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World Masters Trail Championship 2023 - Madeira

Report by Gerard Down 26/09/2023

Thank you to Gerard Down for this report through the fascinating journey of the Irish trail runners who embarked on an exciting adventure to Madeira for the 2023 World Masters Trail Championship (WMTC). Gerard gives us an inside look at the ups and downs, victories, and the strong Irish friendships that formed against the backdrop of Madeira's stunning landscapes.

Photo credits Irish Mountain Running Association

Following on from last year's successful World Masters Trail Championships (WMTC) held in Clonmel, Ireland, this year's WMTC was held on the Portuguese island of Madeira and a large contingent of Irish men and women trail runners travelled to Madeira in hopes of emulating the Irish success on home ground.

The venue for the races was in the Southeast corner of Madeira in the small village of Ponta do Pargo and the opening ceremony on Thursday night showed Ireland had one of the strongest contingents.

Photo credits Irish Mountain Running Association

This year saw the introduction of a long-distance race in addition to the standard uphill short race format; the two races were a 9 KM uphill race on Friday with climbs of 800 metres and a short descent of 50 metres. The 32 KM featured ascents of 1,151 metres of ascents most of which were in the first ten miles and 1,154 in descents.

Competitions were held for each five-year category from 35 upwards with the first wave of runners started being Women 55 to 75 followed 30 minutes later by Men 55 to 75 and then Women 35 to 55 followed by Men 35 to 55.

The short race could be described as two very long and steep climbs connected by an approx. one-kilometre flat section connecting the two; this flat section gave an opportunity to rest tired muscles from the first climb and, for those with a good flat pace, to make some gains or recover lost grounds against the strong climbers. This was not a race for good and fast descents. By Irish standards, the terrain was quite good with a very short section of asphalt at the beginning and end and in between there were some sections of narrow gravel tracks and the main terrain being wide hard clay tracks. The weather was also noticeably Irish with some short periods of rain and mainly overcast and relatively cool. To make the Irish feel even more at home, we had some cows on a section of the trail.

Photo credits Irish Mountain Running Association

The short race was the primary focus of Irish runners and was where most Irish successes came; the Irish medal collection included 5 individual medals - two gold and two gold and two silver and in the team categories there five gold medals, two silver and two bronze medals.

Despite coming from the smallest population country, Ireland headed the medals table for the short course followed on by our neighbour Great Britain.

Eagle Ac was represented in the 9 KM uphill by in the M 65 Category - by yours truly, Gerard Down - and Ireland took the team Bronze medal in M 65 with the Category Gold Medal being taken by Martin McDonald

Photo credits Irish Mountain Running Association

The 32 KM race on Sunday started with W 55 to 70 + setting off first followed by M 55 to 70+ 30 minutes later and then W 35 to 55 followed by M35 to 55.

After a fast kilometre downhill, runners then faced a climb of approximately 900 metres over 15 km to bring them to roughly the halfway point after which there was long and steep descent down the other side of the mountain and the last few kilometres wound along flatter tracks and trails to bring runners to the finish line in Ponta do Pargo.

Whilst the numbers of Irish runners who took part in the 32 km race were considerably fewer than in the 9 km uphill, Ireland still took 2 individual gold medals and one bronze medal and in the team category, Ireland took one silver medal and one bronze medal.

In my own case I finished in 7th out of 16 runners in the M 65 category.

Next year’s WRTC will take place in the Pyrenees at Canfranc in Northern Spain.

The full list of Irish results as uploaded on IMRA’s site is as follows:
by Turlough Conway, 21 September 2023

9k Uphill (800m) Friday 15th September 2023

Individual Gold

W35 Dee Collins

M65 Martin McDonald

Individual Silver

W40 Keeley Tidswell

M35 Philip Goss

M40 Ian Conroy

Individual Team Gold

W35 Dee Collins, Elaine Langley, Marina Quinlan

W40 Keeley Tidswell, Sarah Whelan, Paula Walsh

W45 Sharon Woods, Karen Crean, Anne Marie Kenny

M35 Philip Goss, Simon Nolan, Edward Connor

M40 Ian Conry, Brian Furey, Kevin Looby

Team Silver

W50 Aisling Coppinger, Sareen Walsh, Siobhán Foley

M50 Des Kennedy, Turlough Conway, Graham Bushe

Team Bronze

M65 Martin McDonald, Gerard Down, James John

M70 Matt Alexander, Sean O Neill, Willy

32k long (1150m) Sunday 17th September 2023

Individual Gold

W35 Dee Collins

M35 Ed Connor

Individual Bronze

W45 Sharon Woods

Team Silver:

W45 Sharon Woods, Lisa Byrne, Karen Crean

Team Bronze:

M55 Tom Blackburn, Brian Hutchinson, Michael Kelly Brown

Photo credits Irish Mountain Running Association

Thank you to Gerard for this look into the world of trail running, where determination and friendship truly shine.

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