Report By Will Greensmyth
The one and only time I did this race previously I basked in the reflective glory of first place and the beautiful Irish summer evening sunshine. This year was somewhat different. The standard of runner was higher so that a mulliker like me was never going to be amongst the prizes, the weather was horrendous and the course was unbelievably even hillier than two years ago. Even still, an enjoyable evening was had.
For the unknowing, Kilcommon is a small village in the middle of Tipperary, located on the road from Thurles to Newport. Us Limerickians know the stretch of road well, as it is often travelled on the way back from Munster hurling championship games in Semple Stadium, emotions often fluctuating between ecstasy and sheer unending bitterness, anger, agony, selfloathing, regret and…did I mention agony?
Kilcommon itself is nestled in the hills that form part of the Slieve Felim range, and the imposing Mother Mountain forms an impressive vista as you enter the village. Not so impressive when you’re running towards it. More on the course anon.
The race HQ was located in Sean Treacys GAA club. Sean Treacy of course was Ireland’s version of Gavrilo Princip. Together with Dan Breen, and a few others, Treacy and his colleagues fired the first shots of the War of Independence in Solohead, also in Tipp, in 1919. Treacy would be dead within a year, shot and killed on Talbot Street in Dublin, at the age of 25.
Although this race is as tough as an IMRA run, it is genuinely great fun. There’s a low key atmosphere and a sense of community that is great to see. The race is effectively the opening for the annual Kilcommon festival. Like many villages and towns in Ireland, these festivals show off the best of these places and highlight a side of our country that often gets overlooked. While I would like to think the highlight for the locals was seeing sodden malnourished athletes running their roads, I’d say the bigger draw was Declan Nerney.
The course itself is a grueller. After a lap of the impressive gravel track around the GAA pitch, it’s straight into a 2k climb up the hill to the village. At this stage, the race winner had already opened up a sizeable gap and there was a group of about six of us forlornly watching him glide off into the distance. A sharp right hand turn in the village and we were running out another road, and up another long hoor of a hill for another 2k. After 4k, the course diverted from my last experience and instead of hurtling downhill towards the main road, we turned in the opposite direction for another 2k of, yes you guessed it, hills up towards Mother Mountain. This whole area forms part of the Kilcommon Pilgrim Loop. Back in the pre-Christian times, these trails were walked by the locals as a journey of homage to the goddess Eilbhe. Tipperary people are, of course, far more enlightened nowadays.
The road at this stage, was less a road and more a boithrin, complete with grass down the middle of the way. A long way from the bouncy Tallaght track and the relay fun, boyo. It was eerie though, alone with one’s thoughts and the gazes of slightly perturbed cattle who were probably ruminating on the daftness of the human population. If cattle are prone to such deep thoughts.
We turned back thru the village and thankfully the last km was downhill back to the gaa club. I was trying valiantly to catch a couple of lads ahead of me but whatever ground I was making up on the flat sections they powered away from me on the hills. Finishing soaked to the skin and covered in mud and gutter, in 7th place and 38’50” – No garland for that, but a good slog and sure there’s worse ways to break up the drive from Dublin to Limerick City.