Olivia Amber and Ruairi Long win at WMRA Cup opener

Ruairi Long

by Richard Bolt |

Olivia Amber (USA) and Ruairi Long (IRL) set course records against a record field in the Seven Sisters Skyline 30K race on Saturday.

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 fifth running of the Seven Sisters Skyline 30km and 55km 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 30km route was wet, boggy and uneven.

The 30km point-to-point event with 2134m 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 8.15am 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 8km 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 one 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 5km remained to the finish.

Amber said: "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 favourite races I've ever done."

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 5km 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 northernmost event in the 2022 Mountain Running World Cup.

Women

1st - Olivia Amber (USA) - 4:07:36

2nd - Kathryn O'Regan (USA) - 4:33:14

3rd - Sarah Brady (IRL) - 4:47:18

Men

1st - Ruairi Long (IRL) - 3:29:59

2nd - Paddy O'Leary (IRL) - 3:36:46

3rd - Shaun Stewart (IRL) - 3:37:35

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