Report by Gary Murray

The Streets of Wicklow 5K takes place on St Stephens Day each year, around Wicklow town. I have been doing this race since 2009, managing to win a couple of times and only missing 2 years. Over the years I have gotten to line up against greats like Fionnuala McCormack, Martin Fagan, Mary Cullen,  Roisin Mcgettigan, Deirdre Byrne, and Hiko Tonsoa. Despite running all those years the race announcer still calls me Gary Murray each year.

For some, the prospect of a race straight after Christmas may send them into a tailspin, but I savor the prospect of keeping my post-Lanza fitness boost going with a few races over the festive season.

One of the fun things about these local races is that you never know who might turn up. More often than not I am part of the top group of lads in this race. This year the announcer was bigging up a young guy named ‘Tudor’ who runs with Clonliffe. Tudor has a 14.46 time to his name. These races don’t mean anything so you can play a few games and go out hard, sub 15 is a bit too hard so I decided to hold court in the second group. A good junior runner Jonas Stafford went with Tudor. At the start, the two lads ran off and I sat back with a larger group.

With local races up to and down the country you have a few local lads in GAA shorts who shoot out and then die after the first kilometer, this particular Sunday in Wicklow was no different. I don’t claim to be any good at the hurlin’ lads so get a grip. You cant start a race with a sprint and expect to finish. Maybe it’s to get their photo in the local paper, who knows?

At the start, there was a group of 12 which was down to 2 up front and 3 in my group after 2K. It stayed that way for much of the race. The lads in front were good enough to make up five seconds every kilometer on the chasing trio. The weak point in my races of late has been the middle section. I start strong and have a good kick but the mindset seems to be to settle in the middle. If I can give myself one bit of advice looking back it would be that fast times aren’t run by holding back. The top two lads ended up running 15.28 and in hindsight, I should have tried to stick with that pace. That said both of them are 20 years younger than me so maybe I should be more self-effacing.

By the time we entered the 4th kilometer, I was locked in a battle with Matthew Kane of Rathfarnham. Any thought of a good time was out the window at this stage and the focus was on getting 3rd place. With 600M to go, I went for the lead, only to be rebuffed, again at 400M I went and was passed. With 200M to go, I dug deep and started the sprint for the line, which is uphill and still seemed far away. Happy to say that my competitor had nothing left and I made up 4 seconds to snatch 3rd overall and €75. It was amazing to hear ‘Gary Murray is having a great race’ yet again.  The last bit of a 5K hurts. It’s in the last kilometer that the anaerobic part of the race really gets going. My finish time was 16:04 which would have been a sub 16 run if not for a young kid on a scooter driving straight at me in the 3rd kilometer.

At the time of writing, I have also run the Tom Brennan in 15.55. That was a much tougher race in really strong winds. I’m in decent shape going into the Master’s XC season but also contemplating if my best times are in the past. I might need to do a track race or two and get some endorphins back.

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I really like this race. Maybe it’s because I have been doing it for so long and my family always come to watch but it’s also because it has a great grass route, electric atmosphere and is clearly put together by runners.

The course itself starts at the school, you run up the big hill in the middle of town, then it’s a flat but exposed stretch along the waterfront. The stretch from 3K to 5K has a few uphills so it can be a challenging route on a windy day. The end is a long straight of 600M which I really like as you feel like you are almost finished at 4.5K.

Also running was Eoin O’Brien who finished in a time of 00:23:58. Eoin ran 4 races in 4 days over Xmas and finished 4th in the Toblerone 10 Mile in Tipp (Sponsored by Cadburys).

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