Early on Saturday November 26th the Sportsworld teams set off for 7 days of activity in Lanzarote. The annual trip to Lanzarote for the four day International race challenge was finally here. There was no time to ease into our week at Club La Santa this year as races started the following morning. Most of the Sportsworld contingent arrived en masse on Saturday evening. Packie even flew in from Cork sporting a stylish November moustache.

Your first night in a strange room is always difficult but when the alarm went off at 6.30 AM on Sunday morning there was no mistaking that it was time for our first few laps around the track. It’s become standard practice for the lad’s room to do 2 miles of the track first thing in the morning before each race.  It’s a custom that was handed down by Ed a few years back and has since stuck. A quick easy run works to loosen up the legs and get the body fired up.

On the morning of the first race we went to collect our numbers. Arriving back to the room I learned that Paul Duffy has been given race number 1. As if Paul needed more encouragement, being number one added even more to his determination to get one over on the Danes. The large Sparta club from Copenhagen have finished top dog in the race s for the past few years. The 2009 champion is now one of Denmark’s top international runners.

The first morning’s race is a 10K on a modest course. Two laps around Club La Santa starting and ending on the track. You run on asphalt roads toward the villages of La Santa and Caleta de Caballo. After what felt like a false start we were off and running. True to form Paul Duffy leads the runners out of the stadium. Paul managed to hold on for much of the first lap only being overtaken on the last lap. Paul would finish second.  Unfortunately Michael Cunningham took a tumble on one of a number of sharp bends and ended the race with cuts and bruises galore. Fair play to Michael for finishing the race, most runners would have headed for home.  Unfortunately for the men’s team Michael had picked up an injury and had to rule himself out of the final two races.

The second morning was the Ridge Run at 12.5K. Officially it’s 13K you run on both dirt trails and asphalt roads around one of the big volcanoes nearby Club La Santa. Again this race starts and ends in the stadium. The first 6K of the race is tough with allot of hilly off-road terrain to contend with.  Knowing that I ran too slow the previous day I set out a bit faster being careful not to blow up going up the steep hills.

For the remaining 6.5K the runners have to throw caution to the wind and hurtle down the mountain at break neck speed.  There is a knack to running downhill and whilst I don’t claim to have mastered it yet the ridge run provided some fantastic practice. A conversation with Paul O’Connell after the race helped me perfect the lean. I finished the race delighted with my time, getting near the finished line I saw Paul Duffy cheering the runner’s home.  Paul managed to hold off all of the Danes and take 1st spot in the Ridge Run, with a minute to spare on his nearest rival.  Proving that when the starters gun goes off, all bets are off and that if you do the training and want victory enough you can have it.  In the women’s race Rachael Morgan was pushing equally hard to lead the team home. Our second race left us in good standings with both the men’s and women’s teams in contention going into the notoriously difficult beach race on day 3.

The beach race is run on a 2 lap 5K course in Porta Del Carmen.  Running on sand is difficult but with the beach race you never know how hard and compacted the sand will be until you arrive in the morning. This year thankfully the sand was wetter and whilst conditions were challenging we got away lightly. The Danes always do well in the beach race and it’s not worth much in the overall standings so most runners will manage a strong attempt but stop short of 100%, saving some juice for the final day. Packie who has been out of running for a number of months made a welcome return to racing on the sand. There was some post run play in the sea and on the beach side gym.

The last race, over a half marathon distance, starts at Los Dolores Church in Mancha Blanca and takes you around the volcanic Montaña de Tinajo (1 loop) through Tinajo and back to Club La Santa on both asphalt and dirt tracks. You finish the race with 300M of the running track in the Stadium before receiving your International Running Challenge medal. Even for a runners like myself that hates long distance the course is enjoyable. Apart from one very challenging section around 8K and some hot conditions the course is good for running a fast time.  After the half marathon you can relax and revel in your achievement. The Coke Cola never tasted as good as it does after the half marathon.

The prize giving night was good fun with lots of prizes for Sportsworld athletes with both team finishing in the top there and individual prizes for Catriona, Rachael and Paul. Paul finished first in the competition overall, beating some former international marathon runners from Denmark and the Nederland’s.  The partying continued on in the Nightclub until the wee early hours of Thursday morning. The Thursday morning run proved especially difficult after a few drinks. The rest of the week was filled up with some great food, sun bathing, classes, fitness tests,  some cycling up Volcanoes, body boarding and allot of wellness and gym centre visits.

We will surely be back in Lanzarote next year to compare our fit test results and possibly take on the 4 day International running challenge. A fabulous time was had by all. This was a great bunch to go away with and an especially big thanks to Emily for organising everything and the supporters who cheered on our runners each day. This year there was strong competition from the other Irish teams, SRB, Tullamore and Crusaders. Our men’s team sent SBR and Tullamore packing whilst our women did the same with Crusaders.   See the full results below.   Hope I didn’t miss anyone.


Paul Duffy IRL 00:33:35 00:43:10 00:18:03 01:09:27 02:44:12

Paul O’Connell IRL 00:34:12 00:46:17 00:18:52 01:15:25 02:54:45

Gareth Murran IRL 00:35:22 00:46:31 00:19:07 01:16:21 02:57:19

Kevin Curran IRL 00:37:37 00:49:20 00:21:01 01:19:02 03:06:58

Will Greensmith IRL 00:41:44 00:58:29 00:21:26 01:33:51 03:35:29

Michael Cunningham 30-34 IRL 00:37:07 00:50:21

Michael O’Grady 40-44 IRL 01:08:12


Caitriona Higgins IRL 00:43:15 00:56:42 00:23:37 01:32:30 03:36:02

Eirn O’Connell IRL 00:47:11 01:02:39 00:26:53 01:38:10 03:54:52

Rachel Morgan IRL 00:41:42 00:53:26 00:22:13 01:26:57 03:24:16

Kathleen Horgan IRL 00:41:58 00:55:14 00:22:47 01:27:57 03:27:55

Ruth Kelly IRL 00:43:45 00:58:10 00:23:45 01:33:46 03:39:25

Natalia Sokolowska 30-34 POL 00:43:28 00:57:15 00:23:51 01:31:25 03:35:58

Aideen Downes 45-49 IRL 00:46:51 01:02:18 00:24:56 01:39:32 03:53:35

Aileen Melody 50-54 IRL 00:55:51

Amy Fitzgerald 30-34 IRL 00:59:57 01:20:20 00:29:40 02:16:29 05:06:25