The third running of the Cooley Legends Half-Marathon and 10k took place once again in the glorious setting of Carlingford Lough and the Cooley Mountains.
The early morning setting of the Carlingford Sailing Club was the registration base and bus pick-up to the start line at the Lumpers Bar in Jenkinstown, 13.1 miles away.
Ugis Karasevs was back once again to defend his title and see if he could deliver a time as fast as 1:24:40 he managed last year. It was a quality field lined up at the start line and he would have to be at his best if he was to have it his own way this time around, the man opposing him was Don Travers from Banbridge.
The wet conditions after the overnight rain made conditions a ‘wee’ bit tricky. Ugis posted a time of 1:25:20, just 40 seconds of last years time, but still holds the record.
The next runners all arrived with some daylight between them as 18 runners broke 1:40 for the half-marathon distance on the route with 522m of climb.
Travers was hot on the heels of the lead man and was to finish just 1:07 behind in a time of 1:26:27. Torben Dahl coming home in third in 1:27:59. Local Setanta Triathlete Niall McCabe, the first vet was fourth in a time of 1:29:59.
High on the mountain, above the Bellurgan forest, through some of the wet peat bog section went the competitors with some thinking they were shallow puddles. John McKenna was to discover different, sinking to above his knees in bog. Stuck and with the possibility of being fossilised, he was helped out by three follow runners in a spirited act of camaraderie.
Local Setanta Tiathlete Jolene Mallon, the defending champion, lead from start to finish in the ladies race posting a fantastic of 1:39:28 for her first top podium of the season, knocking a massive four minutes of last year’s time. In second position Rachel Nolan was close behind finishing in 1:44:45 and Erin Kate Aleksek in third 1:50:05.
As the race entered the rocky fire-road and left civilisation behind, a 342m climb was the menu for the first six kilometres.
The next part of the Tain Way is truly glorious: the path is narrow and uneven but mostly grass and the decent grade manageable. The first feed station was at the five mile mark, were runners grabbed a sip of coke at the drinks station, or a nibble at the snack food available, ready for the tarmac stretch coming up. There was pain and joy here as steep climbs were followed by fast short descents.
At the ‘Long Woman’s Grave’ the runners for the 10k were lining up for their start, a half hour after the start of the Half Marathon. It was a welcome three mile gradual tarmac descent to the second feed station.
The sun decided to show its face at the sound of the start siren. Martin Curran went into an early lead, holding it unopposed to the finish line in a time of 41:28 setting a new record in the process.
He was to be closely followed by Shane Coleman (43:08) and local Setanta Triathlete Fergal Cunningham (43:30) in third.
At the nine mile mark, at the second feed station, runners left the tarmac surface for the final climb to Goylin Pass under the shadow of Slieve Foy, and there was to be no more uphill.
Final finisher Kevin Comiskey was given a very special welcome as he ran over the finish line at Dan’s Stone Wall Café and was delighted to receive his finisher Legend medal.
Carlingford and the Lough with the majestic Mourne Mountains, greeted the runners for the final technical descent to the finish.
Once again there was great banter and impressive hand crafted prices outside Dan’s Stonewall Café, the proprietor and staff putting on a wonderful post race reception in the village square.
A big thanks to all involved: Physio Ireland, Carlingford Red Cross, Sailing Club, Garda, Mt Bike marshals from Cuchulainn Cycle Club, marshals at all the feed stations, the students from Bush Post Primary School who marshalled in the village and to all those who travelled from near and afar to make it another special day.