Olivia Amber (USA) and Ruairi Long (IRL) set course records against a record field in the Seven Sisters Skyline 30K race in the Derryveagh mountains.
The old adage ‘if you don’t like the weather; just wait 5 minutes’ held true in the rugged, windswept Derryveagh mountains of County Donegal, Ireland at the 5th running of the Seven Sisters Skyline 30K and 55K races. Over 500 hearty mountain runners faced temperatures barely breaking into the double digits (centigrade), drizzle, wind, cloud covered mountain tops and even a touch of sun along their journey over seven craggy mountains. Further challenging runners, what little flat ground could be found along the 30K route was wet, boggy and uneven.
The 30K point-to-point event with 2134 meters of total ascent and descent kicked off the 2022 Valsir Mountain Running World Cup – a series of 17 races in 10 countries. The start took place at the foot of Muckish (666m), in an area where old mines have been reclaimed by a blanket of lush green bog. High energy music got runners rocking to stay warm prior to the 8:15 am start up a short section of pavement that soon gave way to a steep trail.
A few hundred spectators and aid station volunteers greeted runners at the 8K mark after they zig-zagged down off Muckish for a brief respite before heading uphill again to Crocknalaragagh (471m). It was here where Ruairi Long (IRL), Paddy O’Leary (IRL) and Shaun Stewart (IRL) were separated by less than 1 minute.
On the women’s side, Olivia Amber (USA) made her mark early with a healthy margin over Kathryn O’Regan (USA) and Sarah Brady (IRL). Except for the GPS enabled live tracking, this would be the last time these runners would be seen until after all seven sisters had been crossed and only 5K remained to the finish.
By the time Ruairi Long reached the final aid station at the Dunlewey Viewpoint, he had a healthy margin over Paddy O’Leary who had moved into a solid second place. A few minutes later, Shaun Stewart trundled over the road crossing and into a mucky downhill for the final 5K around Dunlewey Lough (Lake) and up to the finish.
Just as runners departed the far side of Muckish to the sound of music, they could hear the sound of the finish long before it came into view around a bend in the road. The finish arch framed a picture perfect view of Errigal (751m) as it welcomed runners to the end of the Seven Sisters Skyline. Job well done; burgers and craft beer from race sponsor Kinnegar brewery helped refuel those who completed this first and northern most event in the 2022 Mountain Running World Cup.
1st – Olivia Amber (USA) – 4:07:36
2nd – Kathryn O’Regan (USA) – 4:33:14
3rd – Sarah Brady (IRL) – 4:47:18
“The bog definitely got me a lot and I’ve never experienced any conditions like it. (While) I never figured it out, it was fun. It was an amazing experience and I’ve never done a race like it. It’s honestly one of my favourite races I’ve ever done.” – Olivia Amber
1st – Ruairi Long (IRL) – 3:29:59
2nd – Paddy O’Leary (IRL) – 3:36:46
3rd – Shaun Stewart (IRL) – 3:37:35
“Errigal is a great classic Irish straight up and straight down, no messing kind of hill. It was great to have that near the end but that last slightly uphill section is tough on the legs but that’s what you want, it’s a nice challenge. I had a feeling coming off Errigal that I had a gap but I was thinking Paddy (O’Leary) is going to love these last fews kilometres on the road so (I had to move).” – Ruairi Long