Running Writing Competition
|Jason Dowling||Apr 19 2020, 4:56pm||Running Writing Competition – Results!|
Laura Flynn, Angela Flynn and I had the difficult but also lovely job of reviewing the entries for this competition. During these restrictive times that are keeping many of us off the mountains (unless you’re one of the exceptionally lucky ones to live near or on the side of a mountain still) it was a pleasure to read all the entries and be transported back to the mountains and the wonderful community that is IMRA.
And this sense of community and love of running on the mountains as part of that community came through very strongly in all the entries. Tales were told of hard days out, challenging races, lungs burning ascents and glorious descents. Woven through all these tales was the theme of support of each other, sense of fun and overall camaraderie experienced within our community.
However, much as we enjoyed reading through all the entries, we still had to decide as to the eventual winners.
We had 17 entries for the seniors and 4 entries for the juniors. Thank you so much to all of you for taking the time to gather your thoughts and send us your entries.
Without further ado, the first prize (€100 Great Outdoors Voucher) went to Brendan Lawlor. Brendan’s entry struck a deep chord with all of us. His poignant, funny and terribly relevant entry about the power of memories and fading memories was for us the clear winner of this competition, well done Brendan!
Second prize (€50 Great Outdoors Voucher) went to Lianne Van Dijk. Lianne’s account of her Galty Crossing Race experience in 2019 captured the challenges, mentally and physically, of that day out. We loved the recognition that determination and putting in the work is what gets us though many mountain running races. The punchline had us all laughing out loud while nodding our heads too;-). Well done Lianne for a great read!
We were clear about 1st and 2nd. But we got stuck on 3rd. And in the end, rather than elevate one, we decided to allocate 3rd place prizes to three entrants.
So, the third-place prizes (€25.00 Great Outdoors Voucher each) are going to Brian Kitson, Ruairi Long and Mikey Fry. We thought each entry was excellent with differing styles and focuses. But they all equally summed up the IMRA experiences in a way that we found to be compelling and worthy of a podium place. Well done to each of them!
Given my role on the committee I was delighted to see the level of entries from the Juniors. Each told of a unique experience in running on the hills from racing for Ireland or being first timers discovering the joys of hill running, to developing from a younger hill runner to one on the brink of adulthood. The juniors are the future of our community, it was a pleasure to read their stories and we really appreciated their effort in taking part.
But, as with the seniors, we needed to decide and select a winner of the €50 Great Outdoors Voucher. And that winner is Paulina Hanney. Aged 12, Paulina’s entry captured the fun, the shock and the enjoyment of experiencing a hill race for the first time. When the world rights itself and we get back on the hills, we are looking forward to having Paulina and all the juniors back on the mountains and taking part in the races again.
We had to pick winners, but all the entries were so enjoyable to read, and we hope, subject to the authors giving their permission, to post all the entries to the forum for your enjoyment too.
The winners’ prizes will be posted out to them in the coming week.
Thanks again to all that took part, until we meet next on the hills, stay well and stay safe.
|Brian Kitson||Apr 19 2020, 6:29pm||Congratulations to Brendan and Paulina and everyone who took part.|
It was a great initiative and hopefully we have another competition soon.
|Mary Murphy||Apr 19 2020, 9:23pm||Thanks to the committee for giving us the opportunity to reflect.Congratulations to all winners.|
|Brendan Lawlor||Apr 20 2020, 1:18pm||Thank you to the committee for organising this and to Laura, Angela and Miriam for judging the entries|
Looking forward to reading the various entries in due course and congratulations to everyone who submitted an entry.. you are all winners ! Hopefully Mikey resisted the temptation to put in any commas or full stops!
|Ruairí Long||Apr 20 2020, 2:30pm||Thanks everyone for organising this! |
It was a lot of fun to be a part of. Congrats to all who took part and I look forward to reading the entries.
|Miriam Maher||Apr 21 2020, 7:49pm||Writing Competition Entries!|
Starting with the winning entries from the seniors:
1st Place – Brendan Lawlor
I'd been excited about the inaugural Vir-2-al race ever since Alice and Emily stepped in to make sure the event went ahead, raising needed funds for St Josephs, who care for people with dementia, whose memories were fading..
Memory is a funny thing,
It changes through the ages,
Remember jacket, chip and bring
Your voucher, its outrageous
The race format was adopted to account for the mad crazy world we are all now living in….
Mick Kellet, him of grin and pipe
Bandana and tall tales,
Lost more than once but always found,
‘The map was wrong’ he then regales
I spotted that a few of the early starters had good runs earlier in the day, with Fergus O'Farrell pipping Eliud Kipchoge at the line .Fergus's pal Matt Damon was waiting with a big bag of cans and Matt, Fergus, Eliot and the pace runners were spotted skulling the cans near the Dalkey Quarry later that day..
Seamus Kilcullen , another card
White T-shirt and long beard,
‘The early start, what time is it ?
The Pint of Plain, must be revered’
I headed down to the start line, checking that I had everything with me
- Jacket, Mobile - check
- Garmin watch, chip - check
-sunglasses – check
-Checklist – check…Crikey the checklist gets longer every week..
Mike Gomm, at 80 going strong
He’d never miss the pub,
He’d win his prize, he’d have his beer
And sometimes have the grub
I looked around and none of my nemesis'es had shown up… I set off at a fierce pace and after a kilometer hadn't spotted any of the race markings, so slowed to make sure I hadn't got lost, and then remembered what I was doing, and took off again..
Brendan D, another gent,
Kind of word, generous of deed,
A quip, a word for everyone
And quick to help, for those in need
I checked my watch and saw I had 200m to go, and made a burst for the line, took my photos and headed home. I looked longingly into Kavanaghs pub and dreamed of the next pint I might have in there...
And lots of other legends gone,
But remembered one and all,
Memory is a funny thing,
But this strange time, we’ll all recall
Thank you IMRA for organising this most unusual and enjoyable event. It will live long in the memory.
2nd Place – Lianne Van Dijk
Galty Crossing 2019. The event description said something like ‘experienced mountain runners only’. Somehow I read it as ‘not for you’. In my head, open mountain running was for tall Irish men in short shorts, running through bogs as if their feet weren’t even touching the ground.
I, on the other hand, am a Dutch woman with short legs and long shorts. Rough terrain tends to slow me down. But ever since I’d started running in the Irish hills, I had grown more and more confident about exploring and navigating on my own.
So right before registration closed, I just signed up. A glorious summer day in the Galtee mountains… what could possibly go wrong?
The weather, that’s what could go wrong.
At the start line in Anglesborough, some runners looked like they just wanted to go to the pub and sit by the fire. Others were extremely cheerful. Wind, rain, cold, fog? Great day out!
During the first climb – a silent procession all the way up to Temple Hill – some decided to go back and call it a day. Others pushed through, despite being battered by gale force winds. I took my usual approach: getting myself just far enough into something that there is no turning back. And when you’re crossing the Galtees, there really is no easy way out.
It would take a book to describe all that happened that day, but what I remember most vividly are some of the people I encountered up there. The marshal who was waiting for us on top of Galtybeg, who smiled like there was no place he would rather be. The people I thought I was teaming up with, only to lose them in the fog in just a matter of seconds. The man who came running to me in the opposite direction, staring blankly at me and then just continuing on in the wrong direction. The runner who rescued me when I had sank down waist deep into a bog, who immediately took off again with a ‘you’ll be grand’.
When I reached the finish in Cahir, I knew I had made the right decision by signing up for this race. I knew mountain running was not about gender, height or background. It’s about determination. It’s about putting in the work. And most of all, it’s about bringing a half decent rain jacket.
Joint 3rd Place – Brian Kitson, Mikey Fry and Ruairi Long
A Story of Strong Words Softly Spoken.
By the time I staggered into Sheepbanks, miles from where I needed to be, the sun was low in the sky and I was utterly broken. I sat in a rickety camping chair at the side of the road like a defeated boxer slumped in his corner. My eyes were closed and I could hear the noises of people trying to help but they sounded miles away.
It was late July during the hot Summer of 2018 and I was 18 hours into an attempt to cover the 26 peaks that made up Wicklow Round. Ten weeks of sustained heat had left the country in drought; streams had dried-up, reservoirs had emptied and the springy turf covering the mountains had baked into a scorched sod that radiated a dead heat from below as the sun baked me from above.
I had nothing left but mountains to climb. Over the next six hours I’d have to find a way to climb the five peaks that lay between me and the finish. The next, Djouce, would be the toughest.
Someone spoke. I opened my eyes and the looked around at the epic crew of family and friends desperate to revive me and my running partner, Warren Swords. Warren is the faster runner and I’d hoped that I might get myself through the rest of this ordeal by tucking in behind him but soon gave up on that notion. He was in a worse state than me and was in the process of throwing up the last of what little he’d managed not to throw up already.
The voice belonged to Aidan Blake, an ultra-running warrior, and what he said changed everything. ‘Brian, you’re the strong one now’, he resolutely whispered, ‘you have to help him’.
His words landed like bombs that sent shockwaves of energy through my body. I stood up, hopelessness transformed into a responsibility and I began to climb. Warren followed a short distance behind. I’d often stop, plant my hands on my knees, exhausted, and Warren would do the same, maintaining the gap behind. We silently continued our grim procession until we eventually neared the top and I stopped once more. But this time Warren kept climbing. He gave me a pat on the back, no words needed, and led the way to the summit. With that, we both knew we wouldn’t falter now.
Well well well is it easier to write about running r just get out and run run run and we’re off up towards Brockagh mountain first race ever 2007 (thanks Mick Hanney)starting back nearly at the petrol station to make sure race record is good ...lads convinced me at a bbq to do it (unfortunately they don’t race anymore )and winding up toward forest through cross roads and up up up from there when I actually make it to the hard hilly bits I was so out of breathe I was wondering “why the back sit pjs was I doing this madness you eeeejet eventful making it to the top and coming back down again I fell deeply in love with this sport I felt amazing crossing the finish line completely knackered if there was a bed there I defo would have jumped in for a kip(also will powerly and I trained my hockey buddy up tick tock all the time I miss it now dude)... the chats after we’re so good just the amazing people that you’d meet every week was one of the reasons I came back most weeks:)...and so it went on week on week off first only doing summer leagues then progressing onto winter runs some longer ones and I just couldn’t stop it was amazing my training was all around races and running with friends now good friends myself Barry Murray John Bell Peter Bell have a WhatsApp group and we have loads of fun and banter about everything mostly running even when Barry left us for the dark side Munster ding dongs it still goes on...so many names to name so little time I’m afraid I’d love too mention all....so thanks again to Mick Hanney for questioning my beautiful English made me spark this redickulus rant I look forward to all your teachings old man ....so well done to everyone who runs writes prints cooks drives marks laptops marshmallows director’s helpers lifts rubs swims vouchers trophies........I bow down to the beautiful mountains and how they’ve been shaped and look forward to hitting them hard as they have taught me a lesson being smashed crashed whipped knocked but push on virus attacks I’ll never stop pushing up them mountains ....mikey grammar angel out:)
We tend to overcomplicate. It’s human nature. Happily, the concept of a foot race, up one or more hills, is not complex. Go run up that hill and then come back again. Do it fast if you want. Or slow. Yet we seem to love to overcomplicate the concept, worrying about things like the very specific and dubiously expensive gear we wear.
To me, when I think of IMRA, I think of a bunch of smart but relatively silly people getting bashed around on the side of a hill then coming back down to have a laugh and pretend they enjoyed every minute of the pain. It’s a beautifully natural and communal experience.
Powerscourt Ridge, in my opinion, perfectly encapsulates that spirit. And no better example of getting bashed around then the 2018 edition, where the classic winter weather forced the race to be turned at the shoulder of Djouce. I was climbing hard in second up Maulin, trying to see the red of Seamus Lynch’s Newcastle singlet. Coming down to the Wicklow way, Mark Stephens came past with a grin. To quote my race report, he balanced “admirable confidence” with “pure recklessness”. Not a bad way to do it, I mused, as I panted up to the stile.
Turning at what I called the “pitiful” summit marshal brings the race to the real memory. Pushing down the grassy slopes of Djouce, I was running past many runners heading towards the summit. On a descent like that, you are so caught up in the moment that you barely see the other runners. But they see you and they shout your name in support. You don’t recognise the person, but you recognise their efforts at supporting you. Getting another precious breath is deemed secondary to shouting for a breathless, bright red young man. There’s no back-stabbing or double crossing in hill running. It’s a pure community spirit with friendly but dead serious competition.
This is what we love, and this is what captures so many people for such long parts of their lives. It’s as simple as running up a hill but sharing the pain, joy and effort of getting up that hill with others is incomparable. You can go up any old hill on any given day and forget the details soon after. But on that day, with those people, in that weather, memories are made forever.
Junior winning entry – Paulina Hanney
My Favourite IMRA Memory – Ticknock Winter league 2020.
My name is Paulina Hanney and this is the story of my favourite IMRA memory.........
The day before the race I got a pair of shiny new mountain runners and I was looking forward to testing them out on the hills. Unfortunately, the race was postponed due to a weather warning so my new runners had to wait. Three weeks later the race is on and there is another weather warning but the race shall go on this time. We drive over and head to the start it seemed really calm at first but when we came around the corner to the start a huge gust of cold wind smacked me and my dad in the face and all of a sudden it was freezing cold, it was so cold that even a warm up sounded nice.
There were a few things I noticed during my warm up.1. The start is all up hill. 2. The trail was covered with ice. 3.It was freezing cold, so I had to steal my Dad’s gloves. Back to the race, there was only me and one other girl this time so right away I knew I was going to be in the top 3.YIPEE. All of a sudden 10 seconds to the race, 5 seconds to the race, 3….2…..1….GOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!
This time my dad was guiding me through the race and we got talking to the other girl that was running in the race too. Her name was Alannah. Me and Alannah ended up talking through the whole race and we both have the same interests and we both have mountain-running dads. We had to do two loops but it did not seem that long because we were chatting, having fun and looking at the amazing views. The best part was letting gravity do its thing for the downhill finish and seeing the finish marshal with pockets filled with chocolate bars. I knew I would come back for more hill running and chocolate it’s a great combination. I highly recommend it.
Paulina Hanney aged 12.
The remaining competition entries – Seniors first.
My favourite IMRA memory….
So many days to choose from
So many steps to count,
Of running through those hills
But here’s a brief account
It’s part of our fabric,
It drives us all insane,
But running up those mountains
Brings joy you can’t explain
It all starts the days before
Who’s going, where, how and more,
But secretly you’re focused
On winning that bloody draw
The races bring us all together
Out there, we’re all the same
We have to run those hills
Why we can’t explain
It started for me at Brockagh
On a wild and windy day
Rain blasted us off the summit
But I loved it in the strangest way
Its five years later now
With many races done
What’s my favourite memory
That day is yet to come
When this time has passed
And we can meet and run again,
That will be my favourite day
Please not long till then.
Thank you IMRA.
11 March 2007. Winter League Ballinastoe. My first IMRA race. Some of the memories are murky but some are vivid like it just happened this morning. I’d ran a couple of marathons and heard about IMRA from a fellow runner and I was curious to see what it was like.
Turned up at rainy Ballinastoe. Things were simpler back then. No online registration, no jacket.
We started with a steady climb. I had no clue what was in store. The climb felt hard and got harder.
A voice in my head was questioning my own sanity from very early on. This is mad. Then came a downhill and if felt like fun.
Before long we were out on the road above Lough Tay and, yes, that was the route, we hadn’t gone astray.
Feeling fecked, but persevering. FFS, another climb. Slogged it out for the next while, head down focusing on making some progress up the incline. Faster runners skip by with ease.
Tired, wet, but keeping it going. Finally, another downhill, the last of the day. Mustered some relative speed. Still, faster runners went by like I was standing still.
Crossed the line exhausted. But interest piqued enough to study the race calendar with a view to going again.
I look back at the names in the results. I’m glad to see I recognise a lot of them from many races over the years. Many are still running and helping at races. A couple are no longer with us, taken too soon.
I’m glad to see there were photos from that day. John Shiels, god bless him. Great to have those photo reminders on the IMRA site.
It doesn’t matter whether you are a good, bad or indifferent runner, young, middle-aged or ‘over the hill. IMRA will embrace you. For me, that is the core of what IMRA is about. It’s the friendliness and fraternity, the friendly rivalries, the stories, the banter and the volunteer spirit. Time has moved on and but the core of IMRA remains.
I could have written about many IMRA races, fact or fiction. But my first race has had a lifelong impact that still resonances today. And after this Covid shenanigans we’ll be back to grace the hills again.
Robert Frost once wrote
“I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less travelled by,
And that has made all the difference”
Recce undertaken within seven days we set off by bus from Millstreet. A bright morning full of nervous anticipation as we assembled for the get-go. Himself, had agreed to stay with me on these adventures as navigational sense was not my strength. We set off slowly up that narrow lane; no need to rush as the stile at the top would see the leading group slow down. Onto the fields before many ditches, the narrow bridge, followed by a fire road and heathy glen. Looking down in awe over the greater Duhallow. A steep ascension before heading to the beautiful Claragh. Again fields where cattle have spent time evidenced by the soft underfoot. Onto the beautiful wooded Claragh and the road back to Millstreet.
This was my first IMRA event. At 53, a small number of enthused fanatics and dear club mates had muted the call of the mountains. My heart leaped forward in flight not listening to brain or body! Sure I can do this, I was born to this. In childhood, similar hills were part of my existence being born into a farming family in rural Ireland. The numbers were not pretty- let’s say I was in the top three at the other end!! Who cares? I certainly don’t.
Because of that call to the mountain and my leap of faith dismissing doubt due to age or ability I went on to seeing the Knockmealdowns and competing in the World Masters in Italy. Again last woman home over 50. But I got to visit Italy for the first time and spend memorable days with the same fanatics who are now wonderful friends!
I took the road less travelled and what a wonderful path it lead to….
Defeat from the Jaws of Victory
“Out there running just to be on the run”
John Prine passed away last week and while he might not be known as a mountain runner, one of his memorable lines sums up the freedom of the mountains. While I don't have a criminal record, I have been chased down in many an IMRA race. My most memorable one is also one of my most painful: physically untouched but mentally scarred.
It wasn't a big championship race. It was on familiar turf. Ticknock, the closest part of the Dublin Mountains too many of us. I’ve ran up there hundreds of times. Even seven years later I feel it in my stomach when I think of that moment.
Picture the scene: a nice warm summers evening. Everyone in good form at registration. We contemplate the short enough route of 6km. Looking around I size up the opposition and thought “I have a chance.” Off we trot over towards the Bone Shaker. A good climb to thin out the crowd. I emerge in first place at the top by the masts, with some young guns in hot pursuit.
Upwards to the Fairy Castle, I'm getting confident about holding the lead. “Just don't fall on the Bone Shaker descent”. I fly down a bit recklessly. I hear heavy breathing and footsteps closing behind. I manage to hold off the UCD runner to the bottom.
“Great” I think. I’ve less than 800 meters to the car park finish. Or so I think. I emerge towards the mountain bike cabin. Surely less than 50 meters from the main barrier gate (and finish?). I'm smiling now “yes I have it in the bag!”
And then it's over. I hear a shout behind. I turn in horror to see a runner dart downhill through the gorse. “Damn, there was a turn. How did I not see it?” I perform a U turn and join the lower road. We finish with a loop of 200m on tarmac, to emerge at the gate from a different direction.
I soldier in deflated in 3rd place. I was so annoyed at myself. I could have blamed marshalls or tape, but the lesson I learned is: it's never over til it's over! That memory motivated me many times over the years since. I luckily have notched up a few wins. Never have I celebrated still I crossed that line. Neither should you: keep on running just to be on the run.
WE ALL REMEMBER OUR FIRST TIME
It's been a coming-of-age year in mountain running for me. Four months ago I was still an IMRA virgin. Of course I'd done plenty of parkruns, even marathons, but who hasn't at my age? I'd never done the real thing.
My overriding memory is of course my first time, that indescribable feeling, and knowing that my life would never be the same again. As with many of us, it happened during the holidays. Between Christmas and New year's to be exact. Everyone was feeling great, the juices were flowing. At these times we're easily influenced to experiment and do things we normally wouldn't. Peer pressure was definitely a factor. A lot of my friends, guys and girls, had been doing it for years. I was feeling left behind. The lads said "everyone's doing it, it won't even hurt." So that day, I went for it. The Remembrance Run in Djouce. I just closed my eyes and got caught up in the moment.
And the lads were wrong. It did hurt. Quite a lot actually. I couldn't get into a rhythm at all. But I loved it all the same, I'd never felt a rush like it. I finally knew what all the fuss was about, I finally felt alive! When it ended, I felt a mix of elation, relief and a tinge of disappointment that it was over. I finished a lot sooner than I thought I would. (proud of that in a weird way!) I was also nowhere near finishing first...
All I know is that since then it's all I've wanted to do. Of course I still love my parkruns - a bit of variety keeps the body guessing. But I need my mountain fix now. I think about IMRA all day long, going over previous performances in my head, agonising over where I could have improved, and re-living the best bits. I even have IMRA dreams most nights.
Unfortunately, just when I was getting good at it, a highly contagious virus has rendered me inactive for some time. I don't know exactly how it spreads, but the doctors say they've never seen anything like it before so I'm not allowed to run in the mountains. I'm practicing a lot on my own at home, but it's not the same. As soon as this infection is fully cleared, I really hope I can get my IMRA mojo back!
Not my favourite but my recent favourite IMRA memory is the remembered satisfaction of seeing the Ticknock winter league race safely completed. It’s one thing to decide to go onto the mountain for a solo run but quite the bigger decision to take up to 200 runners up a mountain covered in shallow rooted sitka spruce with big wind on the way.
I had wanted a short punchy course on paths slightly less travelled. On a recce run with Barry the route marker we used narrow MTB trail for 250m. I decided to cut a bypass path. The gorse and ankle turning brashings laughed at my efforts but not before I made 4 trips armed with a variety of gardening implements. I broke a shovel and a bushman before discovering the loppers and most evenings I would eventually lose the will to live after gaining about 30m of distance in my available hour of cutting and digging, in the dark with a headtorch. It was just astoundingly difficult. I could have built a kilometre of running trail in open forest in the time I failed to cut through 200m of gorse. I needed Napalm.
We are living in testing times now but at the time it did seem as if that race was simply cursed. The initial date suffered a weather postponement causing much angst and the second coming was within 2 hours of another wind warning cancellation. The laptop was acting up and stopped after the first 9 runners crossed the finish line mat. The next few minutes were class though.
The volunteers were brilliant and did a super job of recording finishers and making sure all the runners were home. Everyone was very calm and focussed, it was great to be a part of it and interestingly (to me anyway) every single volunteer was vital and knew it. It was so windy Orla hadn’t wanted anyone standing around getting cold without need and so we went with the bare minimum for a safe race, which in my opinion means I still get to stand and watch proceedings.
So to conclude, my actual favourite IMRA memory is descending off Lug like a God Of Dance And Speed (capitals) but volunteering for the races gives a pretty good sense of satisfaction and you get to see the workings of it all, which is interesting for the curious mind.
My Favourite IMRA Memory
Let me crank up the time machine and wind back to what was without doubt the most violent, bloodthirsty, depraved episode in IMRA history. The Boys versus Girls football match, Narin Beach, Saturday March 15th, 2003.
Like so many great things in IMRA, it was Joe Lalor's fault. The Donegal weekend was Joe's brainchild. I missed the first in 2002, but Paul Nolan dragged me along the second year. Alan Cox had a holiday home in Portnoo; everyone was staying over. There would be beers. I was sold.
Race day 1: Glengesh, Ardara. A fine loop, complete with man-eating bog. Food in Ardara, over to Portnoo, tent up in Coxy's garden (18 in the house itself!), everyone down to the beach. A ball procured, some coats down as goals, teams picked. Someone suggested guys on one team, girls on the other.
Seemed like a fine idea at the time. Except it wasn't. We guys got a lead, the girls just couldn't break down our stalwart defence, led by the heroic Pat Mason, he of the trademark fluorescent Sheffield United away jersey. So what did the girls do? They played dirty. Filthy dirty. Normal soccer rules were suspended, we could only kick the ball, they kicked pretty much anything – shins, ankles, worse... How the careers of several prominent hillrunners weren't ended that day is a miracle.
To add insult to injury, the girls won the game. Two young teenagers from Belfast were down for the race weekend and wanted to play. With the girls behind, the boyos agreed to join the girls' team. Turns out they weren't just talented runners (one went on to win several Paralympic gold medals), the feckers could play football too. Between their footballing ability and the women's savage brutality, we got our asses kicked, along with plenty of other bits of us.
The mayhem continued that night in the Narin Inn. The Chancers (local band), dancing, vast quantities of porter. A sesh to rival the Connaught Champs beach BBQs of later years.
Day 2: Errigal, uphill only. Torture. Came 3rd last. Could blame the fitness or the beer, prefer to say it was the football injuries.
Coxy kept a guest book at the house. Everyone had to sign or add artwork. The football match is commemorated by a young Niamh Lalor's depiction of Graham Porter being hit in the butt by a football.
My Favourite IMRA Memory
2010 Croagh Patrick Race is my favourite IMRA memory. The first round of the Irish Mountain Running Championships on the Saturday of May Bank holiday weekend from the foot of the hill in Murrisk beside Campbells pub.
Race start was at 2pm if I recall correctly. I had a last minute hitch that morning in Dublin. Someone called around last minute to look at my old car which i was trying to sell. Car sold I chased across Ireland on the Sligo road to make the start line. Luckily I didn't meet any checkpoints or speed camera.
I made the race start just about – with very little warm-up and thanks to Dermot Murphy RD as well – warm-up was mainly the stress of trying to make the race start.
Sun splitting the stones day and we were away up the hill. Peter O'Farrell, Jason Reid, Bernard, Jason Keogh, Tom Blackburn and a few others.
The previous time I'd done this race in 2008 - I had ended up getting a bad injury on the descent which cost me most of a year to get back from. That and the fact I'm from close enough by in Tuam – I sometimes did an easy run on the course when down home which meant it always felt like a special race.
Course is short and sharp – 6 to 7k with a steep climb and hair-raising descent. I always enjoyed that rocky descent though – has a great flow to it. I just remember going out with the group steady then taking off about half way up. I reached the top in first pace – chased by Peter O'Farrell and the 2 Jasons.
I kept the pressure on for the descent and won it followed by Jason Reid and Peter.
Jason Keogh had a bad fall, I learned later - with Peter and Bernard going back up to help him down. Its a tough mountain – and the new course is more forgiving - has a boggy grassy finish.
I missed the prize giving too! Not to matter – I was happy – Id won the local one and fulfilled a dream.
Although not strictly a ‘race’, the Ballyhoura Moonlight Half Marathon Challenge is my stand-out IMRA memory.
During November 2019, I was forced to take some time off work as I struggled with mental health issues, including anxiety, depression and insomnia. With the help of therapy and medication, I tried to get myself back on track but my motivation was at an all-time low; many days, I struggled to get off the couch!
I had signed up for the Ballyhoura Half but was now having serious doubts due to a major lack of training and the ongoing struggle to adjust to the new medication.
As some friends were going to the event, I decided ‘Just go and see what happens’…worst case scenario; I might have some fun! And what a night it was! Everybody was in flying form, catching up after the winter hiatus, and spirits were high. At 10pm, we set off from Ballyorgan, into the blustery but dry night. The long climb up Seefin soon quietened the chattering runners as everyone, myself included, struggled to catch their breath.
After Seefin, we had a long, technical descent on rough terrain, made all the more fun by the battering wind and mist circling the summit.
With the toughest climb behind me, I settled in and started to enjoy myself; although I spent most of the run by myself, I couldn’t help but smile and feel somewhat child-like, running through the woods at night, guided only by a single light.
My lack of fitness reared its head as the miles wore on, but I was picked up by the friendly smiles of the volunteers along the way (cheers for the jellies, Kev!). With my legs screaming all the way down into Kilfinane, I couldn’t help but feel proud; proud that I had made the start line, proud that I was almost at the finish, and proud that neither my mind nor body had given up in between.
I’m sure I’m not alone in saying that IMRA and its runners, has been, and will continue to be, a huge support to me, especially when dealing with the tough times.
Wicklow Way 22 km and 44 km races 2006
It started of course with the great Maurice Mullins. Maurice and his friends in the Irish Ultrarunners Union had been running this race since 1997 and wanted to move on. For example, their Cork – Dublin race (!) was taking up a fair bit of their time and they wanted to focus on that and others. In 2003 Maurice asked Lindy Naughton and myself to take the race over and between then and 2006 the race was run by Crusaders in association with IMRA. IMRA took over formally in 2007 and of course it has only gone from strength to strength since. The route was from Lough Tay (just a little west of the current Wicklow Way Relay Leg 2/3 handover) to Johnny Fox’s pub. It was some 22 km or 44 km out and back. The 2006 version provided what we thought was a huge entry into the 44 km race. There were 12 entrants (up from 4, 6, 4, 5, 9 and 7 in 99, 00, 01, 03, 04 and 05 respectively). According to Bruce Shenker’s race notes Eoin Keith (some things never change) was struggling a bit towards the end of the 44 km race due to his efforts in a 100 km race the week before and that Paul Mahon (things definitely don’t change) would have caught him if there were a few more km left. Back in 3rd place was the then 48 hours world record holder Tony Mangan. If I remember correctly Tony headed off soon afterwards to do a lap of the world pushing a pram (I stand to be corrected). First woman was Aisling Coppinger despite some navigational errors. In the 22 km race John Farrrelly and Sean O’Heigeartaigh of Rathfarnham provided the first 2 finishers with Emma Sokell finishing first woman. The course records (again I stand to be corrected here) are held by Emma and Barry Minnock for the 22 km in 1:54:00 and 1:32:20 respectively and Mary Jennings and Eoin Keith in 4:04:34 and 3:21:20 for the 44 km. Maurice’s philosophy was that the race be a bit of fun and that all proceeds should go to charity. The proceeds went to a charity called Stride Ethiopia, which provided athletic gear to poor Ethiopians, and each finisher received a mug (a tradition which continues) made by a group of Paralympians from Skerries near Maurice’s home.
A Tale of Two Centuries.
On the 6th of January 1592, in the middle: of Winter, of the night, of nowhere... escaping from Dublin Castle: Art O Neill and his buddies (Henry O Neill and Red Hugh O Donnell) faced a challenge that would result in death for at least one of the escapees! Cheerful stuff, so far...
Fast forward to midnight on the 17th of January 2020, and in its fourteenth year, the commemorative Art O Neill (AON) Challenge now organised as a fundraiser for the Dublin & Wicklow Mountain Rescue Team (DWMRT) departed the same cobble-pavement of Dublin Castle through the streets (of a very changed) Dublin City and deep into the wilds of the Dublin and Wicklow Mountains. But, not before a registration process and mandatory gear check, manned by some familiar Irish Mountain Runners Association (IMRA) faces that would put Dublin Airport security checks to shame.
With high demand for the 200 entry places, the lucky (or unlucky depending on your opinion) like-minded souls with questionable sanity escaped, retracing the steps of Art! This is the experiences of one (in a team of four)...
A bitterly cold but clear Saturday morning; night into day, 53K run, jog, walk, skate, slide & crawl started with a charge out of the Castle gates and onto the relative quiet of Dublin's icy streets (except for a few staggering 'pub-goners') . A 30k run headed South-West (although I didn't use a compass at this point, just followed the crowd!) through Harold's Cross, Tallaght, Bohernabreena and Stone Cross (CP0), a safety checkpoint, to Check Point 1 (CP1) at Ballynultagh Woods passed by pleasantly but uneventfully except for almost getting run down by a passing boy-racer in his pimped up Mini Cooper. No fear of that in c.1500!! And a ice skating moment that would make Bambi blush. Warmly greeted at ETA 03:30 by the bright-eyed DWMRT volunteers offered hot soup, stew, tea, coffee & sweet treats alongside a warming open-fire. This was the bag-collection point for safety kit for the upcoming mountain section. Thirty minutes went by in a dream before departing CP1 three kilos heavier (from additional kit, not food in the belly!) I could have easily bed-down here for the night. Frozen fiery fingers were quickly defrosted with disposable hand warmers (at €3, I'll be stocking up on these for future cold weather runs.
Into the darkness and only the partial-moon, stars (and head torch) for light the real navigation started on the open hills 13k towards Billy Byrne's Gap and through the mountain valleys of Glenbride, crossing frozen gorse and icy rivers. The hills were alive, not with music, yet!, but with the light of head torches some following in the same direction, while others lost in the Black Abyss! Several trips, slips, falls and laughs later and thanks to Nav-Man, we hit the exact point of entry, like a Irish Rangers rifle, into the forest and onto Oakwood Hostel (CP2). It was en route to here that the sound of pipe music questioned my sanity. Was I dreaming? Or even hallucinating? After all it was 06:30 and tiredness and fatigue was starting to kick in. But no, arriving at the hostel a bag-piper played by the open-fire while weary bodies refuelled on offerings of hot porridge, granola and drinks. They had a 'real' toilet here too, a nice change from exposing certain body parts to sub-zero temperatures. Definitely not good for the ego or confidence. A brief stoppage here and onward and upwards...
Climbing high above Oakwood the final 13k assault towards Glenmalure commenced. Forest road shortly ended with an endless ascent through wilderness towards Art's Cross. With air chill temperature dropping to -8oC wet-sodden feet functioned more as ice cubes. If only the investment had been made on Sealskinz waterproof socks! Not an option back in the day for Art who was possibly barefoot. Now decision time with an option to detour and walk low through the valley and across the ridge - the longer route. Or head straight up the side of the waterfall. Shorter but steeper. Team decision. The waterfall.
Any excitement of the impending finish was dashed as we ascended steeply through non-stop frozen gorse that left quads screaming and calves pounding. The mind questioned body and body questioned mind! Stop? Push on? Sleep? Scream? A brief stop to strap a pained knee. Nav-Man waved from the ridge top. We regrouped, refuelled on High 5 gel and electrolytes , revised our position and it was back to 'game-on'.
A bright morning sun illuminated the surrounding valleys, warmed the souls and lifted the mood. The worst was over. Past Three Lakes to the right, across semi-frozen bog (lucky as this was knee-deep on recce) and joining the Avonbeg River to guide homeward along Table Track. Fatigue lifted and a slog became a walk, then a jog and eventually a run to the finish. Ten hours and twenty minutes. We finished as a team. Challenge completed.
Congratulations. Handshakes and hugs were interrupted by the aroma of BBQ - somethings cook in', the Bisto kids, sausages; meat-free January over!!
Here is my attempt for my last race (Tory Hill)
Tory hill the last race, It really was a glory trill,
How did I manage to run up that hill, I felt like I was running from an unpaid bill.
The last race I run this year, I felt like I was running in the wrong gear.
I wish I was fitter, I looked like a tit, when I hit the gorse. But then I galloped to the summit like a horse.
I prayed after the summit that it didn't get any worse. I ran down the hill like I had played a verse. Thank God, I didn't plummet.
Hopefully we can run again after the unruly virus, meanwhile I'll run in the hills singing Millie Cyrus.
In the next race I'll come in like a wrecking ball, but hopefully I won't roll down the hill like a cannonball.
Finishing with the Under 18/Junior Entries
‘My favourite IMRA memory’
‘Sometimes it's the journey that teaches you a lot about your destination’ (Drake 27.10.2012).
You can’t help but feel immense pride when wearing your country’s colours in a race, you stand taller and hold your head higher. My favourite IMRA memory was competing in the U18 youth cup in Susa Italy 2019. It is my favourite memory because of the community and support I felt during the race. It’s hard to believe less than 9 months ago I was competing in one of the countries worst hit by the coronavirus pandemic.
The course overlooked the medieval town from heights that were breath taking. Although during the race I was more concerned about how technical the course was; uneven ground and sharp corners coming downhill, one wrong move and your hitting the trees or falling off course. Nevertheless I was going to give it my all not only for myself but for my team.
The race began under the ruins of the golden arch in Susa. We lined up united. A blistering pace was set from the start, with a downhill decent followed closely by a sharp turn through a narrow gate back up the road. From here the road continued to steepen as I climbed higher and higher before turning onto the narrow trail. It led around trees, over narrow ridges, into holes and deep ruts. One wrong move on this dirt-packed, hilly trail could result in disaster. The pace only continued accelerate. The effects from the burning sun were began to take hold, those who went out too fast inevitably began to pay the price for it. Those who sat back had waited to pass.
Coaches, families, team mates and friends were all cheering. ‘Aller aller’ echoed from the crowds. My legs were burning but as the finish came into sight the pain vanished. All that was left was to climb the cobbled steps of the castle to the finish. I was determined to give it my all, I swung my arms and forced my legs to move as fast as I could. The noise from the crowd propelled me as I made a burst to the finish. I may not have won, or even been close but my team mates and my couches flooded over to congratulate and acknowledge my own personal achievement. It wasn’t the result I wanted but the support behind me stopped me being disappointed. This memory motivates me every day to do my best, from training to school work.
My Favourite IMRA Memory
When asked to write about my favourite IMRA memory, I have 32 races to decide from. I could have chosen Trooperstown in 2016, my first ever IMRA race, aged thirteen. I could have chosen the Brockagh Burst race in January of this year, the first time I finished in the top ten. However, every boy dreams of beating his father in a race, and on the 19th June 2019 that dream came true for me.
On that Summer’s night, I proved that hard work and determination can pay off. A couple of weeks earlier, I had led my dad up Carrick only to lose the race on the descent. Luckily for me, Powerscourt uphill doesn’t involve any steep descents, so I believed that this could be my opportunity. There was a small amount of tension in the air as we warmed up, both of us believing that we could beat the other. We wished each other luck, taking our places on the start line.
I was a few paces ahead of my dad as we reached the foot of Djouce mountain. I looked back, something no runner should ever do, our eyes met. ‘I’ve got you’, I could hear his voice in my head. He was getting closer and closer with every stride and just as we approached the very steep ascent disaster nearly struck. I saw my dad run past me, looking incredibly comfortable. That’s when something clicked inside my brain, something that hadn’t happened when he passed me at Carrick. I was ready to run my heart out.
As everyone knows it is almost impossible to keep running the whole way up Djouce. What started off as a decent and consistent pace turned into a bit of scurrying and eventually into a hike. I could hear my dad’s friend beside me, encouraging me to keep going. (I think he was more enthusiastic about me winning than I was). I took his advice and made one final dash to the finish, just about beating my dad to the line. The feelings of success, joy and community I felt that evening are what I have chosen as my favourite IMRA memory. I look forward to experiencing the highs and lows of mountain running once we return to normality, none more so than the thrilling races and friendly rivalries between myself, my father and other IMRA runners.
My favourite IMRA experience has to be the Devil’s glen hill run last summer. The devil’s glen hill run was my first mountain running course and I loved it. The weather that day was fantastic. I even remember the drive down there was so peaceful. When we got to the race we met all the other runners. I remember thinking how friendly they were. This helped me to relax before the race as I was very nervous. Everyone else was so calm I think it reminded me that it wasn’t serious. It was just a hill run, not a race.
Before that race, I had never thought of hill running as something that I would want to do. I just thought of it as something my parents did but when I ran it, I was so relaxed by the tranquil atmosphere of the forest. It was a feeling I had never felt before. The run started off on flat ground. I still enjoyed running but it was just like any other run I had done before that. However, when the course started uphill, It was magnificent. I remember running up the side this tremendously steep mountain surrounded by trees and fog, staring down the hill was mesmerising. It was like being in another part of the world on some enormous perilous cliff. I had never seen Irish nature like this. This gave me a feeling like I was on an adventure and I loved that.
When I was running up the hill., I was tired and my legs ached. The beautiful scenery kept me going but I was struggling. When I reached the top of the hill, I wanted to stop and take in the view. It was spectacular. The way the fog seemed to freeze in the air around the trees seemed to be soothing my aches. Then I kept going, and I was running down hill. It was so effortless and yet the thrill was incredible. The mist cooled the my warm skin and my legs were painless. Jumping over roots and stones and logs made me feel like a wild animal. That was a feeling that I will never forget.
I finished the 8 Km in about 52 minutes which I was happy with for my first run. The drive home, I felt fantastic and was so glad I came, I had discovered something I truly loved and will always remember.
And that's the lot ! Thanks again and well done to all the entrants.
|Dave Docherty||Apr 22 2020, 9:17am||A lovely mornings reading. Well done all.|
|Justin O'Keeffe||Apr 22 2020, 2:48pm||Wonderful writing, wow - thank you all for capturing in words would I certainly could not|
|Sarah Brady||Apr 22 2020, 5:25pm||Awe wow, well done everyone, these are all brilliant! Brian Kitson's almost made me teary – teamwork at its best. :)|
|David Power||Apr 23 2020, 7:35pm||What a fantastic collection of memories. Well done everyone for sharing. Some creative writing there, I loved the mix of poetry, dialogue and references to faces & characters that may of us know. It made me realise what a great community of people exist within IMRA. See ye all back on the mountains soon.|
|Ken Cowley||Apr 27 2020, 8:33pm||A wonderful collection of stories, poems and funny reminiscenses, well done to all the entrants! Well done also and to the organisers for keeping the IMRA show on the road as best they can in this strange world in which we find ourselves.|