At 4.30 in the morning on 26th August i was standing at the foot of Donard framed by the famous white arches. My first supporter was with me and absolutely buzzing to get going. We set off in the dark up the Glen River and conversation flowed – last time i Saw Max was about 10 years ago at Belfast Circus School.
We made great time up Donard and the last steps to the summit were at dawn. We descended into Donard bog and day broke over the Mournes as we continued from peak to peak in the sun. Max knew the route like the back of his hand and encouraged me every step of the way. We got down to the first changeover ahead of schedule and feeling fresh. Chris and the crew from Lagan Search and Rescue sorted some food and drink for me and kicked me back out on the trail with Bill from Dublin.
Bills outlook on life really inspired me and his stories made the time fly. We trotted along nicely and arrived at the Lough Shanna outlet which was in full flood and about 4 ft deep – a big leap got us across without a swim. Up Doan and on to the dramatic Ben Crom – the views were absolutely stunning here. we followed a vague trod back across to the mourne wall and scaled the last few peaks before the next changeover.
Again Chris and crew had everything ready for me and shoved for food and drink into my hands. I met my next support runner Peter and admired his fine beard and off we went straight up the next peak. Peter was so positive and softly spoken, he told me all about his MASSIVE family and that he had only been running for a couple of years. He will be challenging the record in no time. Peter took me from peak to peak over the peak hags and tussocks and i started to feel my ankles getting a bit of a battering. the sun was still shining and i was still enjoying the run. Peter did insist on tormenting me with stories of his family chocolate business for which he didnt bring me any samples! he has promised to send me some though so all is forgiven.
The end of leg three couldnt come soon enough to be honest, i struggled on leg three with the long grass up to my nipples and the tussocks. I hoped the next leg would be better. After meeting the LSAR team and having a feed and a short rest we headed straight back up the hill. The next summits took some intimate local knowledge from Peter who really knows his stuff as he trains on this area pretty much every day. The little trods and fences we followed through the woods to random obscure summits would have been impossible to find on GPX alone.
As we neared the end of the leg and the las few summits i was still ascending reasonably well but descending was really hurting now. I could feel some serious soft tissue pain down the front of my shins into my ankles particularly on the right. I wasnt certain wha was going on but thought that all the tussocks were likely to blame and probably being about 2 hrs ahead of schedule didnt help. Peter got me down to Spelga Dam and i was met with 3 ladies who had shown up to support, Aoife, Denise, and Aine.
I was pushed into a seat and handed some chips and a cup of tea. Aine and Denise pulled my shoes and socks off, strapped me up, powdered my feet, stuck some more socks of me refit my shoes and got me back moving. It all happened so fast i wasnt sure what was going on.
The three ladies took me across the short leg to the next road crossing where Dale (Denise’s husband) was patiently awaiting to take over from them. His no nonsense attitude kept me pushing on as best i could. The uphills were still feeling pretty good but descents were getting more painful. As we reached Commedah in the early hours of the morning, we were met again by Denise and Aoife who together escorted me down the fell to the forest and back to the finish. Those last few km descending to the finish were brutal due to the pain searing through my ankles. I hoped that the pain would disapate once i finished as i had the next round to start in a matter of hours – the Paddy Buckley Round.
Thank you to The Denis Rankin Round committee and to the supporters who were simply excellent, and it was great to be back in the Mournes after so many years away. I will be back next year!