Irish Mountain
Running Association

Maurice Mullins Half


Sarah Mc EneaneyDavid Power

Sarah Mc Eneaney

Since I started running on the trails i never imagined id want to race on the trails but after months running with John we started to talk about races. Lots we have seen advertised and also races done in the past. My father used to do orienteering while in the army and only recently showed me medals he had won. I remember as a child going to woods somewhere and while he was racing, there was a children’s course set up and I completed it receiving a certificate while i still have today. My dad also took part twice in a two day race across the Mourne Mountains. I remember he had to have all his food and tent with him as you camped over night on top of the mountains. I suppose this must of been an ultra race to extremes.

So after much talk, John and I joined IMRA Irish Mountain Running Association and registered for the Wicklow Way Half it was down as 28km long so i was a bit daunted by the distance but we were never running for a time just to get to that finish line. Since registering we started to discuss the route, tactics and that we needed to run more and stop to take in the views less. We also decided to help we should practice so we got up twice on some of the route around Maulin and Djouce so it was great testing ground for the big day. The course was then shortened to 25.5km and they changed the name to honor Maurice Mullins the creator of this race who had sadly died at Christmas .

So Saturday morning i was awake about 7am, while i was actually awake all night. My last few races id been more relaxed and slept OK the night before but not this time. This race was 25.5km long and over mountains so nothing id attempted to do in a race before would come near to this challenge. I got my porridge into me and a cup of coffee also preparing soda bread with butter and Mums high in sugar homemade Marmalade for about 10am as i knew i need to be fueled up again, i would be hungry by 10. Iv not got the greatest for stomach especially in the morning but i needed to fuel up to me able to do this. I drove to meet John and the carpooled with him to Leopardstown race course where the bus to the start line would be. So race ready we jumped on the bus for the 10 mins drive to Ballinastoe Mountain bike trail this was the start line for the Half only, the Ultra trail runners where already starting their second leg heading back to Glencullen where they had started earlier and was our finish line also. Stretching at the start line we got talking to an other trail runner Ben who had competed in a few trail races already. As we chatted away he spoke about been fortunate to run as some couldn’t and that if we all opened up every runner would have a story why they run. Shaking hands we wished each other good luck and took to the start line but not before i had a panic as my GPS was not loading in the trees. I ran over to a clearing and thankfully i got signal and all of a sudden 162 trail runners where off. It was up up and more up and really tough to start. Lesson learned here the hard was is to warm up and run a km before the race as my lower legs were on fire, stretching alone did not help. It wasn’t till we turned right and onto open ground 5km in that it eased off. Then the boardwalk started and more up up and more up. With the high winds and rain it was slippy and hard to keep on track. Once or twice i was almost blown off it. It was almost at Djouce where the boardwalk turns right that we started over taking a few runners and then i knew where i was and what lay head. This gave me more confidence knowing the route and how to prepare my self and look for the surface and rocks ahead. Running the roads we look out for pot holes, drains and curbs but on trails every inch of terrain you must scan looking where to land the feet safely and hopefully on a flattish area. The concentrations levels are completely different from road running and it can be exhausting. One distraction of the view and your a goner.

So as we ran around Djouce John ahead i hear him shout at a spectator and it was only when i got closer i realized it was the main man himself JuJu Jay, this man is a legend of trail running and takes people out all the time, a pure gent and lover of nature he has always given great advise one been the river dip after long runs to help recovery of the legs and it also cleans your runners too but JuJu likes to go in the nip mostly. I always enjoy his articles in the Irish Runner Magazine and his pictures always look amazing. Iv still to get on the trails with him and will do soon. So after a quick hello and hug, i carried on trying to catch up with John. This section you could not over take as it was too narrow and has drops of the side too. Eventually as the trail widen I caught up but only because john helped a runner who had slipped and when he tried to stand up he slipped 3 more times. He wasn’t hurt as we all checked with him before he then started laughing about it and asking did any of us catch that on camera. At this stage I was behind him and said no but I will write about you in my blog. Lol I must say he was very lucky to have not fallen on rocks and cause a serious injury. If it was serious we were up a mountain and would have to get ourselves down and would have to rely on our fellow runners for help.

From the Wicklow Way marker just below Djouce peak I was flew down to the first stile over taking runners with less grip than I had. My Inov8 with deep claws just dug into the mud, gravity helping me the whole way down. I only slowed down as the trail got closer to the river that feeds PowerCourt Waterfall as its very rocky you could even say covered with boulders and it was very easy to fall as id just witnessed one man take a tumble but quickly get up and continue running. I did almost take a tumble but some how kept upright. This valley is quite steep and we did try run up it a bit but realized quickly looking at others it was just as quick to walk up it and restore some much needed energy we would need for the 4km descent all the way to the first cut of point. This 4km section was key to making up time by letting gravity take you and just keep running.

We reached the car park and water station the first of two which also act as cut off points. It is only now reflecting on this race and reading up the description again that John and i made the it not with 50minutes to spare as we thought on the day but actually 1hour and 35mins. We were pleased but knew there was a few more climb ahead, one i was prepared for and the rest all new territory, quick gel and drink, banana for john we started making our way to the second cut of point. Running down to the river we crossed the bridge this was the lowest in elevation we would get in the whole race but it did mean we had to go up up and up before the descent to the finish. This section was very scenic as we ran following the river bed but was very muddy again, John slipping at on point but thankfully it was all grass so he was up again with no injury’s. Phew! this is one thing we never really disgust but I think its something you don’t want to but we were prepared with small first aid kit, emergence blanket and essentials in our bags. You must always be prepared for the worse on the mountains. We slowly then headed right away from the river up a very steep assent, before we had reached the bottom of it we could see everyone ahead slowing dragging them selves up. Reaching a small fire road we walked to recover moving all the time and took off our rain jackets and packed them in our bags to prepare for the next section as we knew we would be in the woods for a bit and would heat up. Iv always struggled with heat, less is more for me while running but up the mountains you need layers and a good base layer.

After about 10-15 minutes we reached the second cut of point still well in time to even reach the first so progress was better than we expected. Grabbing a jelly and thanking the marshals we carried on to reach the peak of our last mountain, we just needed to get to the top and it was all down hill with gravity on our side. Thankfully the wind still on our back pushing us up the mountain but closer to the top the fire road turned into another narrow section of boulders creating a path, steps in sections and it was tough slowing us down. Eventually after a struggle i got a second gel into me. Most of the climbing was done at this stage but it was still a parkrun to the finish line and mostly running the whole way. Id almost ran a half marathon distance at this stage so running further was a new mental battle. So John knowing this part of the course assured me it was all down hill and let gravity take me at my own pace. So down, down and down we went. It seemed much longer than it was and all the time checking the distance on my watch to see how much left to run.

As we approached the forest gate a photographer was standing waiting to take our happy faces. I just only seen his pictures last night and I will be contacting him to get a copy. He also snapped three of us from behind as we ran off to the finish line. Its actually a really nice picture even though to many you wouldn’t know who theses people in the picture are. The third person was a man called Joe if i remember correctly and he was running the Ultra, he went on to say he had just turned 55 that day and had only started running in the past two years with his wife a regular marathon runner helping him and pushing him out the door. All this was as we walked up a very steep wee hill on the road on the 23km mark. We reached the top and it was a road the whole way to Glencullen golf course and boy was this last km tough. I knew i was almost there and kept running but my head kept telling me to walk. I stopped for a few meters told my self to keep going its just around the corner. The main issue was i could look way ahead of my self and not have to scan the surface ahead, so that Km looked so long and the finish line so far away. With John just ahead of me he motivated me to keep running and then we turned into the Golf Club. Lots of spectators started clapping and cheering congratulating me as i ran to the finish line. Two marshals called out my number to the two stewards on the finish line, i kept running to the two stewards and then my race was done. Id just run 25.6km in total my furthest ever and over the mountains covering 837meters in elevation over two mountains the graph above just says it all really. I was just over the moon and gave John the biggest hug. I don’t think i could of finished it without him to be honest or have registered in the first place. The added bonus as the surprise Wicklow Way 2016 hand made mug we then received which i will treasure.

Wicklow Way Trail 2016

I finished 3rd in the Maurice Mullins Wicklow Way Trail race, organised by IMRA in March 2016. Read my race report below.

Strava activity:
Race time: 1:56:51 (3rd place, average pace 4:33, average heart rate 161bpm)

IMRA races are such honest events. There’s no fanfare or cushy extras – just you, your muddy runners, a rain jacket and an open mountain waiting to be climbed (and descended). No need for free t-shirts, flashy signs, cheering masses. One of my favourite races is the Wicklow Way Trail, a 26km point to point race from Ballinastoe Woods back north towards Dublin, finishing near Johnny Foxes in Glencullen. The race was renamed in honour of Maurice Mullins, a pioneer in triathlon, ironman and distance running in the 1980s. Well worth watching this 13 minute video on his life.

The course covers over 26km, crossing 4 rivers/streams and has a total elevation of 825m, spread across 2 big climbs and 2 shorter climbs. The pre-race build up was nice. The bus pick-up was only 10 min away from my apartment in Leopardstown, so no crazy early starts for me. We took the bus for the 30 minute drive down to Ballinastoe. The weather was pretty wet and windy all morning, but I was expecting an improvement, per the met forecast, so was happy we could sit on the bus and wait for the start.

I had finished 3rd in my debut in 2013, so was hoping to do well, but it would depend on who showed up. My clubmate Brian Furey won the race last year, so I expected to see him and knew he’d be a good man to track, as he’s steady over longer distances. A young guy called Cillian took off up the hill from the start and got me worried. I was hoping he couldn’t have the endurance and we’d catch him in the second half. Up through Ballinastoe Woods, hearts pumping. It was fairly windy on the open mountain up on Djouce. You had to run at an angle against the crosswind was so strong over the slippy boardwalk. That was the trickiest part, along with the wet grassy descent off Djouce. I dropped down to 3rd at this point but was going well.

We crossed the River Dargle and I was happy to have that long descent over, as my strength is climbing. around Powerscourt Waterfall, I dropped two places but pulled back Brian down to Crone Woods at halfway. We pushed on together for the next hour – never more than a breath away, chopping and changing who went first. I knew Brian wouldn’t blow up. His stronger decending meant my target was to try pull away up the climbs, but he stuck to me and pushed on.

Through Curtlestown together and onto the steepest climb up to Prince William’s Seat. This was my last chance to get a gap. But we just couldn’t be separated. I knew my chance of 2nd was probably gone, as we had a 3km descent into Glencullen and it would be hard to get away. Brian upped the pace and my now heavy legs couldn’t follow. Iwas worried about being caught for 3rd, so pushed hard. I was delighted to get to Glencullen river bridge only a minute behind Brian and no sign of chasing footsteps behind me. It felt good now – “enjoy the run to the finish” I told myself.

The support throughout from runners, marhsalls, walkers, photographers and organisers was great. Dermot, Pól and all the IMRA volunteers doing amazing selfless work in tough conditions to make such a memorable day. The Ultra runners are inspirational – “steady wins the race”, they’ve great mental toughness but always encouraging trail runners. The mugs made by Hilary were worth it alone. Thanks all, I can’t wait for the Wicklow Way Relay in May.

Gear: rainjacket, t-shirt, shorts, buff, bumbag, VivoBarefoot trail runners (no gloves or leggings)

Food: breakfast was porridge, fruit and coffee; mid-morning snack of mandarine, chocolate bar and some water. Race fuelling was minimal – no water, just a few slices of mango and 1/2 a Gilly bar. I carried a gel, but didn’t need it in the end. I didn’t take anything at the 2 food/water stops – it might sound like nothing, but I think eating tons of gels and stuff is not required – I’m trying to follow a LCHF diet and interested to see how the body adapts. I’m not following it strictly, but don’t believe we need tons of carbs every few minutes.