(Wicklow Mountains Run in aid of DebraIreland – March 10th 2012) – By Conor Kenny

When the gorse bursts into hazy shades of yellow you know Spring has arrived.
It arrived on Sunday last and it gave a big piggy back to some stunning sunshine.
We know because myself, Stephen W and Ronan were on our way with the dawn. Our mission? To run and race the intriguing ‘trail run’ in aid of that incredible charity, Debra Ireland.
Our destination was The dizzy heights of The Wicklow Way for starters. To finish, a little mountain from the flat bed of Glendalough to the summit of Brockagh Mountain. Thing is, it was off road and Boy! Do we mean off road.

The warm early morning reception at Glendalough matched the warmth of the volunteers and patients. It’s easy to say “they are incredible” but please look at Debra Ireland’s website to see why.

Ronan, a running warrior had entered the half marathon. Stephen and I the 10k. Before long we gave up our snug chat, jumped on buses and went 6 miles straight towards the sky to the Wicklow Gap. Not bad you might think, a little trot back down. Don’t be fooled.

The Dad of a sufferer made an emotional speech at the summit. The heavens shone brightly and tears flowed. (I really do want you to look at www.debraireland.org) sadly, she had gone to heaven to warm up our day. It made us think and, most of all, how amazingly lucky I am and you too.

Ronan went a half hour earlier complete with camel pack and Stephanie Bergin. The Gods were seducing us. To a soft 1,2,3 we were off hurtling down the boggy soft drenched earth. It was unbelievably difficult and there were yelps, groans and pain. Shoes were sucked into the bog, bones crunched on granite, water seeped everywhere. 1k was torture, only 9 to go.
With too much eagerness, I was in 3rd place but don’t worry, it didn’t last. Soon, you were on your own, the 150 runners were already spread out.
Down bog, up road, through a river, spinning down on granite we hit flat ground after 5k. Legs were gone and our Garmins were displaying embarrassing times.
Into Glendalough but a sting was waiting. Up a mountain, not Zig zagging, straight up. It was murderous. At the top, not 1 but 4 styles in a row. My left leg wanted to stay put but came with me after much persuading..
Stephen had drifted back, his shoe had been stolen by the bog and he recovered. Ronan and Stephanie were high on the hills, we couldn’t believe their strength.
I battled with 3 runners and finally had my moment in the last 400m. Where the speed came from only God knows.
The finish was beautiful, just like emerging from an enchanted forest. A beautiful golden retriever came up with eyes wide open to offer his welcome. He drank my water and then another. It was a highlight.

Stephen came in a little later then Ronan and Stephanie looking like The Mud Man. His immaculate white top was now Wicklow brown. We were high up the placings but that’s not the point. The point was Debra Ireland.

We all have challenges, problems and worries. On Sunday we suffered. I’m glad we did. Why? It’s a tiny reminder of what matters. It balanced everything.

To Debra Ireland and my great running buddies, Ronan, Stephanie and Stephen, thank you for an amazing day, an incredible run and for keeping us grounded when the hills had other ideas.