On Saturday 2nd June 5 of North Down’s trail runners arrived at the start line of the We Run Wild NI races in Ballintoy. The half marathon runners had a stunning 13.1 mile course head of them traversing beaches and clifftop paths and attracting the bemused looks of tourists at the Giant’s Causeway en route to Port Ballintrae. The ultra runners in the Norn Iron 100 (actually 107 miles!) would continue along the north coast to Portstewart and Coleraine before climbing through hills and forests, roads and trails to Dungiven before the final climbs through the Sperrins to Gortin, Co Tyrone. The ultramarathon route included almost 11000 feet of ascent. Tracy McKittrick was the club’s sole representative in the half marathon where she finished 4th female in 2:24. Sean Nickell, Mark Weir and Jill Connolly all completed the ultra distance in 2022 and this year Donald Smith joined them as well. The sunshine was starting to burn through the early cloud cover by the time the ultra runners passed the half marathon finish point and grew hotter as the day progressed. The welcome relief of a cool evening was magnified by a glorious sunset over the Donegal hills and a glowing red “strawberry moon” which was nearly bright enough to remove the need for head torches crossing open ground. Unfortunately, despite her strength and determination, Jill’s journey ended at Dungiven after 62 miles. Sean and Mark battled through the night to finish in 26:22 and 26:43 respectively while Donald’s newly acquired blisters slowed him considerably in the later stages before he finished in 31:48.
[photo: Tracy McKittrick, Mark Weir, Jill Connolly, Sean Nickell, Donald Smith]