28 November, 2009Midsummers madness arrived in the tiny Co Wicklow village of Laragh yesterday evening as 154 hill runners chose to spend the longest night of the year battling it out on the slopes of Brockagh mountain for round 8 of the ARUP Leinster League.
The midsummers gods were in good form, replacing the midge clouds of the previous years with a gale force wind, to help cool the runners on the unrelenting ascent and assist with their downhill speed on one of the finest descents in Wicklow. The route was dry underfoot, the only wet patch being a puddle on the forest road.
The route was a gruelling 11km, a testament to the previous years course marker, Alan Cox, who inadvertently marked the wrong summit last year adding 3 km to the old route. However the new route was voted a huge success and now looks set to become a true 'classic'. Many of the evening leagues have been converted to loops to accommodate the large numbers for saftey reasons, however it is good to see one 'old style' hill race remaining on the calendar.
The absence of Eoin Keith, Barry Minnock, Damien Cox and Peter O' Farrell did little to lessen the strength of the men?s field, which was one of the strongest of the league so far.
Paul Nolan, Mick Kelly and Gary Crossan forged an early lead. Crossan reached the turn first and his improved descending skills ensured he maintained his lead to the finish. In the end there was only 6 seconds separating Crossan and Kelly, with Nolan a further 28 seconds back.
The battle of the M40's continued between Gerry Lalor, Jimmy Synnott and John Farrelly. However it was Lalors superior descending skills that clinched it for him and in the end he had a comfortable 41 seconds to spare over John Farrelly. In the absence of Dessie Shorten who was on marshal duty, the coveted M50 race was a 2 way battle between Vivian O' Gorman and close rival Ercus Stewart. Vivian had over 90 seconds to spare at the finish. Mick Kellet continued his recent good form by finishing 1st M60 and 131st overall.
The women?s race was won by Beth McCluskey, followed closely by Jenny McAuley and ever improving Karen Doyle. The W40 race went to Fidelma Ayres who despite being covered in bruises, aches and pains after her mountain biking heroics at the weekend manage to finish 8th woman overall. Ger Power won the W50 and Caitlin Bent won the W60.
The McNally sisters Jade and Alesa finished in joint first place, posting a very impressive time of 76.14 for the challenging junior course.
A special mention has to go to John-Paul Ryan who was having a stormer of a race, on target for a top 20 finish when he stopped to help a damsel in distress, a fallen women :) Chivalry is not dead or gone, as JP proceeded to assist the aforementioned damsel down the mountain, loosing at least 10 places and finishing 33rd.
The longest evening of the year drew to a close in Lynams Bar with post race chit chat and the odd morsel of juicy gossip being exchanged over a few tasty beverages consumed with plenty of pringles and dry roasted peanuts - heaven!
Thanks to Cormac O Ceallaigh and his team of helpers, assistants and marshals ? well done to all.