Olivia Amber (USA) and Ruairi Long (IRL) set course records against a record field in the Seven Sisters Skyline 30K race.
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 (500 euro)
2nd – Kathryn O’Regan (USA) – 4:33:14 (400 euro)
3rd – Sarah Brady (IRL) – 4:47:18 (300 euro)
4th – Rebecca Hormann (GBR) – 5:04:50 (200 euro)
5th – Maeve Maher-McWilliams (IRL) – 5:14:32 (100 euro)
“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 favorite races I’ve ever done.” – Olivia Amber
1st – Ruairi Long (IRL) – 3:29:59 (500 euro)
2nd – Paddy O’Leary (IRL) – 3:36:46 (400 euro)
3rd – Shaun Stewart (IRL) – 3:37:35 (300 euro)
4th – Conall Whelan (IRL) – 3:44:04 (200 euro)
5th – Matthew Mcconnell (IRL) – 3:44:33 (100 euro)
“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 kilometers on the road so [I had to move].” – Ruairi Long
Complete Seven Sisters Skyline race results can be found at: https://live.primaltracking.com/skychallenge22/
Official WMRA results from Seven Sisters are published here [PDF].
Official World Cup standings after one race are published here [PDF].
Even more race images by Richard Bolt can be found on Google Photos.
Race images for purchase by official race photographer Marathon Photos.
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.
Additional Media Coverage:
May 21 – Donegal Daily “Amber and Long Win Mountain Running World Cup in Derryveagh” (Ireland)
May 21 – Corsa in Montagna “Amber e Long Vincono la 1^ Tappa di Coppa del Mondo di Corsa in Montagna in Irlanda” (Italy)
May 22 – Run247 “Records set as Amber and Long claim wins at Mountain Running World Cup opener” (United Kingdom)
May 23 – iRunFar “This Week In Running” (USA)
May 23 – Trail Running Spain “Victories for Olivia Amber (USA) and Ruairi Long (IRL) at 1st Stage WMRA World Cup 2022” (Spain)
June 4 – (Print Edition) Irish Active Runner Online (Ireland)
June 8 – Chameleon Trips “Extreme Mountain Running in Ireland: Seeking Discomfort During a World Cup Race” (Travel Blog)