Report by Lucia Prihodova
The Wicklow Mountains Challenge, organized by Debra Ireland, has started in 2009 as a fundraiser for the charity with around 50 runners. As a part of the challenge, now up to 800 runners can either do half-marathon and 10k trail race. One of the taglines on the website states: “Unlike road races, participants will be running through the wild terrain of the Wicklow Mountains so it’s going to be more challenging. We promise you will have painful muscles by the end of it, but we can also promise amazing scenery along the way.” Wholeheartedly agreed.
I have been considering doing the race for the last two years, and each time missed out on the fast selling registration. Hence this year, I signed up as soon as the registration opened in early December. That means 15 weeks of going through stages of excitement and worries if I trained enough.
The race itself starts in Brockagh center in Laragh. The final route map shows 6 caution signs, warning the runners about dodgy sections, some of which need to be walked (relief!). The growing group of co-runners ranges from the seasoned minimalists in worn out runners through those with amo belt of energy gels and full hydration backpacks. Myself and Emmett, the only other Sportsworld co-runners have a chat about our training & desired time (apparently the rule of thumb is to add 20% to your usual half-marathon time in order to guesstimate of your trail results. No pressure so!) After a photo-op for the report, we get hauled up on the buses to bring us to the start line.
Sportsworlds Emmet & Lucia
At the start line, (in midst of all the nature) after blasted out ACDC song, we get last instructions, thanks from the charity & we’re off. The route starts gently enough on forest track. As the music fades, the smells of the forest kick in. The weather is perfect. Gentle breeze, slightly overcast. Just right. Although you are aware of runners near you, at times you feel like the only one running through the mountains. The terrain and the views are constantly changing, revealing itself a little more with each step. Crossing gates & roads and attempting to jog up the walkways takes a little longer than I expected at first but proves to be a welcome respite. We hit the bog, knee-deep at times and I thank myself for tying my shoes so tightly.
I wash some of the mud by running through the stream, rehydrate and refuel on jellies. Crossing the road, we are in on the steep rocky descent, at times more parkour than running. Loosening the legs again for the last 5k stretch, we tackle the steepest climb of the race. Most runners are walking at this point, but with Dave’s voice ‘lean into the hill’ I somehow manage to persuade myself to keep jogging up and up and still up. The path flattens and leads us along our last hill before turning into a stunning gradual downhill. Below us, you can already hear the cheers from finish line. I sprint for the finish line, my tired legs finally stretching full strides and next thing, it’s over. And in spite of the tiredness & much, I honestly don’t think I have ever enjoyed any other race as much! And yes, the tagline was correct. The guesstimation, almost as well.
Emmet Wardell: 76th place, 1:58:31
Lucia Prihodova: 225th place, 2:20:48