Report and Photos by Conor Kenny


Murder, Umbrellas and Olympians

“I will if you will”

When you’ve missed much running and racing through injury, it’s normal for the seeds of doubt to set in. Of course, the murderous tales Johnny Dwyer was about to tell us trumped all of that. More later.

The Lakes 10K around the shores of Blessington has always been a calendar race for many Sportsworld athletes. Today was no exception. “I will if you will” gathered pace and car-pooling arrangements were made.

Blessington

Also known locally as the Blessington Lake, the reservoir was created when the waterfall at Poulaphouca on the River Liffey (which flows from the Wicklow Mountains to Dublin) was dammed by the ESB for a hydroelectric plant which is still in use today. The valley was flooded and the resulting lakes extend over approximately 5,000 acres. A small village was submerged by the damming of the waterfall, and the remains of roads can still be seen leading down into the lake.

In addition to electricity, the lakes also provide water for the locality and the Dublin region as well as a leisure resource. The lake is also extensively used by boatmen and fishermen, and is a training location for the Irish Air Corps HQ divisions from Baldonnel.

Bad weather

The weather was not kind. We were reminded of the Warriors who braved the recent Frank Duffy and were thankful our 10 was kilometres rather than miles. It was grim but none of our number bailed out and cries of “There’s no such thing as bad weather, just weak men” were everywhere.

 

The view from Adrian Lanigan car at the Blessington Lakes 

Car park antics

There are 3 car parks. 2 flat, 1 on the slippy side of a big grassy hill. Conscious of sliding quickly to the bottom on such a wet mucky day, we asked the marshals if we could park in No.1 or No.2 flat gravel based car parks “No, they are the overflow. Please go on ahead to slippy, slidy, grassy hill as instructed”. We did. This was the first test of the day. Would my little front wheel drive car get us up the hill? Never fear, Farmer Browne had laid substantial amounts of hay to give grip. Our turn came as athletes began to watch this new automotive sport. To cheers from within our car, our turn. Up we went slipping, spinning and sliding and we were parked. The rain got worse but numbers had to be collected. Out, out, out we went.

“Oh My God, would you look at Missus and Miss Paris Hilton?” Have you ever, I mean ever, seen experienced athletes walking around in full race gear and walking, in singlets with …. an umbrella? Enter Ms Val Power and Ms Anne Sweeney. No getting wet here but we did confess to jealously admiring their joy de vivre.

Johnny Dwyer’s stories were still ringing in my ear.

Off we go

I laughed at the fella who, with just 10 metres run, cheerfully shouted out “Only 10K to go Lads”. We were off.

It is a beautiful race. Starting out in the middle of Blessington Bridge, (complete with its 7 concrete arches and built in 1935) the route is a lovely rural road pulling slightly uphill for 5K to Manor Kilbride. You could be anywhere in Ireland but you’re just 25K from O’Connell Street yet Manor Kilbride overflows with the history of Ireland, our struggles and of course, the massacres of 1798 were in the fields around us.

(In 1798 over 20 persons massacred nearby by the Ancient Britons and local yeomen. The rebel camp at Blackmore Hill near Blessington was abandoned after attack by Sir James Duff’s forces and a new camp formed at Clohogue).

At 5K there’s a natural turn right which acts as a clear ‘half way’ symbol. If you’ve competed here before, you know what’s coming. What we didn’t know was, at exactly the 6K mark, you begin a very tough climb of almost 1K but today, a fierce wind and even worse downpour added salt to an already pained body. However, this is where running club training shakes out the steel and grit. Everyone reported passing people on this terrible tempest of a hill.

At 7K the road gives up its battle to kill you and you can almost hear it say “Fair play, here’s your reward”. That reward is 1.5 miles downhill and any loss is quickly recovered. The bottom of the hill veers left and there’s a long but beautiful straight sheltered by the most beautiful elegant trees. “Keep going, that bend ahead is just 500 to go”. You round it and, in the distance, you see the narrow bridge and the welcoming gantry. You’re in, you’re home, it’s over …. Almost. I’m still thinking about Johnny Dwyer.

Olympians

Not many know it, but Sportsworld has its own real Olympians. Lots know Mick Dowling who represented Ireland twice. Less will know Emily’s long time training partner, Ailish Smith, who ran the Olympic marathon.

Full of Rio on our minds, we waited for Anne Sweeney to rock home. Anne is Mum to a future Olympian – Carla Sweeney and today was Anne’s first race in 18 months. No easy jaunt for her, straight in to 10K.

We realised that the commentator was perhaps not as au fait with athletics as some. It was an opportunity we couldn’t resist. You see, she became conscious of the many Sportsworld singlets and I could hear her asking anyone she could grab “Who are Sportsworld, where are they from, there’s loads of them”

Anne Sweeney was in sight, about 200 metres out. Carmel, who told us she was born with a gift to spot anything interesting at over 1,000 metres gave us the “She’s coming” warning. Turning to the commentator, we asked her if she wouldn’t mind giving a plug. “Can you give a special shout out to Anne Sweeney? She’s a former Olympian”. Well talk about lighting a fire, it went something like this;

“And now, and now (higher pitch) here comes Anne Sweeney, the well-known Irish Olympian who has represented her country on numerous occasions”. Anne, who was recently voted the most photogenic Sportsworld Member, trotted gracefully across the line and said (not remotely out of breath) “Who is the Olympian?” In chorus, we said “You”

The Long Walk

One of the nice things about The Lakes is the walk back to the start. It allows for chat, fun and sounding off. After the personal battles come the shared stories and support. It reminded me of a conversation Mick Dowling and I had, in the waterworks, about 15 years ago. He said “It’s only later in life, when you’ve been in the club for many years, you realise that it has given you so much more than running” In the end, friends and family are all that matter.

We took off to Avon Ri, got a great big table, superb food and even better chat. Today, people ran really great races on a tough day but that was never what this was about, it was about a road trip, a challenge, running hard against yourself, supporting one another and having fun. If that was the test, we scored 100%

Special Kudos Awards

  • The Understated Award – Johnny Dwyer for saying he ran “43” but actually ran 42:57
  • The Delightful Debut Award – Margaret Crowley for a blistering first ever 10K … with a nasty stitch too.
  • The Lazarus Comeback Award – Anne Sweeney for choosing a 10K to start her racing return.
  • The Keep Me Company Award – Aileen Melody for synchronising our finish so perfectly.
  • The Paris Hilton Umbrella Award – Val Power
  • The Make 10K look Easy Award – Adrian Lanigan en route to Berlin
  • The Best Lakes First Timer Award – Orla Greaves for running so well on her debut.
  • The 20/20 Visionary Award – Carmel Dolan for spotting Anne Sweeney & Val Power in a car from 1,262 metres away.
  • The ‘I Just Enjoy Running’ Award – Clare Finnegan for reminding us that time is always second to enjoying the journey.

Back to Johnny

Johnny Dwyer is a lovely guy who smiles forever and is always cheerful. If ever he gave up running, we’d miss him. On that note, if you notice Johnny absent for any length of time would you please go straight to your nearest Garda Station? We are worried;

You see, when I collected Johnny today along with Carmel, we remarked on what a lovely sylvan suburban house. Quiet, private and safe. Well, that’s what we thought until Johnny told us more. Not one, but two wives, on that road, decided they might possibly enjoy life more without their Dearly Beloved and, before long, they were all gathered in churches listening to “Dearly Beloved”. It seems that ‘twas murder they wrote. Yes indeed, 2 women put paid to 2 husbands and not even on the same day!

Now Johnny, next time you decide to tell us your version of Tales of the Unexpected, would you mind doing so ‘after’ the race?

The Results

Johnny Dwyer 42:57
Adrian Lanigan 43:10
Margaret Crowley 43:54
Aileen Melody 48:43
Conor Kenny 48:43
Val Power 51:04
Clare Finnegan 53:56
Carmel Dolan 54:14
Orla Greaves 57:43
Anne Sweeney 59:35