Charles Barrington Memorial Race
28 November, 2009The assembled runners stared dubiously up through the rain at the mist shrouding the Sugarloaf muttering among themselves that they must be mad. And indeed they seemed to be! Dragging their feast battered bodies out over Christmas for the delightful torture of the first Charles Barrington Memorial race on the mountain, they couldn?t have found a worse time to be climbing and descending the toughest terrain in the Dublin Wicklow area. The rain lashed course was a damp mud slicked, stone-sharpened mantrap, enlivened by the fact that you couldn?t see more than 20 metres through the mist at the higher points.
However, the lure of the gold fob watches on offer from Ron Barrington - great, great, great, grand nephew of Charles, the first man to climb the Eiger - was hard to resist. Good runners travelled from points north, south, and west to try and take the unusual prizes, replicas of the watch presented by Charles Barrington to Tom Hill the inaugural winner of the first mountain race held in Ireland back in 1870. However, as they looked up through the mist, you could see their eyes saying ?Could old Charles not have picked an easier route for the first race??
Their doubts were quelled as Ron raised the antique ceremonial gun cane and fired a shot to start them. The field raced away up the road, past the pipers playing at the base of the mountain, turned off road and on to the business end of the race. As the rough track snaked through the wet heather, the first moves were made. Dubliner Keith Daly pressed and took the lead from a group containing James McFadden of Greystones, Rathdrum?s Cormac Conroy, Wexford man Bernard Fortune and another Dubliner Peter O?Farrell.
Daly was content to lead along the narrow tracks until Conroy quickened the pace on the steepening climb and the group began to fragment. International Martin Bradshaw from Limerick, to the surprise of many, was dropped at this point along with Ruaraidh Stenson. Daly hung on in second place with a comfortable McFadden sitting in behind him. As they veered towards the quartzite summit cone, McFadden made his move, passing both Daly and Conroy. Daly then got ahead of Conroy on the narrow and treacherous summit chute, but McFadden hung on and got to the summit first.
Whatever hopes Daly had of catching James McFadden were dashed on the pell mell descent over the tricky ground as the trio weaved and twisted through the rocks. McFadden was most comfortable on the tough terrain and his studded shoes fairly danced through the slippery heather as he stretched his advantage on the others. Daly in turn eased away from Rathdrum man Conroy who lacked the experience of descending over such challenging ground.
McFadden built on his advantage and had over thirty seconds on a disappointed Daly as he swept into the GAA club grounds to take first place in 31 minutes and 22 seconds and, of course, the gold watch. The honour of first Wicklow man and another gold fob watch went to Cormac Conroy who held off the fast closing Bernard Fortune and Peter O?Farrell for third place overall. The final gold watch went to first woman Orla McEvoy from Laois who had a comfortable margin over Aileen Bright and Clare Sullivan.
In the vets classes, there were great runs from Gerry Lalor M40, Kevin Grogan M50, and Danny Toye M60 who won their respective categories, while Jean O?Neill F60 and Jane Porter F50 took theirs. The first junior also came from Co. Wicklow and he was a Barrington! Joshua is the son of Ron and along with his Uncle Stephen continued the Barrington family association with the Sugarloaf by doing the race. Stephen was fourth vet in the M40 category.
The Wicklow 400 committee, Bray Town Council, Kilmacanogue GAA club and of course Ron Barrington were a great help in putting together the infrastructure of the race and the committee of IMRA would like to thank them for their efforts. The Civil Defence and Order of Malta proved invaluable on the day and deserve much praise for their efforts both during and especially after the race. Overall, the race was hailed as a great success, and Town Clerk Christine Flood, Councillors David Grant and Caroline Burrell are looking forward to next year?s.