Race Reports by Karol Cronin & Justin McKeever

Report by Karol Cronin

The Autumn Open Cross Country got under way yesterday in the Phoenix Park to kick start what is the traditional curtain raiser to cross country season.

Formally known as the Gerry Farnham Race, this 8k race also included the junior men 6k where they had one less lap to cover. The weather had been so good the last few weeks, I had to ask Emily should I wear spikes. She said to do so, any little advantage.

After listening to first half of the Ireland match on the car radio under the shadow of the Papal Cross, I had to now focus on the tough four laps ahead (hoping I’d hear good news after the race).


A strong Sportsworld team lined up with the other 170 odd people which was myself, Phil Kilgannon, Martin Keenan and two men new to this race Justin McKeever and Conor McCarthy.

The race started off at a fierce and crowded pace with the lead pack almost out of sight after the first bend. Turning the first corner it felt like you were queuing to get around. I settled into the first lap steady with the aim to pick it up. It’s a good lap in that you can break it down where there are two rolling hills followed by a short downhill stint through the forest and then another sharp hill along the back and then a long steady stretch back to the start where you can regain some strength and put the foot down until the hills.


It’s always an advantage when you’re chasing people down as the distance goes by quickly as your mind is on catching the person in front of you. Before I knew it I was nearing my final lap and began to stretch the legs a bit more focusing on the group ahead of me.

On the last stretch I managed to take four more people and pass the finish line strongly but in a lot of pain. Sonia O’Sullivan was there to present us with medals I think that were left over from her 5k memorial race over the summer. It was a nice surprise and brilliant to meet Ireland’s greatest athlete.


Slowing regaining my breath I remembered about the rugby game. I asked a spectator who replied we were hammered. Oh well!

A big thanks to all the support and encouragement we received throughout the race and well done to the rest of the lads who all had strong finishes. Overall winner was Brandon Hargreaves from DSD in a time of 25.36

Sportsworld results:

Karol Cronin 28.11
Phil Kilgannon 29.22
Justin McKeever 30.16
Conor McCarthy 30.46
Martin Keenan 32.48

Report by Justin McKeever

The autumn open cross country was formerly the Gerry Farnan race and is still known by that name. I did a quick google search to find out more about the man and the race and came across Phil Kilgannon’s excellent race report from 2013, which explains everything you need to know about the race and how best to run it (Click here: 2013 Race Report). The race attracts a high standard of senior runners and as it serves as a qualifying race for the international masters xc, all the top masters runners show up to try and qualify for the Irish team. The masters runners also get to wear their age category number on the back, just as an incentive – or a target for anyone behind!


The conditions were perfect, similar to the Dublin novice xc 2 weeks ago, but with less breeze, the going was firm-to-hard due to the dry spell, so short spikes were selected. I did a 2k warmup lap with Karol and Martin while the open 5k was on, then got in some good long strides to be ready for a fast start.

On to the start line and met Phil Kilgannon and Conor McCarthy. Our race was to be 4 x 2k laps and Phil’s advice was to keep it steady for the first lap. While I knew this was indeed a sound approach, I was determined to run hard out and then settle into position. It’s like a blur when the gun goes off – it was like being in the middle of herd of wild animals, testosterone fuelled, elbows are out, jostling to squeeze into the smallest of spaces at the first left turn, trying not to give an inch, not to trip anyone – or be tripped.


The Sportsworld boys mixing it up on Sunday

Then it’s out onto the straight with the double dips and we can breathe again and focus on maintaining a good pace. Phil passes me now and shows his experience as he works on up steadily through the field. I can see the leaders already stretching off into the distance, with Karol settled in just behind and I’m surprised at how many 40’s, 45’s and 50’s runners have already pushed on ahead – these lads mean business! Anyway, nothing I can do about that now, but it’s a mental picture to motivate me for what’s needed if I want to be mixing it up with them next year.


With shouts of encouragement from Emily, Will and Ann, we tear down through the trees, hoping for good footing amongst the tree roots and hard ground as it was impossible to get a good line of sight with so many runners around. A slight drag, then hang right for a short sharp climb where Brenda was urging us to push on and pull back a place a place. The course flattens out and after a sharp left hand bend, there’s a good wide section leading over to the end of the lap where any thoughts of easing up were pushed away with Myles roaring encouragement. Back past the start and a glance at the watch shows just over 7mins and I’m thinking “how am I going to do another 3 of these!” The answer is that you stop thinking about laps and just keep pushing on, trying to close the gap on the runner ahead, then overtake and try not to let them come back at you or let anyone come past……easier said than done!

Anyway, after 3 laps somehow completed, I get to the bell for the last lap, wishing I was a junior as they only have to do 3 laps, but now its time to dig deep, look for any sign of weakness to pick off any runners that slow up at all. Pushing hard to go past runners at this stage is no guarantee of anything as some of them find reserves that get them right back on your shoulder if your move wasn’t strong enough. I know Conor is just seconds behind me and Martin isn’t far off, so fear keeps me pushing on to avoid them in a sprint finish, as I’ve seen Conor finish strongly in the Dublin novice 2 weeks ago and Martin outpaced me in the club 1500m last month. I get another series of roars from Myles as I hit the last 400 which pushes me to try and close the gap on a small group ahead, then the last bit of adrenaline kicks on to sprint to the line. Breathless and jelly-legged, we are funnelled up the finishing chute to be given our medals by the great Sonia O’Sullivan!!

What a great experience, and well done to the sportsworld lads for the strong running. Karol powered through the last lap to finish in 32nd, Phil ran a smart race, finishing in 52nd (10th M35). I finished in 81st (17th M40), with Conor in 91st and Martin 112th (8th M45)

Finally, a big thanks to Emily, Myles, Brenda, Will and Ann for all the support.

Next race……….Dublin marathon 🙂