Rankin round had been on my radar for little over a year. Having recced all of the course at various
times this year and after an injury free season I felt it was a good time to test
myself. A quick mention of the challenge in early June to club mate Gavin Hynds
along with the irrefutable code word and he was sold! A date of Sat 29th
June was set, recces were planned and both our excitement and panic levels
stuffed full, checked and checked again and an early night was called for. With
alarm clock set (I’ll come back to that one later), restlessness started to creep
in, along with an irrational fear that I was going to lead us up the wrong
mountains. After much checking of the route map on my phone, I managed to dose
off into the deepest sleep, only to be woken by someone knocking on the front door
thirty minutes after the time I was meant to be up. In a haze of sleep I
realised it was Gavin and that my alarm had not gone off. I quickly got dressed,
was handed a take away sugary tea (thanks Helen!) and we set off. Gavin laughed
about it most of the drive to Newcastle, but I was still in shock about the
I should probably start by saying this was
not my first attempt at the Denis Rankin Round.
Several weeks before my round had been cut short at the first hurdle by
what I can only describe as apocalyptic winds.
So much so that I questioned if the Mourne wall would still be standing
in the morning.
Fast-forward to the 23rd of March and things were much different. Still the same revving of engines and screeching of tyres at Donard car park but this time my car wasn’t shaking with the gusty wind. I started at 2300 hours. The plan was to start at midnight. However, the wind was forecast to pick up around 2/3 am so I brought it forward an hour to get a head start on the weather, which couldn’t have been better at that time. It was a beautiful crisp, clear night with a full moon but for a small shaving from the bottom right corner. Going up Donard was very peaceful. The only problem being that my young son had been playing the England Euro ’96 song all week and it was well and truly stuck in my head.
The first summits came easily. These were mountains that I had been over many times. Going up Binion was a bit more eventful. I think it was just a lack of concentration but I wasn’t really climbing anymore and the path had disappeared. There was nothing else for it but to make a 90degree turn and start scrambling up boulders. Eventually, I reached the trail again and I was back on track. Heading up to the South tor I saw the biggest, brightest shooting star. I made a quick wish that the now heavy, icy wind would ease and returned to my earworm of ‘Football’s coming home…’
The Denis Rankin Round is a 56-mile run taking in 39 peaks in the Mourne Mountains with 6500 metres elevation and it has to be completed in 24 hours. It was created to honour the man of that name, a pioneer in mountain running in Northern Ireland from the 70s until 2013. The first time I had heard of his name was 2 years ago on my 40th birthday during the Hill and Dales when we went to do Moughanmore. Sadly a few years before, Denis had died while competing in the same race that we were about to do. I thought it was very sad that he had set out that night to do what we had been enjoying every Thursday at this time of year and failed to return. Now I’ll never forget his name.
On Saturday 29th June, Niall Gibney & Gavin Hynds completed clockwise Rankin rounds. The clubmates were together until Spelga Dam, then Niall sped on to finish in 20:41, with Gavin finishing later in 22:46.
I remember being part of BARF team invited to Dawson Stelfox’s office in 2013, Denis was part of BARF and a legend in the mountain running community, he had done so much to promote mountain running and had achieved so much, he was missed and we wanted to honour his name. the meeting was to fine-tune the aspects of the round all the Mourne peaks over 400m, 56miles and 6500m ascent.
I had just completed the Mourne 500m, all the Mourne peaks over 500m so was amazed at what Dawson was suggesting; I really thought it was not possible! The first Barf team relay recce to see if the round was possible was carried out on a wet and cold September day but many Barfers came out to support, we did it in 23hrs and 13mins, ah, but that was a relay, could one person do it? Next year Billy and Greg smashed it in 20hrs and 29mins. Well, that lit a light in me; I’d love to try it. Over the years, in between injuries, I did lots of recces of the route, trying to find the best lines. My knee had prevented me running for two years but now I was getting stronger and I decided to set the date. My husband said I should go on Mastermind, specialist subject “The Rankin Round”, I was always pouring overtimes, routes, the website, it was time.