Report by Emmet Wardell
Having dabbled in the art/effort/grunt of mountain running sporadically in recent years and each and every time I promise myself I must do this more! You will see this noted in Barretstown Dublin Mountain Way Race Report here.
So I signed up to IMRA Howth Summer on June 20th and enjoyed it more than ever (despite getting lost and losing a load of places!), so I thought enough is enough, I need to start getting involved in this more regularly. With my birthday coming up, the timing was good too – I asked my very generous big sister to get me a pair of proper trail runners which she kindly did. I invested in these puppies – v cool I am sure you agree? Knowing that I would now have proper grip on the mountain trails, not to mention look like a complete boss, I was itching to find more mountain runs.
Thankfully IMRA has plenty on offer at this time of year! I took on Seefingan (8km, 500 metre gain) on July 18th. This involved 4 gruelling peaks but my god the views. How are places so beautiful located so close to Dublin and so few of us know about them?!
This was not my finest effort, there was a lot of walking. In my defence I had been feeling poorly (well had drank wayyyy too much on the weekend!) but enjoyed it nonetheless. Another IMRA race chalked up but the appetite for more remained!
Balinastoe (11km, 550 metre gain) was the following week and this was probably my favourite course. It had it all – gruelling gruelling uphills where even to keep walking can be tough.
There was also some real technical descents where each and every foot placement must be carefully chosen. We went through dense dark forests, over big ditches, through mud, over rocks, ducking under long hanging branches, over disused fences with each and every challenge coming thick and fast and unexpected giving you little time to think about how tired you are.
There is always a competitor on your tail forcing you to push push push, go go go! Next a trail through gorse that looked like it hacked open with a slash hook. Brambles scrape you. Blood tricking down the legs. Who cares – keep going!!
Then suddenly more uphills. Gruelling uphills! Stay on the toes, try to keep jogging. Swing the arms using all 4 levers as the IMRA veteran lectured you last week after the Seefingan run/walk debacle. MORE GRUELLING UPHILLS! God I can barely walk up this, legs so heavy after 8 plus km of all terrain and challenges. Hang to the guys in front, you can pick a few off on the downhills. Finally reach the final summit and you recognise where you are. It is literally all downhill from here – 2km of wreckless descending and I have managed to keep something in the tank. Let’s be ‘aving ya! Stay relaxed and let the arms swings.
With IMRA times are out the window and it is all about how you place. The long legs and greater abandon help me start to pick a few off. Past another! How can it possibly feel so exhilarating going from 42nd to 41st in a field of only a 100 odd? I am not sure but it does!!! Keep going, more downhill. Pick your own line, always faster! On no, lace undone! 1km to go. What to do? Can’t possibly stop – might drop back to 42nd! Try to think rationally/sensibly but heart rate so high – sure my feet are never close enough together that I could possibly trip. I am only running at about 3.30 per km pace down the side of a mountain trail. Perfectly safe!! Keep going!!
On I push, pick off a few more on the final bit of fire road and collapse over the finish line. Exhausted but beyond buzzing – 38th spot of 140 off – what a freakin’ champ!!! Safe to say I have never ever enjoyed running on the road as much as the adventure of the 68 minutes just passed (to be fair my first DCM probably does top it but everyone knows that that feeling is all but unbeatable).
Last night I did the final Leinster league summer race in Downshill (9.5km, 350 metre gain) County Wicklow (I initially thought it was entirely a downhill race when I saw it first!).
All in all, it wasn’t my favourite route but the race itself was epic. I was knackered starting off but sure aren’t you always before a race? It was a big field. People crammed in on some laneway. Off we go on a mad 150metre dash up the laneway and then a left turn. Bang! Straight up a gnarly gnarly climb. In and up we file! Check my watch 0.32km covered and heart is thumping and I can barely keep moving forwards, upwards. How on earth can I get through this? But you can. You always can and you always do!
I settled into a groove and just dug in. I spend the next 8km of ups and down keeping Phil (a new IMRA carpool buddy) and Paul (former Sportsworld member whose better half Lucy D’arcy is well known down the club) in my sights. Hang on to them if you can. Don’t go past as you will blow up. Hang on though and we can maybe have some fun at the end.
We reach the top of the last proper climb and it is on! Myself and Paul have exchanged places a few times at this point but he pulls away from me. He’s catching Phil, but so am I. I know that there is a small climb left that will hurt as people are so tired. I also know the race finishes with 500metres of sharply descending and challenging trail before 150 fire road downhill to the finish. Paul slows on the uphills. Phil too. I am past them both. But Phil sees me go past and comes alive again! He is hot on my tail. In an epic mind numbingly speedy dash to the finish line I hold him off. 57th place out of 158 competitors. I usually finish in around the top 10-15% of the road races I do. Here I barely make the top half but the buzz is far far greater. Garmin tells me my max speed was 28.kph coming down the last 500 metres. I am not sure I believe it. It felt more like 128!!!
Race reporter Emmet. Before he scratched his pins
Aside from the thrill of risking limb and bone, other brilliant things about IMRA are the sense of community, the comradery and the self-respect between runners. Additionally the association is completely not for profit and volunteer based with races costing as little as €5-7. There are carpooling initiatives in order to be environmentally conscious as well as help ease traffic. They give you one race number which you keep for the year/life. Again environmentally considerate. On top of the carefree fun of running in the mountains, there are just a few of the other things that make IMRA feel a great thing to be a part of and one from which many organisations can learn.
Eoin asked me to do a report to try and promote the joys of mountain running (Michael had been pestering too!). Crikey I thought! But actually once I started it all came back to me and on I typed (in case you didn’t notice). I hope the above gives a sense of what a different challenge and of how much fun the mountain running can be. I would strongly encourage everyone to give it a good try – if you like a challenge and love the outdoors, you’d be mad to not give IMRA a go: www.imra.ie/events/
13th Eoin Keith 0:44:50
58th Emmet Wardell 0:52:18
63rd Paul Mitchell 0:52:36
109th Lucy DARCY 0:59:37
124th Gerard Keating 1:03:52