Irish Mountain
Running Association





From the river, ran over forty runners up a stony forest path, as we started the 2008 running of Ballybraid. Soon settling into grouplets, this elevation didn't feel too bad, and might even have been called "comfortable". After a couple of kilometers a slight passage through trees led us through to the open sight of Mullacor, whose horizon lay somewhere, way, way, in the sky above. The brook here had the right idea, long ago capitulating to the peak and deciding it would forever runneth downhill. No such luck for us mortals, as the boggy route upwards put paid to any notion of running, and hands went upon knees which were used to fulcrum us steadily to the summit. Way ahead in the distance I thought I saw some manner of creature in singlet jumping from foothold to foothold as though this mountain was the flattest track, but I'm sure the lack of oxygen at this altitude was causing delusions as I slowly climbed upward. Towards the top, where the trees had given up any notion of residence, the view was an inspiration, the clouds staying kind enough to afford a scape of most of Wicklow. But this was but the first of many peaks to be conquered, and as I began my journey down to the Derrybawn ridge, I worried about twisting an ankle on the soft ground... until several runners past me in a flash, oblivious to any thought but making up time while sprinting downhill. As a newbie mountain runner, I figured there was safety in numbers and started to take huge strides, allowing gravity to replace concern, and soon had reached a pace where stopping was impossible. If there is a greater example of "opposites" than ascending and descending a mountain, I've yet to see it, and the run downhill became a series of quickfire decisions on where best to place your foot when it has a multiple g-force.

After this excitement lay the Derrybawn ridge, a series of peaks set high in remote Wicklow, far from civilization, electricity, as elemental today as its ever been, and yet never busier, with mountain runners traversing outwards and backwards, and several astonished groups of hikers who wondered in amazement who were this mad bunch of runners frantically negotiating the narrow paths. The ridge itself is a series of never-ending (well, four or so) peaks and troughs, which culminate in a spectacular view of one of the Glendalough lakes. At the turning point, it was hard to resist drinking in the view, and I'm sure there's plenty who did gladly sacrifice five seconds onto their overall time, for the glorious vista forever etched into memory. I'll see this view again, another day when I have time to linger, but for now it was mid point in the race- and every path led home.

Back over the ridge, which seemed to have evolved a couple more peaks since the outward journey, and across the springy heather to Cullentragh. This part of the run is another challenge, as paths first have to be found, and knees lifted high in order to negotiate the soft bushes. Finally there came a stile, from whence the stony track was welcomed by legs and feet eager to run for home. Any elevations now were bore in the knowledge that soon, soon, it had to be all downhill, and as the bend for home finally appeared, what a downhill! This was a chance to let go, to let every stride become longer, to spend all that capital banked on the tough uphills, to embrace the wonderful friend that is Gravity, to be pulled and accelerated towards the center of the Earth. This pace was closer to falling than running, and I wonder how many people considered hurdling the large tree trunk that lay across the path? No matter about climbing around it anyhow, for the descent began again in earnest- this made the slow climb of Mullacor worthwhile, and it really felt like payback. Legs hurting, lungs gasping, feet pounding, till finally a glimpse of traffic cones and ribbon led to the finish of this most up and down of races. Brilliantly organised, well-marshaled, and hugely enjoyable, this fantastic course surely defines the glory that is mountain running.

The forecasted showers over South Leinster did not materialise on the day of the return of the Ballybraid route to the IMRA calendar. A few weeks of unusually hot weather, meant even the boggy run over Mullacor had dried solid.

While few "purist" hill runners would scoff at wet underfooting and harsh conditions, the sunny Noon, that greeted the 43 strong field would be treated to unusually favourable underfooting and spectacular views where the spine-like ridge of Derrybawn must be traversed to the edge of Glendalough.

First time marshal, Conor Murray, could witness a terrific spectacle unfold from Cullentragh, his post at the midway point, guiding runners to Derrybawn, as Bernard Fortune fought through chest-infection to claw back at Peter O'Farrell's early lead.

Peter held on for a good victory in an impressive 62:04, less than 4 min short of Simon Fairmaner's daunting 58:27 record, with Bernard just 29 seconds behind for 2nd. Third man home was Yorkshireman Ian Rowbotham who had brought over 5 club mates from Harrogate Harriers and Athletics Club of Harrogate.

In this, he bested his 11th place of 2005 when he had likewise brought over 5 club mates, one of whom, Chris Miller, went on to win the race. This time "marital commitments" allegedly kept him from defending his win. We hope you enjoyed the day and will return for future instalment. Fitting to see a group of Yorkshiremen after the strong IMRA representation in last months Three-Peaks race.

Among the women, Aisling Coppinger broke Roisin McDonnell's 2003 record, followed by Caroline Reid in 2nd and Tressa McCambridge in 3rd.

An impressive Mick Hanney took the M40 honours as 5th man overall while Joe and Kathleen Aherne, both representing Munster, took M50 and F50 respectively, Joe as 6th overall. Best F40 was Eva Fairmaner, while M60 went to Brendan Doherty and M70 to Charlie O'Connell.

Battle of the day was between Jason Kehoe who beat Kiwis Jason Reid and Gavin Lloyd in a 3-way sprint (having all lost time going to far off Derrybawn earlier in the race). Special mention also to US hill runnerr Kevin Trainer barging onto the Irish stage with a 4th placed finish. This truly was an international day for IMRA and a good start to the Irish Championship 08, hopefully we'll see equally solid numbers for the upcoming races.

Thanks to all the volunteers for making my first outing as a race director only slightly stressful: first time first-aider Sharlene, first-time marshal Conor, and first-time laptop operator Brian Furey.

Now for a runners report, please ... :-)

TEAMS (Unofficial)

1. Harrogate Harriers 29 (Ian Rowbotham 3, Simon Baker 11, David Askew 15)
2. GEN 83 (Joe Lalor 24, Brendan Doherty 28, Mick Kellet 31)

1. Crusaders AC 18 (Eva Fairmaner 5, Niamh niCholmain 6, Rachel Walters 7)