Lennon claims ultra victory
Friday last was a nice sunny spring day and Sunday, though windy, wasn't bad. In between the two was Saturday - a day that started wet and moved on to driving wind and stinging hailstone showers.
Not an an ideal day then for the 180 hardy souls who started out from Glencullen Golf club for the annual Maurice Mullins Wicklow Way 51km ultra. Last year, Ballymena's Jonny Steed had won the race for a second time and become the first person to break four hours for the gruelling course that takes in the slopes of Djouce mountain on its way to Ballinstoe and back.
Steel was a non-starter this year, but included in the line-up were previous winners Paul Tierney and Eoin Keith was well as Scottish ultra trail champion Eoin Lennon. Attempting the race for the first time was Wexford athlete Tom Hogan who was using the race as a qualifier for the Ultra Trial de Mont Blanc. Hogan's wife Dena was also lining out with similar intentions.
Making the early running were Lennon, Hogan and Newcastle's Ian Bailey who came in to the turnaround point virtually together. They had survived just over two hours of running in driving rain into a chilly headwind.
Underfoot conditions were treacherous, with one path transformed into a rapidly running stream. It meant that few runners avoiding a fall either on the slippery boardwalk or on the glassy slopes.
Heading back to Glencullen would prove a less arduous experience, despite the exhaustion that was kicking in. Lennon continued to maintain a steady pace and came home in 4 hours 1 minute 6 seconds. Two minutes behind him was Hogan. Although he slowed down on the homeward journey, Ian Bailey was a comfortable third in 4:09.07. Finishing seventh and first over 40 in 4:34:11 was Eoin Keith who had won this race in 2010 when just 39 had entered. "I'm getting too old for these shorter distances!" he said afterwards in the quote of the day.
On a good day for the family, Dena Hogan was a worthy winner of the women's race in 5 hrs 3 mins 25 - she finished almost exactly an hour behind her husband. Forced to drop out was defending champion Suzanne Kenny who was carrying an injury.
Winning the trail race was Killian Mooney of DSD, who at 20, must be the youngest winner ever. He finished in 1 hour 51 mins 25 secs, beating last year's winner Brian Furey of Rathfarnham by exactly four minutes. First woman was defending champion Sarah McCormack of Clonliffe in 2:07:04 - well off her own course record of 1:521.40 set last year. Second was Raheny's Kate Cronin, who is returning to top form after a break.