Irish Mountain
Running Association

Garryduff Woods, Rochestown


Martin Cooney

Garryduff Woods Adventure Park- What A Rollercoaster!

A crisp, foggy morning greeted me for my 2-hour drive to Cork city. The 1st hour of my journey on the windy road to Mitchelstown needed concentration as the thick fog slowed my driving. Once I hit Mitchelstown, it was as if someone cut the fog with a knife- it just ceased & it was a blissfully sunny drive all the way to Garryduff Sports Centre passing Corrin Hill outside Fermoy on the way.

I parked up, got changed into my running gear & decided to go with my Salomon Speedcross runners for a bit of grip (pure chance). I made my way round to the start. I met Nick Hogan (fellow Clare man living in Cork) who was volunteering & had a good chat. He had won two of the Coillte Autumn Trail Series races- fair dues to him for volunteering when he could have ran & clinched the series instead.

Down to the start, signed in & met Brian Buckley (RD). “Is this the same route as last time Brian (2019)?” I asked. “No” was the reply with a giddy giggle “tis a bit different than the last time”. I wasn’t sure what was so funny- maybe he still has a bit of altitude giddiness after his escapades of the UTMB- great result he got!

Anyway, I went for a jog up to the opening in the woods- it is a bit like the Dunkettle roundabout & it seemed a lottery as to which way we were going. There was red & white tape on every exit out of it so I had no clue which way were going. I met the legend that is Ted Feehan (an idol of mine still knocking out the races at nearly 80) & he seemed as confused as I was as to what direction the route would be. I bumped into Sean O’Lionaird & we made our way back to the start via any bit of the route we could find. Back at the start & I met a fellow runner looking for advice on new trail runners as he was wearing a pair of those five-fingered barefoot runners with no grip left on them. I gave him my two-cents-worth- I didn’t catch his name so my apologies!

Race briefing went something like this: “up the road & take a left, then it’s up, down, stream, mud, up, down, trees, mud, up, down, mud, up, up, down, stream, mud, Dunkettle roundabout, up, back, down, forward, mud, up, down, mud & finish”. I might’ve missed a few but Brian wanted to be accurate in his description for us.

Then 3, 2, 1, Go- off we went & I was nestled into about 15th place. I didn’t know many in front of me so couldn’t judge my pace. Robert Cunningham was up beside me so I was probably going okay. We took the left at the “roundabout” & then all I can say is hold on to your seat belts folks! It was up the track with mud, down the track with mud, cross the stream of mud… Not deep mud, more like ”fall-flat-on-your-ass-mud”. I am a bit of a “mullaker” so after the first few patches of mud, I decided to go straight through them. I passed a few people on the way during the first 1km & found myself around 8th positon. We hit a high point & then back down towards the river. Robert C. passed me on the way & he was closing in on Tony Houlihan. Back uphill again & they were just in front of me. We turned down a steep section & I passed Tony & went by Robert C. on a muddy uphill just as he slipped. I now had my sights on Barry Walsh & passed him on a downhill back to the “Dunkettle roundabout”. It was hard to believe that we were only 2km into the race.

I was now in 5th place & we ascended the only non-muddy track to take us to the highest point on the course. I could see a St. Finbar’s AC singlet in front of me but it didn’t seem like I was getting closer to him. I couldn’t see the first three runners. We passed through the highest section, which has more tree roots sticking out of the ground than there were branches on the trees. Suddenly I was catching the St. Finbar’s man. Back into the woods & almost skating around any turn, I had him in my sights but he was still 30m in front of me through the lowest & straightest forestry section. Don’t get me wrong; it might be flat & straight but one false step on the greasy terrain & you were going to have an intimate moment with a tree.

Through the magic roundabout for the 300th time & back onto the original track. As we went up the gradient, I was now within 5m of the St. Finbar’s man. Across the stream, up a hill of slippy mud & now left into a complete jungle which was starting to descend back towards the wood-road. It is hard to describe this section except the best mayhem a trail-runner could hope for! I was now right behind the St. Finbar’s man whom I now know to be a namesake (Shane Cooney). Both of us being Cooney’s & gentlemen, I politely enquired if I could pass him & he gracefully moved aside & let me though. We tipped top hats to each other & continued on our ways. I was now in 4th position & as I machete’d my way through the last of the jungle, turned right & back into civilization. One last left, steep down, cross the wide stream twice & back to the finish. Gasping for air & delighted that this green section of Cork city had not quite killed me.

It was by far the most exhilarating run this year- the muddiest roller-coaster I was ever on. Watch out Alton Towers. The only way to describe it is; you know when you were young & running down a steep grassy hill knowing that you could fall at any time but still couldn’t stop laughing because of the buzz- well it was an adult version of that! Thanks to all the volunteers, race markers, food bearers & first-aiders (you were busy I’d say).

Finally; if anybody is going back to Garryduff woods any time this week, don’t be surprised if you meet a five-fingered barefoot runner still wandering around cos whatever fun I had slipping around the course, I reckon he would have had tenfold the fun... He may as well have worn a pair of bananas!