Meet & Train, Sportsworld 2 Mile Cross Country Race – January 13th Bushy Park, Terenure Race Report by Conor Kenny

Getting out of bed early at the weekend is never easy. On a cold and frosty January morning it is even more difficult. However, that’s exactly what over 100 female’s athletes did for Sportsworld’s first ever Meet & Train 2 mile Cross Country race today.

Once you get up you quickly discover the rewards. Crunching through the dawn and frost of Bushy Park it is a peaceful thing to watch nature shake off its warm deep sleep. You see a few random faces and, bit by bit, the park is alive. The red of Sportsworld tracksuits began popping up everywhere. A hammer here, a stake there, black sack, little flags and a kaleidoscope of tape were the goods being shunted around the fields and trees. Eager beavers found their slot and early birds were working away. Quickly, flags, chutes and poles made a super course. Bare fields were about to witness big battles. For Paddy Lynch, Chairman of Sportsworld, it was a dream come true “This means everything to me” said Paddy “It has taken 2 years to bring this dream to life. Ever since I got involved in Meet & Train I always wanted to host a cross country race in a place we know so well” But, Paddy knows that the real art of leadership is bringing the troops with you “I couldn’t have done this without the support of lots of people but, in particular, there are 2 people who really made a difference, Sean O’Byrne from South Dublin County Council and Stephen Willoughby from Zurich Insurance, both long standing club members”

Dreams do come true and before long, the large field were in, well, a large field. To many, the starting point may have been a ‘starting point’ but to Emily Dowling, 9 years a cross country senior international and winner of the Dublin Marathon, it had far more significance. You see, up until 2005, our ‘clubhouse’ was a tree. Not any old tree but a dead tree. Just as Paddy dreamed of this race so too did Mick and Emily Dowling imagine a real clubhouse. It opened in June that year and it must have given Emily, Mick and Paddy deep satisfaction to see 2 dreams under one roof with the legendary Meet & Train tea and biscuits afterwards. Emily, when asked what this meant to her said; “It means everything. Without Paddy pushing determinedly on, no matter what, it wouldn’t have happened” Emily knows a thing or two about running. Over 26 years ago, Sportsworld started life as an informal group for women mostly. Those values still hold true today “It’s great to see so many women running. We have this beautiful park and what better way to experience it than to run a cross country race” said Emily

Of course not everyone will be ‘up front’ battling it out for victory. Again, that’s never the reward for many people who run, race and keep fit. For Lee Chambers of Donore Harriers “This is my first ever cross country race and my target is not to come last” With a 53 minute 10K under her belt, it’s unlikely Lee will ever come last. “What I really like about racing” added Lee “is the idea of setting a target and goal” It made me think isn’t that what makes a person successful? No matter where they finish.

Susan Kelly an athlete from Fingallians has much the same view “My target is to finish” She said without batting an eyelid. Kinny Bolton, also a Fingallians athlete, had an even more interesting objective “The dog gets a walk, it’s a bit of craic and I get to run” With a target time of 13 minutes, Kinny is no slow runner. I was curious about the dog wondering what he did during the race “He gets tied up and waits patiently” It sounds like a fair deal.

As a middle of the pack runner and a veteran of many races, I never forget that as we turn up, register and pay or dues, a lot of work goes on quietly in the background. When you meet these people they have one thing in common, humility. They seek nothing, do lots and remain in the shadows. Without these people, none of us would get to race. Sue Lynch, Donor Harriers, is one such person. With minutes to go to the start, she was pinning her number and administrating the entries. I asked Sue what she thought of today’s race “It’s a new venue which is great. It’s a super course, fast, flat with a few little tricky bits. It’s always a great day when we have a new course. It also prevents people from knowing what to expect. The odd cross country surprise is great” What does ‘Meet & Train’ mean for the athletes, I asked “It means everything. It doesn’t matter where you finish and you don’t even have to be in a club. In tough times it is a great way to get away from negative recessionary talk and it has, at its core, the huge bonus of being a really lovely social group”

Paddy Lynch was bursting with pride as we watched a huge field snake around our home park. I couldn’t blame him. Paddy was watching his dream come true.

The course was superb with a deep pile surface provided by a soft easy winter. The battles raged and the soft downhill slope made for the perfect sprint finish through to the red and white banners, bunting and tracksuits.

I caught up with some runners who were catching their breath.Niamh Mahon said “I loved it. It was my first ever Meet & Train race and such a lovely course close to home” Fellow Tallaght AC athlete, Laura Fox said “It was a great experience to do a cross country race and see how it’s done” Susan Kelly of Fingallians said “It was a great course, really lovely” and Mairead Cashman from Crusaders who ran a superb 16 minutes reported the course as “Lovely. Dry. Flat and really interesting” Una Murphy and Therese Carey, both from Crusaders, agreed “A great course with different laps and never boring”

Less than an hour after the start the park was back to being it’s normal self. Athletes, coaches, supporters and friends took off in every direction. I walked right through the park to make my own way home. In no time at all, there was no sign of a course, bunting, flags or people.

Was it all a dream? Did it happen? Was this the spot where she surged? Yes, of course it was. Like all good dreams, and all good people, dreams really can come true.

No matter what happens to any of us, now or in the future, Bushy Park, January 13th 2013 is permanently etched in our memories. After all, isn’t that what makes getting up early on a cold and frosty morning worthwhile?