Race report by Anthony Gillen

Photos by Joe Byrne, Naoise Waldron and Wes Harrison. For the full gallery: Click here

Full club results below

Lanzarote, the easternmost island of the Canary Islands of a volcanic origin, is a popular spot for Irish people with over 200,000 flying there last year.  For 48 members of Sportsworld Running Club the International Running Challenge in its 28 year was another reason to be there for the last week in November 2016.


But of course you don’t go to these places for just for the running… more on that later in the report!


Race reporter and birthday boy Anthony Gillen

The running challenge is comprised of four races taking place on four consecutive days, over various terrains and distances:

  • Race 1 – 10K Vince Regan Memorial Classic Road Run – 2 loops out from Club La Santa, starting with 1 3/4 loops of the track and then out on asphalt roads toward the villages of La Santa. The way back is on a dirt track where one needs to be attentive to the underfoot conditions, and then back for a lap of the track before completing a second loop.
  • Race 2 – 13K Ridge Run – an out and back circuit starting and finishing on the track. The run is on both dirt trails and asphalt roads around one of the big volcanoes near the village of La Santa.
  • Race 3 – 5K Beach Race – another two loop circuit this time in Puerto del Carmen (South of the island), where you run on some compact sand near the water’s edge (about 1k on each loop) but mostly on soft sand as you turn at either end and on the way back.
  • Race 4 – Tinajo 21K – starting near the beautiful Los Dolores church in Mancha Blanca. As loops seem to be flavour of the month, you start this race by doing a 5-mile loop around another two volcanos and then back down to Club La Santa on what is mostly downhill asphalt and dirt tracks, finishing with 300m of the track in the stadium.


So Saturday 26 November arrives and I depart my house at 3:45am to pick up Peter Knaggs in Dundrum and then onto pick up Noel Tobin who was then to guide us through Dublin city to the airport.  After picking up Noel and merrily on our way we had the last minute check… wallet, spectacles, watch, passport… one u-turn later Noel was meekly knocking on the door in the hope that he could retrieve above items from his kitchen.

No more distractions and we are on the Ryan Air 6:25am flight where I fall instantly asleep until it is time to land. So that was a pleasant flight. However, our taxi from the airport was an interesting experience.  How a driver can talk so much, never look where he is going, while using both hands to point out all the island features is beyond me.

So we arrived well informed at Club La Santa where unlimited WiFi would keep us all in touch while staying in pleasant white coloured modern apartments oozing neat contemporary living.  It is all about first impressions and I was instantly impressed with the facilities and the comprehensive list of free activities listed in the resort’s Weekly Programme.  They even provided free bikes!  Location couldn’t have been better – you just needed to fall out of bed to be at the start line for two of the races and better again, you could fall into your bed at the finish line. Luckily too, the food to fuel us in our exploits was very good.


Race 1: 10k Road Race

And so race day arrives and it is bright, sunny and very warm.  I bailed out on the warm-up after one lap of the track to save my energy.  Shortly thereafter we line up at the start and after some pleasantries the race is underway.  In all races you need a target or pace setter to help you along.  On this occasion it was Shona for me. We had a good 5k race in Marley a couple of weeks back so I felt why not stick to the same strategy.  However, after 1km Shona was doing battle with Noreen and I am beginning to wonder about the cons of going out too fast.  Both go on to have a great race to set the themselves up for the overall event team medal.


In the meantime, I encounter a steep ramp back onto the track at the end of the first loop knocks me flat causing me to spend the next 400 metres grabbing water to drink and pour over me in a vain attempt to get going again.  I managed to get around the second loop and finish so the dream of getting the Challenge medal was still intact.  We all head down to the cool waters of the lagoon to cool off and chill out a bit, one of many moments of joy to be shared over the next few days.

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Back to the apartment for the midday siesta.  Later into La Santa for a fine dinner then back for a glass of beer in the sports centre.

Race 2: 13k Ridge Run

Race day two and I am in fear of this ridge run which someone had pointed location out way off in the distance.  To wear a cap or not, to carry water or not, but a must is to wear sun cream as it was clear blue skies and in the mid-twenties.  For this race I had decided an easier starting pace was the way to go.  Off we go around the track and out towards the mountains.  I kept thinking about that “ridge” and its steep slope.  As we ascend the sun beats down on us.  Some take their shirts of in true Irish style but not me.  Many just walk up that ridge as I did.  About 1km after going over the top you take a left turn downwards and homewards.  The sun was now on my back but a lovely cooling breeze onto my face.

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I regain a sense of competiveness and chase Will, passing him as a cloud passes overhead further adding to the cooling sensation.  The thing that struck me most about this race was the number of Sportsworld helpers on the course feeding us with extra water and encouragement.  My hat off to those folks, most of all Joe Byrne as I saw him in the shop the day before buying small bottles of water to be given to us when most needed on the day. As so we descend with some beautiful scenery around us but with precious little time or will to look and enjoy it.  But the feeling is good as I roll in shortly after Wesley.


Back to the apartment for another midday siesta.  Later I had some lunch with the lads which was very nice and keenly priced which was a surprise in itself.   Later again and it is a Release and Unwind session where the MC had us all chill out and asleep after 30 mins.   On the way back to resort central I get to try the 50m pool.  The water is lovely and warm so with some encouragement from the triathletes in the club, a few lengths were done.  Bliss.  Dinner tonight was in El Lago and it was a great setting, lovely meal, a surprise birthday treat and a good chat with the folks around me.   Afterwards it was back to the sports bar for a night cap, this time a soft drink!  Actually one large beer.


Race 3: 5k Beach Race

Race day three and we are up early to catch a good seat on the bus to Puerto Del Carmen.  Another crazy driver leaves me dizzy by the time we get to the south side of the island.  However, one thing that is becoming a pattern here is that the staff just can’t do enough for you.  If there is no room on the bus, they put you on a taxi. Staff had to wait until visitors were sorted.  Nice touch but I prefer equal treatment.  Today I am feeling a bit more determined.  I figure the first lap is where it happens and thereafter on the outward stretch by the water.  Two loops.  Trust me it is hard to run on soft sand.   You need at least one loop of those loops to practice.  The course is churned up for the second loop so it is a tough one.  But that’s what we love.


Smart thinking and some of us take the early bus back to base, have lunch at El Lago (a gem overlooking the lagoon and the distant surf) and then what is becoming the norm – I go for my mid-afternoon siesta.  4pm comes around and a few of us are off on an introductory mountain bike ride for 1 ½ hours on the free high quality mountain bikes.  We took in a few hills and swung by the sea in what was a refreshing and motivational outing.  I started to realised when all things are considered this holiday is good value and now I have discovered a means of enjoying the gems that Lanzarote has to offer: sea, hills, rocks and wind in your hair.  Maybe this is what the other 200,000 folks discovered last year?

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On return another Release and Unwind session, swimming and some foot massages.  Heaven arrives in an ice cream cone to cap it off.  No sports bar tonight for me as I think I might give the last race a lash.

Race 4: 21k Half Marathon

Final race day.  I can’t remember how I got to the start line some 21k away but I presume it was via a bus as I didn’t walk it.  I recall some folks looking meekly into the lovely church.  I peeked as well but didn’t want to be disrespectful walking inside in running shorts and singlet.  It looked ornate so I contemplated doing a tour of the churches here sometime.


The race organisers has a van on site for a bag drop which was useful as last minute adjustments to amount of sun cream and what accessories to discard were made at the starting point.  My strategy was not to go out fast until first loop has been completed and that “hill” had been passed.  At the start line I was in 4th place in my age group category for the events to date.  There I spotted my third place target.


Shortly after the race started he was about 100m ahead of me dashing my hopes of leapfrogging him.  I stick to the race plan regardless.  This was an interesting race for me because at many points someone came along bounding with energy and a faster pace to help me keep a decent pace.  Shona and Noreen helped initially but after having a nice photo taken I seemed to move ahead.  Packie helped me for quite a bit, but disappeared after the 10km mark.


Once again the Sportsworld supporters are spread around the course with numerous bottles of water.  Thanks again guys.  I hope I can do likewise for you all at some point in the near future.  All your support helped me to enjoy this race and that kept me pushing on.  Unfortunately, the race was about 500m longer than your traditional 21km so I lost hope of breaking 1:30 as I ascended the last ramp into the complex.  Otherwise a good run and I enjoyed the post-race festival.  I felt great having completed my third ½ marathon.


Back to the apartment for the midday siesta.  A big night ahead.  Our seats were booked for the restaurant overlooking the theatre where the award ceremony would be help.  There I learned Emily has been coming here for best part of those 28 years that the challenge was held.  And so the night continues with the awards ceremony.  Like Cinderella, I headed back to the apartment at midnight.


The day after.  Well the old fellas went on a morning intermediate mountain bike riding guided tour which provided lots of fun: speed, being on the edge, the twists and turns –  today’s ride out had it all.


We arrived back in time for an early lunch.  It was a strange lunch or should I say strange lunch time.  For some reason folks just didn’t want to talk to us.  We noticed many heads were held in hands pondering at the table, a little stagger on getting up, rolling of the eyes all telling a story of a wild night before.  Some, were just arriving back from their night out.  I won’t say who.  What I gathered was that the area called the Volcano, which hosted such innocent ramblings such as relax and unwind, Pilates body balance; took on a more active hip hop or pulsing barre from midnight onwards.  Many from Sportsworld were allegedly there.  But from the stories that I heard you can assume a good time was had by those in attendance.  And so the La Santa 2016 Whatsapp group will remain a closed group.


A barbeque Thursday evening at Mama Africa finished the holiday festivities for me.  Friday was going home day.

Well done to all winners and competitors.  Most notable results were Sportsworld 1 ladies team (Shona, Noreen, Ruth) who were the overall winning female team.


Sportsworld 1 men’s team (Paul, Conor, Gareth) who came 3rd in the overall rankings.


On an individual level Siobhan O’Doherty won both the ladies 5k and the 21k races.


Many others won or were placed in the top three positions of their respective age groups for the various races and the overall challenge.  All in all, a good outing for the club.

Results can be found here:  Click Here

A sign of a good holiday is your keenness to come back to the same spot.  I feel this holiday delivered in spades.  Although the Challenge was the main focus, it was such a pleasant experience to be able to wander around and mingle, meet and chat with so many nice people while having access to great facilities and food in what turned out to be great weather.  Thanks Sportsworld.  Here’s to next year.

The Sportsworld Beer Mile Championship Results

Winners Conor Keating and Naoise Waldron! 

Sportsworld Results

Results  Female (Overall)

Place – Name – 10k Race – 13k race – 5k race – 21k Race – Total Time

5th – Noreen Brouder – 00:38:42 – 00:58:34 – 00:21:44 – 01:32:54 – 03:31:53 (Also 2nd in age category!)
6th – Shona Keane – 00:38:47 – 00:58:37 – 00:21:47 – 01:32:45 – 03:31:53 (Also 1st in age category!)
10th – Ruth Kelly – 00:40:05 01:00:56 00:22:09 01:34:06 03:37:15 (Also 2nd in age category!)
22nd – Patricia Fitzmaurice – 00:43:36 – 01:06:26 – 00:24:50 – 01:42:30 – 03:57:21
25th – Anna Delaney – 00:44:08 – 01:07:07 – 00:24:37 – 01:43:15 – 03:59:06
31st – Anne Dalton – 00:45:19 – 01:09:59 – 00:25:27 – 01:49:23 – 04:10:06

38th – Catherine Mulleady – 00:44:34 – 01:13:13 – 00:25:16 – 01:54:14 – 04:17:15
42nd – Margaret Crowley 00:44:59 – 01:13:13 – 00:27:07 – 01:54:15 – 04:19:32
48th – Aileen Melody 00:48:37 01:14:56 00:28:20 01:54:28 04:26:19 (Also 2nd in age category!)
53rd – Sandra Kelly – 00:49:39 – 01:17:53 00:28:24 01:59:44 04:35:39
67th – Phil Daly – 00:53:52 – 01:24:07 – 00:31:04 – 02:11:45 – 05:00:46
68th – Anna Carrigan – 00:54:14 – 01:24:14 – 00:31:41 – 02:11:17 – 05:01:25


Results  Womens Team Placements After 4 Races

1st Sportsworld 1 Noreen Brouder- Shona Keane – Ruth Kelly: 10:41:00
5th Sportsworld 2 Patricia Fitzmaurice – Anne Dalton – Catherine Mulleady: 12:24:41
7th Sportsworld 3 Aileen Melody – Sandra Kelly – Phil Daly: 14:02:42

Results  Male (Overall)

Place – Name – 10k Race – 13k race – 5k race – 21k Race – Total Time

9th – Conor McCarthy – 00:35:34 – 00:53:02 – 00:19:35 – 01:23:28 – 03:11:38 (Also 3rd in age category!)
12th – Gareth Murran – 00:35:25 – 00:53:17 – 00:19:12 – 01:26:30 – 03:14:23 (Also 2nd in age category!)
26th – Wesley Harrison – 00:37:25 – 01:00:29 – 00:20:45 – 01:25:30 – 03:24:07
28th – Michael Cunningham – 00:38:06 – 00:56:37 – 00:20:51 – 01:30:03 – 03:25:35
41st – Anthony Gillen – 00:40:00 – 01:00:33 – 00:21:03 – 01:30:56 – 03:32:31 (Also 3rd in age category!)

44th – William Greensmyth – 00:38:28 – 01:00:53 – 00:21:21 – 01:36:40 – 03:37:20
61st – Patrick Enright – 00:41:49 – 01:08:15 – 00:22:38 – 01:34:50 – 03:47:30
70th – Adrian Lanigan – 00:43:19 – 01:05:10 – 00:24:05 – 01:39:13 – 03:51:45
76th – John Dwyer – 00:43:25 – 01:05:46 – 00:23:19 – 01:40:57 – 03:53:26
79th – Peter Knaggs – 00:42:32 – 01:07:23 – 00:23:27 – 01:42:09 – 03:55:29

87th – Alan Hynes – 00:44:05 – 01:07:13 – 00:23:19 – 01:44:55 – 03:59:30
101st – Paul O’Connell – 00:38:34 – 01:21:14 – 00:20:09 – 01:49:48 04:09:45
102nd – Fergal Duffy – 00:45:50 – 01:11:13 – 00:24:26 – 01:49:03 – 04:10:30
111th – Eoin O’Brien – 00:46:55 – 01:15:41 – 00:25:32 – 01:49:48 – 04:17:55
113th – Nigel Elliott – 00:47:27 – 01:14:07 – 00:26:36 – 01:54:14 – 04:22:23
138th – Sean O Byrne – 00:52:18 – 01:20:03 – 00:28:12 – 02:11:23 – 04:51:55


Results Mens Team Placements After 4 Races

3rd Sportsworld 1 Paul Fleming – Conor McCarthy – Gareth Murran: 09:34:07
11th Sportsworld 2 Wesley Harrison – William Greensmyth – Paul O’Connell: 11:11:11
13th Sportsworld 3 Anthony Gillen – Patrick Enright – Eoin O’Brien: 11:37:55
14th Sportsworld 4 Adrian Lanigan – John Dwyer – Peter Knaggs: 11:40:39