Now in its 22nd year, the World Mountain Running Association’s (WMRA) Valsir World Cup kicks off this coming Saturday, May 21st with the 5th edition of the Seven Sisters Skyline 30 km in scenic Dunlewey, Ireland. Located in the rugged, windswept Derryveagh mountains of County Donegal, this will be the Northernmost race in the 2022 Valsir Mountain Running World Cup.
Donegal is a mystical, magical place, which boasts wild rugged unspoiled landscapes, and an incredible coastline with some of the most spectacular views in Europe. The Derryveagh mountains are the major mountain range in Donegal. Commonly known as the “Seven Sisters”, each of the seven mountains have their own gaelic names of Errigal (751m), Mackoght a.k.a. Little Errigal (555m), Aghla More (584m), Ardloughnabrackbaddy (603m), Aghla Beg (564m), Crocknalaragagh (471m) and Muckish (666m).
Like its namesake suggests, the 30 km race route with over 2134m of total vertical climbing, runs along the top of all of the Seven Sisters from Muckish to Errigal. The technical course is renowned for its variable terrain and amazing beauty, along with a route that is very demanding on wild open mountains. The route also has many wonderful features, and makes this course unique in Ireland. The miners path, Heart-attack Hill, Altan Castle, Mackoght with amazing views of Errigal.
In addition to the many talented runners from the island of Ireland, several international elite mountain runners are expected to toe the starting line. These include U.S. resident and Wexford native Paddy O’Leary who competed for Ireland in the 2019 World Long Distance Mountain Running Championships. Paddy was also featured in the 2021 film “Coming Home – Ag Teacht Abhaile” about his fastest known time attempt on the self-navigated 115 kilometer Wicklow Round.
The Wexford man will have to deal with two young challengers in Seek Vert teammates Ruairi Long (IRL) and Matthew McConnell (IRL), both regulars on the top step of Irish Mountain Running Association (IMRA) races.
Enda Cloake (IRL) comes into the race having placed second at the Ballyhoura qualifier for the Irish European Championship team and will surely be in the hunt for the win. Local man and two-time winner of the 55 km event, Shaun Stewart (IRL) will also be in the mix. His focus has mostly been on multi-sport racing this year but the lure of a WMRA Mountain Running World Cup race on his doorstep is hard to pass. Other strong contenders include Aiden McMooreland (IRL), Pearse West (IRL) and Luke McMullan (IRL).
On the women’s side, North Face athlete Olivia Amber (USA) should be a strong contender for the podium. Amber is a cross country skier turned mountain and trail runner who finished 3rd at California’s iconic Lake Sonoma 50 Mile just last month. Also crossing the pond for Seven Sisters Skyline and no stranger to racing in Ireland is Kathryn O’Regan (USA) who finished 3rd at the 2019 Gaelforce Mountain Run 22 km in Leenane. Joining them is strong Irish runner Sarah Brady (IRL) is fresh off winning the 24 km Copper Skytrail in Wales.
It’s not just elites running Seven Sisters Skyline. Mountain runners of many ability levels are converging on Donegal from around the globe for this challenging event including athletes from the United States, United Kingdom, Spain, Isle of Man, Netherlands, Switzerland, France, Germany and the Czech Republic.
Tune in Saturday to see if anyone can challenge course records set in 2021 by Ryan Stewart (Scotland) in 3:40:15 and Hannah Shields (Ireland) in 4:56:07. LIVE track of the race is available at: http://live.primaltracking.com/skychallenge22/
In spite of this event’s young age, the Seven Sisters Skyline has grown quickly and is on pace to become a bucket-list race for all mountain runners. In 2018 the race had just 120 participants for what was then a 21 km and 42 km pair of events. In 2021 there were over 200 participants for the 30 km in spite of the ongoing pandemic. This year there are over 650 registered across two events – a 30 km and 55 km – making it Ireland’s premier event, and biggest Mountain Running event ever on the Island.
According to race director Eunan Quinn, “As they say up here it’s different (Donegal), and this route is different to anything else in Ireland. A point to point route that is true mountain running on open wild unforgiving terrain. Everyone who competes in the event tells us how tough, demanding, energy sapping the course is. The terrain is varied with a little tarmac, gravel path, loose scree, rocky terrain, lots of soft boggy terrain and steep hills. With very little defined tracks or trails on the route full concentration is needed at all times, and one hill leads to the next with little or no flatter sections on the route.”
A GPX file for the 30 km World Cup course can be found at: https://connect.garmin.com/modern/course/104698709
About the Valsir Mountain Running World Cup:
With 12 Gold Label races across 6 countries and 9 locations, and a further 5 Silver Label races in 5 different countries, the 2022 World Mountain Running Association’s Valsir Mountain Running World Cup promises 5 months of quality racing in the mountains.
All World Cup events are World Athletics (WA) Permit Mountain Races. Races fall into one of 3 categories; Short Uphill, Classic Mountain and Long Mountain. As well as the overall World Cup standings, calculated from an athlete’s best 6 results, there will also be a classification for each category, calculated from an athlete’s best 3 results in that category.
Seven Sisters Skyline is a Silver Label World Cup event in the Long Mountain category. WMRA Long Mountain races are generally 21 km to 42 km in length.
About the WMRA:
Formed in 1984, the World Mountain Running Association is the global governing body for mountain running and has the goal of promoting mountain running for all ages and abilities. As well as the Valsir World Cup, the WMRA organizes Masters, U18 and area championships and this year will work in partnership with the World Athletics, ITRA and IAU to deliver the inaugural World Mountain and Trail Running Championships in Chiang Mai, Thailand. The WMRA also maintains the Mountain Running World Ranking, a system of points allocated to athletes based on the results in designated races. More information on the WMRA website, Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.
We are very pleased to welcome Valsir as the naming sponsor for the World Cup this year. They have already a standing support of mountain running in their home in the mountains of northern Italy, where they are a world leader in fittings and equipment for the heating and plumbing industry both commercially and domestically.
They are a family business that recognizes the values of supporting healthy activities and sport is a strong part of their existing sponsorships. Being based in the mountains, we have a common passion for participating in sport in nature and especially in the mountains; a partnership between WMRA and Valsir has plenty of common ground and interest from both sides. You can find more information about Valsir in five different languages as well as news from: https://www.valsir.it.