Report by Michael ‘they ate all my chocoate’ Cunningham

Results not online yet but all you need to know is Karol Cronin won and the rest of us didn’t! Its the first time Karol ran a mountain race too. Results will be posted over the weekend when available.

Nearly 10 years ago I joined Sportsworld and after doing one or two cross country races I decided (or we decided) to do the national senior cross country in Belfast. In hind sight maybe someone should have sat me down, held my hand and said maybe this is not a good idea. For the second time in ten years I felt some one should have been honest with me and told me I am crazy. Instead I was lied to and told the IMRA race in Ballinastoe would be a nice fun run with food afterwards. The following report is factual although at times it may sound exaggerated.



The IMRA (Irish Mountain Running Association) is really well run and the online registration is easy to do and you can even buy a voucher so that if at the last minute you decide to do a race you can show up and your voucher can be stamped. Like Park Run a lot of it is volunteer based and after a number of races you are expected to volunteer at one of the races either time keeping, marshalling, car parking or foot massaging (just kidding).


Eileen Rowland Photo by

So Liam picked me up from Sportsworld and Eoin picked up Karol and Padraig and Eileen we discovered at the race registration. We did an easy warm up along the first hill which seemed harmless and fun before we headed back to the race start for our final instructions.


Race Winner Karol Cronin Photo by

It was a bit surreal being told at the start to look out for red and yellow strips of plastic to help guide the way. At this point something did tell me this was not a normal race and the importance the speaker was putting on looking out for the pieces of plastic was unusual, surely there is a path you just follow, ha ha ha.


Spot the yellow and red tape

So the race started and off we went on the first climb, oh yeah the race was started by a guy blowing a duck hooter, the path was like a normal mountain path and I expected it was going to be like this for the 11Km race, I was wrong.

We swung a left and headed up a narrow path ducking under fallen trees on a rough trail that had to be run single file. This continued on for around 2km and then the mayhem started. We then went cross country through forests and bogs, up and down small rises and dips followed by blind corners and fences to jump.


Bottom lip trembling coming out of the woods Photo by

Running through forests sounds nice but this was literally running through a forest, no path, and branches in your face and even though it was summer the dense forest made it seem like night time. And when I say bogs, I don’t mean damp patches in the middle of the path that you run around I mean knee deep muck where the path suddenly stops and your momentum from running downhill gives you no chance to put the brakes on.

It was at this point I had my Khan moment. If anyone is familiar with Star Trek (see clip) Captain Kirk swears revenge on Khan AKA Eoin O Brien for talking him into a similar race.


Cunningham left, O’Brien right

It was also at this point my nice cute runners turned into something I may have to burn.


The race was tough but the fact that you never knew what was around the next bend made you forget any tiredness and you couldn’t relax because you would end up on your face or hugging a tree or going for a swim.


Liam Lenahen Photo by

Finally we were back on the original path we started on and you knew you were only 1 or 2 km from home. There were no medals at the finish line or fireworks, everyone there had done similar or worse races before so you came to the wrong place if you are looking for sympathy. We learnt Karol on his first IMRA race finished first which considering the difficulty of the race and the constant change in direction was really impressive.


What was not impressive was the chocolate I brought for the end of the race disappearing. In Ireland when someone offers you something you want your supposed to say no thanks I’m fine.


We drove to Kavanagh’s pub and watched the end of the Wales/ Portugal match and for the prize giving and raffle. I know this sounds bad but I have just realized we never waited or found out if Padraig and Eileen finished and were safe before we left. I guess we were too traumatised and hungry.


So finally at 10.30 when we realised we weren’t even going to win a spot prize we all headed home and wondered if it was going to snow during the night so work would be cancelled and we could recover and begin to talk about what happen on July 6th Ballinastoe 12Km. Never forget.


Well done to Race winnner Karol Cronin, Liam Lenehan, Eileen Rowland, Padraig Moorhouse, Eoin O Brien, the brave and the few.


Don’t mind him, we got Michael some chocolate before the night was out