning for the main event of the weekend, the inaugural William Marks Invitational Challenge Race over the fearsome Meall Dearg ridge. Willie usually times his races in days rather than hours and so the team set off with some trepidation into the mist and the jagged rocks of Aonach Eagagh. Thankfully there was no repeat of the unpleasantness in Glencoe in 1692 but just in case, ropes, crampons and a safety net will be provided next year. Although the event had been kept a closely guarded secret, news had leaked out and the Mourne men were delighted to encounter Tom Owens on the ridge, fresh from his second place on the Ben race the day before. That’s two Munros in as many days so just 280 to go Willie!
And so it was on to Glasgow airport where a fragrance of a different type was prevalent when the chemical scanners erupted as Garth McGimpsey’s bag passed through. A serious looking security man slowly unzipped the bag while Garth quietly explained that it might be in his best interests not to delve too deep as some of the contents might be a little sweaty. The searcher’s eyes narrowed suspiciously but as the aroma reached his nostrils the bag was carefully closed and the passenger waved on his way the security risk if not the socks having evaporated.
And so, as the Avis technicians tried in vain to fumigate the Merc and disperse the Beckham perfume the curtain falls on yet another successful Highland foray. If you want to know what really happened then get your entry in early next year.
Clubman of the week: Willy McKee
The McKee machine took a break from an evening on the farm on Thursday night to win at Hen and Cock. That is his sixth win in this years Hill and Dales season. He is now this years champion. It’s good to see the title returning to it’s rightful place in the Team Mourne trophy cabinet.
The machine that keeps on running
Clive Bailey passed his MOT earlier in the season, but since then has been unable to take his dog for a run without getting an injury. His strava stats are filled with bike rides and biscuit eating contests. It was with this patchy form that he set out on the Mourne Way Marathon on Saturday. Jayne and I caught a glimpse of the great man at Fofanny. At the time he was in a front bunch of four including the Mathers Machine. I said to Jayne, there is no way Clive is going to win. Well he must have heard me as he went on to stomp all over the race to take first place. Sorry I doubted you brother.
There were also good runs in the half marathon by Diane ‘I want to run in the mountain division’ Forsythe, Stuart McNeilly and Damien Cunningham. The Ardglass Dandy beasted his way around the ultra in a time of 12h 20 mins.
Team Ellen and co at Knockevin 10K
After a couple of weeks of hard training Team Ellen set out to run the Knockevin 10K. The team performed well and I believe even had time for some singing. Keep it Mourne Ellen.
Mitch Buchannon joins Team Mourne
You may have already read this in Heat magazine, but if you missed it, Mitch Buchannon has abandoned life in California to run for the blue army. Mitch tells me that he heard about the legend of the Cranfield Beach babes so decided to up root and head for God’s country. I say good move Mitch.
That’s it for this week. Keep it real. Keep it Mourne!
Club Junior of the week
This week saw the first outing in club colours for Ellen Herron. Ellen teamed up with Laura Graham to take a fast trip around the Mourne Stimulus 10K. This quick jaunt was followed by her first trip to the podium. You go girl.
There were plenty of other members of the Mourne Road division sporting the colours at the Stimulus run. A special mention to John Graham who has been MIA for some time. The mountain division still have a spot for you fella.
90 Clicks and counting
Congratulations to Dale Mathers and William Marks who completed the Denis Rankin round. The round involves running around pretty much the whole of the Mournes; that is 54 miles and 6000 metres of climbing kids. Dale set a new record in a time of 17 hours 13 mins. Willy finished in the second group in a time of 22 hours 17 minutes. Fair plays fellas.
Ardglass Dandy in bird attack
Apparently the fact that everyone knows the bird has returned to the Millstone end of Donard Wood has not deterred certain club members from running there. The Bailey brothers ran the gauntlet with sticks and hats on Friday afternoon. They survived to tell the tale.
The Ardglass Dandy was not so lucky on Saturday morning – see pic. Do yourself a favour kids don’t go past the Granite Trail steps.
On the International Front
Last weekend Gary Bailey and Willy McKee represented the club and NIMRA at the Inter Counties race in Llanberis – that’s Wales kids. They were blessed with good weather for this 8 mile beast of a mountain race. Willy was 15th and Gary was 59th in this packed field of runners. Apparently somebody thought Gary ‘I like to sit’ Bailey would make a good stand in captain for Sam ‘Injured hip’ Herron’, but the boys got there and returned without getting lost or into any fights so he must have done his job well.
It’s all about Donard
The annual Donard race takes place next week – Saturday 28th 2pm. This runs from the Tropicana to the top of Donard and back. This is a great race and I can report that club member have been training hard on the course.
For those of you who don’t fancy tackling Northern Ireland’s tallest mountain the best spot for spectating is definitely about the ice house. This gives you a bird’s eye view on the Black Stairs of doom.
As always we will be assembling for drinks in O’Hares afterwards. All welcome.
Club Woman of the week
After storming her way around two marathons in the space of 8 days Laura Graham is the nailed on winner for this one.
She started last Sunday running London in 2:48:03. This tough mother of four angels was through the first 5k in 18:25, the halfway point by 1:19:13 before slowing a little to finish an excellent 18th overall.
Today only 8 days later she ran Belfast in 2:48:56 to place second overall; this was just over 30 seconds behind first placed lady Berhan Gebremichael. Anyone who has run Belfast will tell you it is a much harder marathon than London.
Air Five to you momma Graham.
The Hill and Dales rolls on
You will all be sad to hear I couldn’t make this weeks edition on Slieve Martin as I had a head cold. This opened an opportunity – ahem – for Willy McKee to take his second win of the series.
There were some other great runs from the team with a notable appearance from Clarke ‘The Ardglass Dandy’ Browne reporting that a new nutrition strategy saw him take two minutes off last years time. Chapeau sir.
More Bob Graham
Garth ‘Grizzly Mountain Man’ McGimpsey, who is in training for the Mont Blanc 80K race, spent last weekend emulating his hero – Ricky ‘The Guns’ Hanna – by running the Bob Graham round in three days. I can report that he survived and apparently suns himself in some playa paradise in Marbella. Go easy on the Cristal Kanye.
The weather didn’t look great this Sunday so the team met for a run in Tollymore. We had MC Bell, The Ardglass Dandy, Tracy Emin, The Guns, Herron and Bailey Junior. A nice mix of pacy climbs and forest paths followed by a trip to the revamped Meelmore Lodge cafe ensured that everyone was happy…..well they did run out of sausage rolls before all team members made it to the front of the line, but I forgive those who thought about themselves and not me.