Irish Mountain
Running Association

Wicklow Way Trail


Rene Borg

Rene Borg

I wanted to take the opportunity to write my first IMRA race report in a long time. My racing with IMRA has been sporadic over the last few years due to injuries and other priorities, but every year the Wicklow Way Trail has come around, and I have missed it, it has been with pangs of regret.

It proved to be a very good decision to include this race into my build-up for the Copenhagen marathon and I felt the old buzz from 2008 still around Johnnie Foxes pub and more familiar faces than expected. In 2008 when I last ran this was just a small event with just under seventy entries and, of course, we ran only 22km.

The route change had concerned me when I first heard of it. I was worried it would take away from the intensity of the racing that was possible in the old race and turn it into more of a war of attrition. I need not have feared: I came away feeling the race had exactly the same dynamics as the old one.
Perhaps it’s the long midway descent which allows you to fully bring a high intensity of racing twice where it would only be possible once in a race of this length with a more even distribution of punishment. Or it may be the more obvious fact that I ran much faster and therefore only spend seven minutes more on the race course.

The race began with very few people, that I could see, taking off way to wildly, once the excitement of the first 400 metres passed. A big lead group of perhaps 7 runners was all I could see in front of me and as expected Ian Conroy and Brian Furey led this pack. I did a bit of passing and was passed a few times in return during the first 2.5km to open mountain and was unaware of my real position until the end. Amidou came sat in directly behind me for a few hundred metres and then moved onwards swiftly after about a mile. He had looked in great shape the previous Sunday whilst scouting the route and I was extremely pleased to hear his tale after the race of his fast descent to third position coming into Glencullen, his third podium finish with IMRA.

By the time we reached fire-road towards Crone, places had shifted back and forth a little bit again, but only Greg Byrne had stayed ahead of me after passing me late in the “technical descent”. A little secret I don’t advocate to loudly with IMRA purists is that I have a certain fondness for fire-road. It requires its own skillset to make the most of: you need to be aerodynamic like a bullet in your running form, place your centre of gravity just right to let yourself be “pulled down” without losing control and you need to reduce friction with the ground to a minimum. Do it right and you gain a few extra seconds for every 100m as you would when doing a perfect stride. I’d practiced this almost weekly on the Glenmacnass Road and it paid rich dividends in this race as I gained ground on anyone I could see in front each time we hit a descent like this.

Adrian Hennessey, Greg and I were neck on neck practically from Crone as I closed the gap on them here and once we had climbed Glencree I ran aggressively to pass out Adrian and reconnect with Greg who did most of the leading at this point. We worked together for most of the Curtlestown climb, as painful as ever, and I stuck my nose into 6th spot briefly before Greg showed who had most in the tank. Getting over the top took a lot of mental effort as all muscles felt dead and pure momentum dragged me off the mountain fast enough to keep a good 40-50 second cushion on Adrian which also thankfully saved me a sprint finish to secure my 7th spot. This race likes me clearly and I like it in return.

We never saw 4th and 5th in the later stages of the race but I heard about their dramatic sprint shoot-out to the finish where 5th seemed to lose out because he misread where the finish line was. Tough luck and a story which reminded me of Jason Kehoe’s sprint finish back in 2008 where a finishing photo was also practically needed.

Congratulations also to my “Wicklow Way Relay team mate” from 2011, Ian Conroy, who eventually broke a gap on Brian Furey midway in the race but never one big enough for comfort. Seeing two runners getting into the mid-1:40ies is great for the race and hopefully we will soon be talking about breaking the 1:40 barrier.