Report by Eoin O’Brien
Photos by Noel Tobin
So my time as finally come. After explicitly telling Grainne Lynch on Thursday afternoon that Sportsworld race singlets do have to be worn for this event; I rocked into the Liberties sporting a grey number. I was never getting away with not writing this race report. Do as I say not as I do.
That smile was soon wiped off my face
I had packed my singlet but it doesn’t leave much to the imagination these days, and with a 7.45pm race start, it was still well before the 9pm watershed to have me running around in that thing in public.
Picking up Andrea McNamara who works up the road to me, it was obvious my reign of race report terror has crept into people’s unconsciousness as she was wearing her race singlet getting into the car. It transpired she actually wore into the courts that morning for fear of forgetting it and be writing this piece in my place.
We ended up parking in the first spot we saw, only after I insisted on a 20min recon of Kilmainham looking for a better spot closer to the start. I’m a runner not a walker. Andrea spotted a café on the course and suggested we just hang out there and cheer everyone on as the go by instead. Finally realising she was just joking I cancelled by skinny latte order, much to the annoyance of the barista, and followed her up the road.
The Liberties Fun Run is a great little race starting and finishing in the Royal Hospital Kilmainham with all proceeds going to St James Hospital next door. This was the 9th year and for the first eight years it was a 6km race, this year they extended it slightly to make it an even 4 miles as Ireland has now fully adopted metric units.
This race has by far the most impressive number pick up, baggage area and jacks of any race. The hospital was built in 1684 and race registration and bag drop was in the impressive Great Hall. I actually love picking my number up here. The high ceilings and huge windows are complemented by portraits peering down on us that have been in situ since 1713, portraits of heads like King Charles II and the Duke of Ormond who built the place. It’s the only public collection of portraits in the country that have remained in their original position. They don’t hang pictures like they used too.
17th Century Registration and bag drop area
After a short ‘McNamara Special’ warm up at my race pace around the hospital grounds with Messer Greensmyth, we got into position at the start along the leafy boulevard at the Kilmainham Jail side of the hospital. Me lining up with my hands on my knees after the warm up.
There was a scattering of about 20 Sportsworld runners around the start, all in good spirits as always. I tucked in beside Claire, Grainne, Eileen and Audrai before the gun went off. First mile is through the hospital grounds, around the courtyard and out the east gates towards Thomas Street. As we approached Thomas Street a band was inadvertently entertaining the crowd blasting out tunes on the upper floors of the Jam Factory rehearsal rooms.
It’s a congested start until you get out of the hospital grounds but it is clearly sold as a fun run and sure what’s the panic. I just wanted miles in my legs and to enjoy the evening, I can be an impulse shopper, I once owned a Slap Chop (Slap Chop explained on this video: Click here) so I entered the marathon last week before it sold out. Operation transformation to fit back in my singlet has begun.
The most enjoyable thing about this race is that it’s one of the few road races on the city streets – bringing you into parts of the city too I wouldn’t normally frequent. Passing Vicar Street we turned on to Francis Street into the Liberties and old Dublin. Here lies the Tivoli Theatre, where along with the SFX near Mountjoy square, were two of the main venues for gigs back in my rocker days. Back then they were both basically glorified bingo halls but still hosted the likes of Megadeth, the Stone Temple Pilots and Oasis in their pomp. The SFX is now long gone (probably for the best), as is my long hair (also probably for the best).
Going right near Patrick’s Cathedral we are deep into the Liberties, past rows of terraced houses and their small grottos built for industrial workers in the 19th century. We also passed the former portico entrance to the original Coombe Maternity Hospital. After the hospital was moved to Dolphin’s barn in 1967, where I was born (not in 1967), they demolished the old hospital but retained the portico as a monument.
Old Coombe Maternity Hospital portico in the Liberties
We are around the back of the Guinness Brewery now. Support had actually been good along the course, the rain holding off helped, but this is a lonely part of the city apart from the 1 million tourists annually visiting the Guinness Store house.
The attraction to the Store house is something I’ve never fully understood, I prefer to visit places where stuff actually happened. For example I just discovered the church opposite Cafe En Seine on Dawson street was where Bram Stoker married Florence Balcombe and Oscar Wilde was baptised (not all on the same day). Keep those facts up your sleeve until next time you are there for late pints.
I did actually worked in Guinness for a few months and it was an amazing place to explore going across rooftops and the warren of tunnels under the place; on my wanders I pulled back a tarpaulin one day I was standing in the old brew house with its old Guinness brewing tanks and birds flying in the rafters.
Along the Spirit of St Luas tracks at the back of James hospital, onto south circular road I decided to pick it up. This race has a great finish as you pass through the Richmond Tower, where photographer Noel Tobin was waiting, and on to the Royal Hospital boulevard for the sprint finish. That tower gate we ran under was actually built in 1812 and located down at the River Liffey at Waiting Street beside the Guinness Brewery. When Houston Station opened the tower gate bottle neck was holding up commuters trying to catch their newly invented trains so it was dismantled and rebuilt in its current location in 1846.
The Richmond Tower – you’re not from around here are you
At the finish I first came across Lucy D’Arcy, encouraging as ever and who raced in the red and white as opposed to being the time keeper for a change. Stand out performances was Will Greensmyth being the first lad home in 24:53 getting a great 29th place and Naoise Waldron just behind him in 25:53 and 4th overall, narrowing missing out on 3rd place by 7 seconds. We had two other top ten finishers in Ruth Kelly and Andrea McNamara.
This took us to Arthur’s pub on Thomas Street where a gang went for post-race rehydration – a top tip we learnt from the senior ladies team going to Longitude last Sunday.
Good news – The pub was giving out free pints in exchange for race numbers.
Bad news – I learnt this after I’d put my number in the bin.
I exited stage left early as I was yawning so hard my eyes where watering after a big night out the day before with friends back visiting from the states. Again do as I say not as I do.
To sum up, a really enjoyable race as always, I’ll be back next year, I’ll take the Friday off and keep my race number.
So there you go ladies and gentlemen, I hoped you learnt a little more about Dublin, a little more about me and a little more about the race.
Amazingly I didn’t mention Michael Cunningham once although today was Friday so I had my fun in the weekly email I suppose.
Ruth Kelly below: The next race report is yours.
29th Will Greensmyth 00:24:53
47th Naoise Waldron 00:25:53 (4th female)
51 Ruth Kelly 00:26:03 (5th female)
57 Alan Hynes 00:26:02
67 Andrea McNamara 00:26:40 (9th female)
74 Liam Lenehan 00:26:48
88 Peter Knaggs 00:27:31
94 Anna Delaney 00:27:42
118 Katie Nugent 00:28:29
149 Maura Ginty 00:29:26
150 Stephanie Bergin 00:29:25
156 Lucy D’arcy 00:29:35
178 Eoin O’Brien 00:30:04
195 Eileen Rowland 00:30:20
209 Grainne Lynch 00:30:34
231 Claire Rowley 00:31:26
321 Audraí O’Driscoll 00:33:11
597 Eimear O’Neill 00:37:56