This 35k event, which includes a massive 3,370m of ascent, was the finale of the Skyrunner UK – Ireland 2019 Series. The overall series champions confirmed as Damien Gielty and Kasia Osipowicz.
Both the male and female titles were hotly contested in the majestic Mourne Mountains. In the early stages, little separated 2018 Mourne Skyline MTR Champion Brennan Townshend and Scottish athlete Rob Sinclar (Highland Hill Runners), with Brennan leading the way until the halfway mark.
Highland Fling course record holder Rob moved ahead as the athletes summited Slieve Loughshannagh, but his lead was short lived as Brennan came through in unstoppable fashion – by the next checkpoint at Slieve Meelbeg, the Scott Running athlete had forged a two minute lead.
Brennan increased the gap as he checked off the higher summits of the Mournes, including Northern Ireland’s high peak, Slieve Donard (860m), before the fast final 5k descent into the Donard Park finish line. He crossed the line in 3:41:46, a new course record.
Rob followed just over three minutes later, finishing in 3:44:57, a time that would have won the race any other year. Local athlete Mark Stephens was a popular finisher – the Newcastle AC man claimed the final podium place in 4:03:18.
The ladies race was just as pulsating, if not more! Sophie Bubb burst into an early lead ahead of former Mourne Skyline MTR Champion Shileen O’Kane (Lagan Valley AC). At one point, the Lymington Triathlon Club athlete had a seven minute lead on Shileen – at the furthermost section of the course (Fofanny Dam), the lead had reduced to five minutes.
On the gruelling return towards Donard Park, Shileen gradually hauled back the time and amazingly, on the final desce from Slieve Donard, the Northern Ireland international caught Sophie and a battle ensued, but in the end, the strong GB woman claimed a well-deserved victory, winning by twenty seven seconds.
Sophie broke the tape in 5:07:06 for top honours, with Shileen following in 5:07:33. Sophie Grant (Beta Running), a podium finisher at the event in 2018, completed the top three in 5:17:24.
More details: www.mourneskylinemtr.com