Irish Mountain
Running Association

Fraughen Rock Glen


Dermot Murphy

Dermot Murphy

It was a fine Sunday morning that greeted ahead of the Fraughen Rock Glen race. The sun was out at registration, but I was happy to see it cloud over as the race start approached. There was the threat of rain but it never materialised - pretty much perfect conditions. There was a fairly small field - 35 starters in the end, mainly due to races on the previous day. Bernard Fortune was there, despite racing on Slieve Donard the previous day, and he was in the river stretching his calves before the race had even started. Diarmuid Collins nearly missed the race start, getting caught up in heavy Sunday traffic that always seems to occur around Wicklow these days when there is a half decent day out - I wonder if there were many who missed out altogether?

Lorcan Farrell was making his debut as Race Director, although you wouldn't know it as he approached like a veteran and everything ran very smoothly on the day. The earlier starts (2) were off at precisely 11:30am with the main field starting at exactly 12. Mick Hanney made the early running through the claustrophobic forest track - indeed, Mick had been out before the race started with his clippers to make sure there was a path! - with the rest of us content to sit tight behind. Once we emerged out onto the fireroad, Bernard started to make his way purposely forward - his legs having a chance to loosen out on the inital climb. Diarmuid was going with him at this stage but then he suddenly stopped. As he bent down to feel his calves, I thought at first that he had stopped to tie his shoelaces, but then he started heading back down the path, assuring us he was OK - as it turns out he was carrying a niggle going into the race and was 50/50 on whether he should start. Once he felt it was not right, he decided to limit the damage and recover for another day. Meanwhile Mick was still leading along the fire road, until we came to the rougher section along by the river. Bernard started to pull away at this stage and by the time Mick, John Bell and myself had reached the top of the rough felled section, Bernard was not to be seen. Mick, John and myself then more or less stayed together for a while until we reached the second stream crossing. I miscalculated here, and followed the stream uphill - I should have crossed this one and followed the correct stream. I assumed John and Mick were crossing the stream and taking the more direct rough ground (they were, as it happened) but luckily I was quick to realise my mistake. Hopping across the stream, I had to jump over a few peat hags to get back on the correct path. As I entered the Fraughen Rock Glen, I wondered how much time I had lost to the lads - not much as it turned out as they popped out from my left and we merged back on track almost together. The climb from here is tough and very steep - I was using my hands as much as my legs for some parts of it! I got to the top a short distance before Mick and John, but there was little in it. The view at the top was fantastic, and as I homed in on the summit cairn, I could see a runner in the distance making his way back - it was indeed Bernard who seemed to have an unassailable lead at this stage. I touched the summit Cairn in second but Mick and John were very close behind.

By the time we reached the steep descent, John started to pull clear as his ability on the rougher descent clearly showed. John took the same route down that he used on the way up. Mick decided to stick to the river on the easier path, which is what I did myself. However, Mick kept close to the river, were as I kept to the higher path - the same one we used om the ascent. This meant Mick was much closer to the river through the steep, rough felled descent, were as I went down more or less the same path we went up and as I result, I was just behind Mick when we got to the fire road. Mick later said that the path nearer the river was much rougher than the path we all used on the way up - something to remember for future races on this course. But once we reached the fire road, the race for third was effectively over, as Mick - who recently completed his first sub 3 hour marathon in Rotterdam - had a clear speed advantage. I have been spending the last 6 months trying to avoid the roads as much as possible due to issues with my ankles, so I knew I would not enjoy this last bit. A couple of glances behind, however, showed that no-one was in sight and I had an uneventful last couple of kilometers to the end.

Bernard, despite yesterdays race, had a convincing win and was in the river again stretching out by the time I crossed the line. John's ability on the rougher descent the key factor for him to claim second with Mick in third and myself in fourth. Becky Quinn also competed in Slieve Donard the previous day, but was still strong enough to win the womens race. The ever youthful Roisin McDonnell was second with Niamh O'Ceallaigh in third - Niamh was also racing yesterday, this time the lap the gap half marathon! I don't know how these guys can rock up to a race the day after a tough race and still win anyway! Everyone who finished then had a chance to cool off in the river, before Lorcan went through the prize giving just after the last runner had come in. Another great day out in the hills!