Carrauntoohil sees new beginnings…
Carrauntoohil, Ireland’s highest peak, has hosted the premier mountain race in Ireland for twenty-three years running now but 2009 marked the last running of the old course. Access issues with a local farmer enforced a change to a route described as “the best ascent of the mountain”.
This has shortened the race from 13.7km to 12.5km while the climb remains a daunting 1126m (3694 ft.) with the summits of Caher and Carrauntoohil now being approached from the South rather than the North-West. In tribute to the old route and its champions, let’s look back before we look at this weekend’s event.
A Brief History
Former World Champion John Lenihan dominated the original Carrauntoohil route for most of its life-time. His tally of victories stands at nineteen, the first fourteen in a row! Only twice has he been beaten outright: In 2006 by club-mate Eoghan McKenna and in 2004 by former Ben Nevis winner John Brooks. When Robbie Bryson took victory in 2002, John was nursing an injury, and he didn’t contest the race in its inaugural year when Douglas Barry took the honours.
He had numerous great adversaries over the years including England’s Simon Fairmaner, John Heneghan, and the redoubtable Paul Nolan. None proved more perennial, however, than reckless descender Francis Cosgrave who recorded six consecutive runners-up positions. Despite never winning, he achieved the rare blue-ribbon performance of finishing the course in less than 80 minutes which has eluded so many good runners over the years.
Perhaps it’s therefore fitting that John Lenihan left it to a newer generation of runners to test themselves against the revised course this year. The decision would not have been made easily for there seems to be an almost spiritual connection between Ireland’s King of the Hill and the mountain on which he once nearly died during a training run.
Despite the change, only the most optimistic hoped for a challenge on the formidable records set by John and by Beth McCluskey. John ran 71:43 in 1988 and Beth 92:17 in 2001 on course to winning her second of six Carrauntoohil titles. Rumours fluctuated about a possible comeback for the woman who has put more of an imprint than any other female competitor on the route, but it remained a rumour this time around. Perhaps we will see both record-holders grace the 2011 event.
On the back of such rich history, contestants lined up to open the next chapter in the story of Carrauntoohil (For a full history of Carrauntoohil, readers should refer to the IMRA Archive).
Irish Championship Round 2
Colm Hill, CNOC, led the race out at a hard pace with a lot at stake; the race is a counter for both the Irish Championship competition and King of the Mountains.
A leading pack quickly established itself; Jason Kehoe, Crusaders, shadowed the defending Irish Champion Peter O’Farrell when Brian Furey took off as expected to claim the summit. Jason and Rob Cleary, Clonliffe, crested the summit next. A wrong turn towards the end finished Rob’s challenge for honours as he came home in 10th.
It was another Jason, Rathfarnham’s Jason Reid who would take fullest advantage as he overhauled Jason Kehoe on the descent. The Crusader in turn held on comfortably ahead of Peter O’Farrell. Rathfarnham were overwhelming club victors ahead of local club Bilboa AC and Dublin rivals Clonliffe Harriers. Karen Duggan, Clonliffe, celebrated her second consecutive win on the course with eight minutes to spare on former winner Majella Diskin. Further back Deirdre Finn held off Loretta Duggan for third.
With Croagh Patrick and Carrauntoohil done, Brian Furey needs only one more victory at Lugnacoille to call himself Irish Champion but a late contender may yet emerge for the final three races of the series.
In the King of the Mountains, Brian holds a three point lead on second-placed Jason Kehoe with Peter O’Farrell in third. Final results still to be confirmed.
The Irish Championship continues at Lugnacoille in early July and it will also be on this summit that the next King and Queen of the Mountains will be crowned.
Full results of Carrauntoohil at IMRA.