Irish Mountain
Running Association

Downshill Uphill Mile


David Power

Don't forget your shoes

There's a photo of the finish line, with runners doubled over, hands on hips, knees or just lying on the ground. It sums up this race. A lung buster. Not since I've ran track have I had that horrible dry throat feeling when you finish. You just crave water. It's not your lips, it's down the back of your throat. A horrible feeling. It passes.

Anyway, looking at my race results with IMRA this year - most have taken over an hour, with some being 3 to 4 hours. This race took me just over 7 minutes. I spent longer 4 days earlier, leaning over the bonnet of a car, without moving, even though I was in a race. The start of the nav challenge involved me spending 8 minutes plotting a route on my map. Such extremes of movement, all in the space of a week. Sums up the breadth of races on offer from IMRA too.

Roger Bannister broke the elusive 4 minute barrier for the mile. But he didn't have to climb a hill on that fateful day in Oxford. We took a lot longer from 6 to 14 minutes for the same distance. This race involved a long relaxed warm up and cool down in getting to the remote start, on a fire road on Downshill. Most of us had never been there before. I didn't even know the course.

My prep involved cycling to work from the pub that morning, then returning that evening. It had the dual purpose of warming me up, plus avoiding the frustration of being stuck in N11 southbound traffic that evening. The N11 is dangerous for cyclists, but damn it is flat and fast.

My joy at arriving on two wheels was tempered when I realised I'd forgotten my trail runners. I'd brought my Vivo Barefoot runners instead. Nice and comfy but not much protection on tricky rocky mountain roads. Luckily the race was short and uphill on fire road, so I'd get away with it.

Seven minutes took a long time - a lot of thinking time and changes of places and emotions. I powered off on the 10m descent at the start, in the top 3. Then settled in the group behind as Enda and Killian took off. Battling with clubmate Greg. I was making lots of heavy breathing noises. It was hard.
Robin passed me, then Greg gained strength by the first bend. Damn. I was redlining. I couldn't tell you who the marshals were. We were in a tunnel, where your senses shut down and all you can do is suck in oxygen to keep you moving. The marshal called "400 metres" which was disappointing, as it felt like we'd done much longer.

After the bend, I felt better and closed in Greg and then realised I could catch Robin. I surged on, hoping they were blowing up. Barry was far ahead, but maybe he was going backwards? Nearly there now I told myself. He may have been slowing- but I didn't realise I was too, so the gap remained.
The finish line arrived. I sat down to recover. Whew, I'd forgotten that all out feeling. It was great to see everyone else come in with the same feeling of tank empty. Then we saw the nice evening views of the Sugarloaf and Dublin Bay to the north. You could see the Cooleys on our nice jog back down the hill.
The Grove Bar was a nice venue to finish. We discussed other options - should the warm up and cool down time be part of the race (that would make it nearly 9km?). Should they have a downhill mile as well and average your two times? Should we have handicaps, so we get a bunch finish?
Main question is: is this now your annual healthcheck? Can you shave a few seconds off your uphill mile time for next year?

Here's the photo: