Irish Mountain
Running Association

West Dublin Peaks


Greg Byrne

Watching Race Winners become Championship Winners

Seefingan 3 times in one day… or was it 3.5 times… you really do need to love the mountain with its soft approaches to attempt the race with anything other than angst.

The dawn broke and the Dublin Mountains were shrouded in mist. This being my first IMRA race of the year a mist could be helpful as it might lead to a less hectic pace as runners concentrate on their route choice. So off to the start I went, only to see the mountain emerge from the mist. The sun shone and also brought out the smiles. The first face was a beaming Gavan Doherty. Next up was last year’s winner and the only man to break 2 hours on the route, Bernard Fortune. Sunshine & fast runners, there goes the morning’s race strategy. I quickly glanced at the map and the route is pretty straight forward, with the only major decision point being the return leg over Seefingan. From the map I decided to follow the intermittent trail as far as the hillock at 664m and then to head straight for the col en route to Corrig. Would the running be good enough to take advantage of the reduced climb?

The race start was social with a large group sticking together until we crossed the fireroad and entered the forest on the slopes of Seehan. Large numbers of fallen trees meant for plenty of meandering routes and bodies emerged from a range of points along the forest edge. From here Bernard followed the obvious trail, I cut direct cross country and Brian Flannelly chose the middle ground. As a trio we stuck together over Seehan, Corrig and onto Seefingan. The ground was soft, with a couple of steps leading to knee deep immersion and the associated sucking sound that requires a quick prayer to ensure the shoe stays in place. On the final climb to the peak of Seefingan we gained a little break on Brian and made for Seefin. Bernard on the main track, while I stayed left hoping the shorter line would gain an advantage… Not so… I filed in directly behind as we climbed Seefin, hit the tomb, rounded the stick and returned towards Seefingan. The climb back up Seefingan was very social with descending runners shouting encouragement at every opportunity. Bernard was less social and tried to make a break on the initial slopes, however, once again our paths crossed 20 metres from the summit and we rounded the sign once more, this time heading for the masts of Kippure.

The crossing to Kippure was soft, but not sinking. Careful foot placement was required to maintain an even pace and Bernard demonstrated some great footwork to get a 10 metre gap crossing the open ground before we hit the peat lands on Kippure’s western edge. Rounding the trig point on Kippure marked the run for home, but no let-up in the pace as Bernard thundered off down the grassy trail. Coming out of the open peat lands Bernard stayed high, while I tried the more direct line to Seefingan. The gap stayed steady on the descent, but stretched as the ground flattened out. This gave Bernard an advantage climbing up onto Seefingan. Bernard pushed up the trail towards Seefingan, so once I hit 650m the die was cast and I chose to contour. The first half of the countour was soft, but then I broke into good running on ground that had been burned in the recent past. The fast running got me wondering… where is Bernard?

Well it turns out he was loping down the face of Seefingan. I broke on the face to find I’d lost another 10 metres and was now 30 metres or so behind the leader. The gap closed slightly as we climbed Seehan from Corrig, but the moment Bernard touched the trig point I knew it was his race to lose. Still the urge to push on and finish the race strong drove me down towards the forest. I chose a line along the left hand edge of the forest; longer, but easier from a navigation point of view, with less risk of getting caught up in the fallen timber we’d witnessed some 2 hours earlier. As I descended I realised that fallen timber was not going to be a factor as I heard multiple branches give way to the force of nature that is a descending race leader. Crossing the line it was a relief, second on the day, but satisfied that I had given my all and made the man in front earn his win & championship. Well done Bernard and all the runners today.