Sean of Sherwood
(Donadea Forest 5K – July 26th by Conor Kenny)
Perhaps Sean O’Byrne is the closest Sportsworld will get to having our very own Prince of the Forest.
Complete with a Buccaneers beard, a tough ‘never surrender’ attitude and a clockwork running style that never loses pace, this was to be Sean’s night.
A night deep in the mystical mists of an ancient and beautiful woodland on the Dublin/Kildare border.
Many of us have been enchanted by the enchanted woods, lake and forest at Donadea. It’s one of those beautiful places that not many know.
When they do, it’s a secret they want to keep.
For children, it has to be the enchanted forest full of fairies, goblins and magic. Even us grownups were a little bewitched.
It was an easy decision for a few wandering runners and racers to set off on our merry way.
Ashling Byrne, a cousin to Ruth McGann, was our kindly driver. On a thunderous evening full of spectacular dark grumpy clouds, Ashling collected yours truly, Stephen Willoughby and our regular racing partner from Raheny Shamrocks, Connor Jennings.
In Donadea, we were joined by Dermot Bates and emerging calmly from the woods was Sean of Sherwood and Jill.
The heat was battling with the monsoon downpours. The fields, trees and woods were draped in an eerie mist. It added to the sacred nature of these spectacular woods.
We gathered and warmed up and the almost spiritual mood was broken by the Ibiza dance music at the start. It was a funny contrast but it hyped up the 300 runners. An interesting mix.
We tore off down a mysterious trail that seemed to descend into worlds end. It was a roller coaster ride through this beautiful place. Hills attacked you and then forgave you. Views swapped places with cool tunnels. It was a tail of the tiger course and it was tough.
We all ran well but the stand out runs from our little group were two. Ashling, who has really only started to race recently, knocked over a minute off her PB and gets faster by the day. Her triathlon fitness meant she was enjoying the traditional after race fare as yours truly was still dizzy.
Hot, and very hot on our heels was Sean O’Byrne. We weren’t surprised. Sean raced with Stephen and I in the Braveheart Cross Country race a few weeks back. It was a zig zag course and at 4K Sean had Stephen and I in his sights. He was third that night in his age group. In Meath, that’s some achievement. We knew he would go well. He didn’t disappoint.
We all finished with very small gaps between us. On the night, as expected, Stephen was our first home in a very fast time on a very slow course.
We were all, as they say after races “happy enough” (Runners are never happy with their times – just happy enough)
There’s that lovely golden 30 or 40 minutes after a race when endorphins play their tricks. We sipped tea under the Amazonian canopy and darkness came down. The mood was cheerful.
We knew Sean had run well so, unusually, we decided to wait for the prize giving.
A Donadea girl was MC and so well prepared. We looked at the trophies, beautiful engraved glass that would have befitted a major international event.
We hoped Sean might just take one home but these rural races attract serious talent.
“First Male is ….”
“First Woman home is …..”
It went on.
We waited on the remaining 3 categories. Over 40, Over 50 and finally Over 60.
The M40 and M50 prize came and went. Each winner was presented with their superb trophy and then had to pose for not one but three photographers.
It was perfectly orchestrated.
Here comes the 1st Male Over 60 prize. We were excited and anxious. Sean on high alert.
“And the winner of the 1st Male Over 60 trophy is ………. Conor Kenny”
Our jaws dropped. Sean’s especially, mine hit the floor.
Now, besides the fact that I’m not remotely close to 60, I had an even bigger dilemma.
The Boss, the Organiser and Chief, were within 5 brisk steps of our tea sipping group.
She beckoned me faster than a Ban Garda to “hurry up”
Bewildered, I walked forward to applause, received “my trophy” posed for pictures and returned to the laughter of my friends.
‘Perplexed’ might describe Sean’s demeanour. None of us could understand the error. I was convinced the goblins (or was it my travelling friends?) were behind this elaborate joke.
Quickly, I gave Sean the trophy knowing, as he wasn’t far behind me, that he had won it anyway.
Always a kind heart and a man who always puts others first, Sean of Sherwood, took his trophy to the organisers.
In no time, they had struck out yours truly and represented the award to its rightful owner.
Sean retired from his job recently. It has given him more time to do the things he loves. Time with Jill, time trekking the mountains, time with friends and time to race.
It was entirely fitting that he won a significant trophy.
We could not have been happier and we insisted on taking this photo.
You see, good guys do win.
Like fine wine, they get better as they get older – in every way.