30 of Sportsworld’s finest headed for Lanzarote last week for the annual International Running Challenge. The club has been going on the same trip in late November for twenty plus years but this time we welcomed a few newcomers. Most of the group this year flew out on Friday, November 26th. The excitement in Dublin airport was palpable with the majority of us have not been outside Ireland in 18 months.

Club La Santa is a paradise for active people. Most sports are included in the price so that you can enjoy the facilities, group classes and entertainment for free. Everyone is welcome at Club La Santa, regardless of level or ambition. With so many activities on offer and great company, it is a unique experience that will never forget.
Arriving on Friday just as the sunset meant we had all day Saturday to get ready and prepare ourselves for a ferociously windy 10k. You might consider Terenure windy in the Winter but you ain’t seen nothing until you’ve completed 3 laps of the La Santa Lagoon.
The group is always a real mix of fitness levels, injury comebacks, supporters, and those hanging together with only sticky tape. Special thanks to full and part-time supporters Tom, Nickey, Loobs, Jim, Breeda, Aileen, Emma, Garrett, Katie, Nick, Adrian, Stephen, Alan, Anne, and of course coach Emily. With that list assembled, we were, without doubt, the best supported team each day.
There was to be no Sportsworld beer mile this year but there were a night runs added so overall there were 6 runs on offer, throughout the week. I don’t think anyone did all 6 but some did 5 for sure.
It all started with aerobics and the 5k breakfast run on Saturday morning, followed closely by the Saturday night run. On Saturday I decided to join rivals Crusaders to get the low down for the races and Wednesday night Disco groundwork.
Sunday saw the first of the main races, the 10k Vince Regan Memorial. This was followed on consecutive days by the 13K Ridge, 5K Beach, and 21K Trail Run. The races have prizes for the top 3 individual, top in your age category, and top 3 teams as awards. In years past you took home a piece of Volcano rock but now the awards are plastic. Is that good for the environment or not? I’m a left bit confused.

This was my 10th year running. There are a few newcomers each year and some people come infrequently but you get to know your club mates, the regulars and the competition.
I’ve been training well over the Autumn so I decided to go out hard this year. I went out in 3rd place on the first lap of three and started to hurt after only 4K. It was windy (45km/pH). Emily was giving sound advice to give up but I plowed through. We lost a couple of good runners that day through injury and resignation. Special mention to Anne who has been running so well but had to hang up her fast shoes for the week.
Things remained interesting though as female favorite Kasper was beaten by a young buck dressed up as Avril Lavigne. Kate the great Kelly put her favorite running singlet back on and ran a blistering 10K, describing it as grand afterward. No complaining about the horrid wind from the hardy Roscommon crowd.

Monday saw us take on the 13k ridge run. This is rarely my finest hour but today was my worst effort in quite a few years. Disappointed with how I felt I dusted myself off and watched the teams come in. This was followed by a very satisfying dip in the lagoon. Kudos to Kate who really won the challenge by putting in an incredible run up and down the ridge. Would need to confirm but I’d put money on it being the female record.
Tuesday should have been better than Monday but the alarming number of grumpy looking hungover (I include myself here) Sportsworlders on the 8.30 AM bus to the racecourse was very apparent. Some whiff of booze out on the course, especially from some tall fella in a red and white singlet. I ran this one in a steady effort to save my legs for day 4 and avoid any puking incidents. Charming!
The 21k is the last race and my favorite. If you’re silly enough to go boozing before this one then you asking for trouble. The bus drops you out in a small town and your only way home is to run. For many, this is the most difficult run because they may not have the miles in their legs, so extra kudos to those who ran despite being apprehensive.
I received the best pep talk in recent memory from Elaine Kennedy in Tinajo, she might have a calling as a sports psychology or maybe I was just too afraid to run back home with another frown.
By the time we started the wind had died down and it was getting warm. I ran this one fast for the first 5k and questioned if I was going backward. Luckily the course flattened out a bit and I started to work into it. I knew the course would be short but didn’t know exactly by how much. By 10KM I was running well and started to feel like I had this. I had a young lad from Tullamore to keep me company but the chats stopped pretty quickly.
This course is beautiful, running along the coast and quite literally through collapsed volcanoes. Some drinks at 13k from the most incredible support crew ever really helped me push for broke in the last 4k. Once I saw a few guys struggling up ahead the taste for blood was there and it was a very enjoyable, albeit all-out effort finale. After crossing the finish line, the satisfaction of lying flat out on the ground looking up at the blue sky was immense.
Managing to finish the final race in 5th position and 6th overall for the series I was satisfied. My only major disappointment was up on the ridge. Coach Kennedy maybe could have given her advice a bit earlier in the week. Still, 49K of running in 4 days is an achievement not to be sniffed at.

I’m now working on getting rid of a couple of niggles before the cross country picks up again in January whilst focusing on getting my sessions in. People pushed themselves hard, given the number of visits to Gunther the on-site physio over the week.
As first Sportsworlder home, I had the pleasure of watching Kate race herself so hard to the line, Kevin run with such good form, MC running better than he has in years, and newer runners like Tim, Gemma, and Emmet finish all 4 races looking super strong.
3 easy days of easy running finished out the running challenge for 2021. It was all kinds of great, especially given the stressful last 18 months for everyone. Kate Kelly was sublime, the star of the show winning the women’s award outright and leading the women’s team (Kate, Maura, Deirdre, Elaine) to victory. Our lads  (Gareth, Trevor, Michael, Paul Flemming) finished second and picked up a few age group awards.
615B was the funhouse where Padraig Loobey held court whispering sweet nothings in French into the ear of passers bye whilst interrogating anyone and everyone who wanted to enter his all-day sun trap.

The great thing about these races is getting to know people in the club a bit more intimately than you can on a Tuesday or Thursday night at training. You don’t need to be a marathon runner to take part. You don’t even need to run all the races but you will enjoy it immensely and go home with hundreds of photos to look back on in years to come. A little anonymity can be found if you want it but overall this trip is just good for the sole. Some fun facts about the group.
  1. Loobey not only speaks fluent French but is also a master chess player.
  2. Emmets ancestors planted tea leaves in India.
  3. Alan was formally a professional motorbike rider.
  4. Emma recently graduated with an MBA and loves her travel.
  5. Anthony and Jim have both lived abroad (not together) for much of their lives.
  6. Garrett was a top-class rugby player before taking up running.
  7. Stephen is an amazing swimmer whilst Martina is a top-class scuba diving expert.
  8. Elaine is your go-to person for kinesiology tape tips and wins Junior Cup GAA games in her spare time.
  9. Deirdre has her own RTE interior design show and loves a cycle to chill and get some alone time.
  10. Trevor Sweeney made a return after 5 years to show off his tango skills. Only Val and Gemma were in his league on the dance floor.

The nightclub was open despite the no dancing signs. It was a bit of a paired back night compared to some previous years but some great tunes were played. Mr. Brightside and Maniac 2000 are notable songs to get the Irish crowd dancing in reckless abandon and forgetting about worries back home.
Too much-jiving leads to running injuries but that didn’t stop all sorts of socially distanced, not socially acceptable dance moves in the La Santa Disco. Amazingly, some people made it to the start lines intact. I will add that negative tests were obtained for the whole group before returning home. Though you might want to avoid those smug sun-blushed smiles.

Unfortunately, we missed much of the race awards due to some finishing off of a few dozen bottles of local wine. Some trophies went missing too, so if anyone has a male 40-45 age group award, do let me know. Because we didn’t get our time on stage here’s my own top 10 Sportsworld La Santa Awards for 2021
  • Best Diver: Emmet Wardal for giving it max effort every day and showing huge improvement.
  • Best Dancer: Trevor Sweeney because the old moves never go out of style.
  • Best Sprint Finish: Martin Doyle for trying to outsprint anyone who came in his way and maxed out his heart rate. Tim deserves a mention here.
  • Best Chatter: Katie Nugent keeps the conversation going on the walk to La Santa. Reducing the perceived journey time.
  • Happiest Runner: Maura Ginty for the constant smile on her face on the finish straight, even when Martin ran straight by here.
  • Best Runner: Kate Kelly the great comeback queen. How do we get her back to Dublin in the red and white?
  • Best Looking Runner: Kevin Curran because he always looks so smooth, even after 20k of trail running. Hopefully, you didn’t think I meant something else there.
  • Best Craic: Padraig Loobey narrowly beating Val. He has his form of method of acting and gets away with anything. He also plays a mean game of chess and is a big softy.
  • Best Support Photography: Tom for his Spielberg Esque volcano shots. I was impressed.
  • Best Supporter: Emma who gives it socks to shout for the runners.
  • Best New Comer: Garrett Bannon for coming and being good fun despite not knowing anyone before the trip.
  • Best Overall Person: Emily because she is the glue that holds the club together, organizes everything, and enjoys watching the races so much.


This year was particularly good for catching up with the ‘Humans of Sportsworld’ whom I hadn’t seen in ages. It was great to mix it up and sit with different people at dinner or lunch. Everyone had such interesting stories and plans about how they spent the last 2 years since La Santa 2019. You honestly couldn’t meet a nicer bunch. I would invite them all over to mine for Christmas dinner if it were allowed. It was great to mix it up and sit with different people at dinner or lunch.

I’ll end it by saying there were no bust-ups, no shifting, no club transfers, or marriage proposals in La Santa 2021. There was a lot of abuse taken and given but we’re all better people for it. I kept this bit for last so you wouldn’t just read for the first 14 seconds and skip the rest.
You can read the full breakdown of the results here.
Thanks again to Emily
Note to self: Ask Emily for the sunny apartment next year.