The Mourne Ultra – Flamingo in the mist

“To talk much and arrive nowhere is the same as climbing a tree to catch a fish” – Chinese Proverb.

I actually caught a fish in a tree once.

I pulled too hard when reeling the wee boyo in & he flicked up into the tree opposite us – I haven’t been fishing since. But if this part of the proverb can be inverted, so can the other. I’ve been doing alot of talking ever since that fateful trip around a wee forest in Kildare.

Am I walking funny?
Will I ever be able to run again?
Look at my right butt cheek, is it flexing as much as my left one?
Is this calf higher than the other?
Do you still love me even though I’m kind of bald?

Poor Stace, she has alot to put up with.

So since Donadea – we’ve had a wee boy I like to call ‘Alex’. I like to call him that because it’s his name. Evan has also came into his own with such activities as filling his toys with spit & growling at flies before he tries to eat them. Oh, and we’re also moving house this week too. What better time for me to head into the Mournes for the day! 🙂

So I met Declan and our adventure would begin! The weather was absolutely stinking! Now, men of the mountains such as ourselves would never be deterred by a spot of rain, oh no!…it’s as well we’re not really men of the mountains then isn’t it because we whinged our way up the road about how wet we would get & what a day we had ahead of us. We also compared our waterproof blusher & eyeliner…

We arrived at the picturesque setting of Kilbroney forest for the start, well I assume it was Kilbroney because you couldn’t really actually see anything! So after collecting our numbers and chips and deliberating over how the heck you clip the chip onto a pair of Salomons!? – We worked it out eventually – we assembled at the start line for the off.

The climb out of Kilbroney is always a long slog but is also good opportunity for a bit of banter. It just so happened that we started near the back of the field so started passing people and having the craic – I got chatting to Noel & Nicki here, who both had awesome runs!

The weather eased off for a short while and the coats all came off. It was just after this that virtually the entire field of runners took a wrong turn up one of the trails off the main path (Some wee hallion had obviously been tinkering with the signs!) Everyone was just turning round as me and Declan hit the mistaken diversion so as they shouted ‘WRONG WAY!!’ I took my opportunity to shout “I’M WINNING!! – I put a sprint on for about 0.3 miniseconds and I was winning the Mourne Ultra after half a mile!!

This was incredibly short lived. If only NIrunning did race updates every 100 yards…

There’s not really much I can tell you about the actual running apart from I felt surprisingly good. I’d been pretty concerned about my achilles over the last few months. I’ve definitely struggled with my training, mentally & physically. Where I was 5 weeks ago – I had to pull out of pacing duties at Belfast marathon (I was meant to be the replacement for someone else too!) as my achilles insertion became unbearable to run or walk on 4 days before the race. I’m sure I was a misery to live with, but she still puts up with me for some reason. (I reckon it’s the stunning good looks & how good I am at the housework)

I’m going to jump to the finish here and ruin the story but I managed to finish on Saturday in 10hrs 33 mins shaving 20 minutes off last years time and almost 40 minutes off the year before. To get the Mourne Ultra finished was my only target this weekend, 14 hours would have done me. But doing it faster than before & getting away injury free is just flippin’ awesome! It’s really gave me a huge boost in confidence for UTMB.

It was actually quite warm and I would say apart from the odd apocalyptic torrential rain shower, conditions from the feet up were grand. Actually what am I talking about, there was also a big cloud full of rain that brought visibility to 0%. It reminded me of that smoke monster from ‘Lost’.

The Smoke Monster - Courtesy of NIrunning
The Smoke Monster – Courtesy of NIrunning

As my granny would say “Them hills are in gutters!”

…actually no, she wouldn’t say that at all. What she would really say  is “Dear blessus pet, sure what the blazes are ye doing going up into them mountains getting yourself all dirty. Mon to your granny for a hug”.

Anyway, yes I’ve ran in better conditions up there and what with the injury & wee bambino coming on the scene, I haven’t been in the Mournes this year at all. I’d love to say I was moving free & agile across the terrain like a majestic snow leopard but I was probably more like a constipated flamingo. All legs & not knowing what to do with them. Thank goodness for the forest trails where I could actually make up a bit of time!!

I caught up with Declan and ran with him to the turnaround at Donard forest. Sure look how fresh we look here! Only 26 miles to go!

She's a damp one wha?
She’s a damp one wha? – Courtesy of NIrunning

After eating a bit and throwing a bit all over my face (I left pasta in my drop bag but didn’t bring a fork) I started the climb out towards the top of the tree-line again. All fairly straight forward here – I would run, I would trip, I would almost fall. And Repeat.

I met Craig Lloyd as I reached the top of the climb back into Tollymore, we shared a man-hug. He was setting out for the double Ultra in training for UTMB but unfortunately missed the cutoffs – still a great effort covering 70 miles in the end!

Then on the descent down the other side, I bumped into a guy from Italy…

“What about some faaking cokk?” was his greeting.

This startled me. I’d forgotten the pain in my quads for just a moment. A few things went through my head, had he got the right event? Why did he want chicken?

“Sorry, what?” was all I could muster.

“Cokk! Cokk! Some energy, some sugar!”

“Ahhhhhhh! Coke!”

Upon the realisation that it was now safe enough to run with this guy, he told me how it was his first ultra. I think his name was Stefan & he seemed like a nice guy, Couldn’t have picked a better first ultra I told him. “At the finish, then I believe you!” came his response. He finished well, in around 10hrs 20mins I think.

Constipated Flamingo - Courtesy of NIrunning
Constipated Flamingo on the only bit of road on the course – Courtesy of NIrunning

The half marathon guys caught me a bit later this year which was good as I was out into the open bog after Spelga by the time this wave of runners hit.

“You running the Ultra fella?” shouted a wee woman as she ran with me for a bit.

“Aye, well running might be an exaggeration at this stage…”

“Fair play!”


I thought it was a thin layer of bog. Alas, no apparently I had just launched myself into the deepest hole in the Mournes.

“Ahhh, ye alright!? Let me help ye out” said she.

Now I’m all for people getting to the finish as quick as they can and would never look to affect anyones race plan but I think she suddenly realised by helping me, she may lose some vital seconds on her finish time – so she proceeded to put her hands under me as if she was ‘demonstrating’ how lifting someone out of a hole should look. Y’know, just in case you may ever have to do something like that.

“Ahh, no chance” she muttered.

And away she went!!!

Leaving me with one leg in a hole and the other almost round the back of my head. The best imagery I can conjure up is that it must have looked like I was trying to climb into myself.

I couldn’t stop laughing for a while after that, just picturing her blazing off into the distance. I met her at the finish and we had a good laugh about it. I can’t say I won’t harbour a secret grudge that will culminate in something like medieval tickle torture. Please understand that I don’t mean to hurt anyone, just tickle them alot. So she may watch her back…

I always love the last drop back down into Kilbroney park. The legs were knackered but they always seem to get a bit of life back for this stage. Before I knew it, I was standing at the finish chatting with the lads about mascara & how well my eyeliner held…

Three Amigos. Olé!
Three Amigos. Olé!

And with that, there was the Mourne Ultra for another year. A truly awesome event that went so much better than I could have expected! Next Up. UTMB.


Oh aye…As I write this I think something might have bit me, I’m a wee bit itchy…

Bitten. - Rough I know, but a photo of me taking this one would have been a much worse sight...
Bitten. – Rough I know, but a photo of me taking this one would have been a much worse sight…



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