Here it is, the 2016 Wicklow Way Relay team telling it how it was!
They finished in 5th place after running 127km over the mountains in 8hrs and 30seconds!
Congratulations folks and enjoy!
Photos by Olivier Privat
For full results and other individual mountain races during the summer visit the IMRA website: Click here
Leg 1 Ed McEntee
After a year or so of a lay-off I knew that it was only so long before Sportsworld would need my experience (M45+) and wisdom again (a bit like Batman in the 3rd one), and yes it came courtesy of the Wicklow Way relay and Damien (Team Captain). Needless to say I needed no second asking (but obviously had to ask her indoors if fitted in with the family schedule), surprisingly 7:00 am on a Sat was not going to cause issues.
Arrived at start in new plenty of time 6:30, a gaggle of other runners was already present, everyone looking very relaxed and remarkably chatty.
The Wicklow Way Relay start and finish points
Started at 7:00:
Off we went, it was like I had never been away, the clear air flowing through my lungs powering the ageless pistons of my legs, the nearly imperceptible sound of my feet gliding up the incline, the sudden clarity of vision as I watched the distant shapes disappearing over the horizon …. Back to reality.
The 1st leg is a steep climb up, was not losing any more places (was not gaining any either), managed the first downhill bit unscathed and not losing any places, along the road, downhill and then another climb to William’s Seat (?), lots of rocks again, but luckily no-one close enough to take advantage of my new born giraffe like gait down the hill side. Onto path again and downhill, suddenly realized it was only a bit to the finish and should be focused on speed, so was actually quiet painful (no ideas who was behind, could not take the risk of being humiliated at the finish straight), a bit like a downhill cross country race. Came in in 9th, need to work on those hill starts. Handed over to Kevin at the gate and Damien kindly dropped me back to my car.
8:20 in my car back to Dublin, what to do with the rest of my morning… Well done to the rest of the team who climbed their way up the leader board.
That evening went to the Undertones (40th anniversary gig), so goes to show you are never too old to roll back the years ((albeit a little slower) and home tucked up in bed by 11:00, took me 2 days to recover, never remembered that hill running can give you a wicked sore head).
Leg 2 Kevin Curran
Leg 2 starts in Curtlestown and traverses a 15k mix of terrain that finishes at Lough Tay. The first 5k is flattish, with a technical descent and then the climbing begins. The climb goes up through Crone Wood, over Powerscourt Waterfall, then up and around the side of Djouce. Board walk marks the end of the climb and initiates the home stretch.
A large group of stage runners, team captains and supporters gathered at the first handover point and created a nice early morning atmosphere which set the tone for the race. The finish of leg 1 is downhill and the runners where coming through at speed. I was feeling relaxed but got a surge of adrenaline as I saw the look in Ed’s face as he approached. He had given 100%.
I ran the flattish / downhill section steady, eased into the climbing and locked into a good rhythm until the foothill of Djouce. This was about 8.5k into the leg and I can only describe this climb as horrendous. I hadn’t done a recce of this section. It looked “OK” from a distance and assumed there was a decent path and trail going up. The uneven terrain, coupled with a relentless incline, inflicted a level of discomfort I had never experienced before. My strides consisted of bounds, pitter-patter steps and intermittent walking as I tried to avoid rocks and pick a non-existent clean line. Thankfully two runners were in sight during this tough section and only lost view of them on the undulating board walk. But that was alright as I could actually run again.
A mass of florescent jacket wearing runners and supporters assembled at a congested second handover point. Steph was easily identifiable as she had a big smile. Tagged her and she blasted off up the hill.
I would like to thank Damian for the invite, organising the team and accompanying me on my recce. Also, thanks to Olivier for getting up extra early to provide transportation to the start. The team gave everything and provided excellent company at a very enjoyable event.
Leg 3 Stephanie Bergin
I was running leg 3 of the Wicklow way relay again this year. Leg 3 is the shortest and easier leg of the relay, going from Lough Tay to Oldbridge. Kevin came through looking very strong on the second leg and I was off. The up hills on this leg are few and minor compared to the other legs on the course but I still struggled to get up them.
Steph (right) in flying form at the National Road Relays ealier this year
It was pure relief to get to the down hill sections and being able to breathe again! At Oldbridge, I handed over to Michael, who stormed off to a great run. The Wicklow way relay is a brilliant day in an amazing setting. Thanks to the Damian, Olivier and James for organising the team.
Leg 4 Michael Cunningham
I would definitely recommend running the Wicklow way relay but it is like recommending doing a marathon to someone who hasn’t done a marathon, you can talk about all the nice things like the finish line, getting the medal, the first drink after but you cant quite put into words mile 20.
It had been a long few weeks coming up to the WWR and I was looking forward to running out in the sun shine, surrounded by trees and nature and the sound of music but the first mile of leg 4 is a bitch and makes you feel like that mile 20 pretty quick. Any fitness you think have is wiped out in the first long hill and all of a sudden you are questioning your sanity. I really struggled on the up hills this year but the downhills you just have to think positive and enjoy the lack of control.
Each year we say we should do a Sunday long run in Wicklow, the trails are gorgeous, the views are amazing sunshine or rain and there are plenty of coffee shops and places to eat so hopefully this year someone will plan the Sunday run on the Wicklow Way.
Michael sampling the Wicklow coffee shops during his leg
We had a number of new runners on the team this year and every one as usual gave 100%, it’s a real team event and it’s a shame there are not more races like it. Thanks to Phil for driving out to Glendalough to get me to my starting point, Damian for organising all the logistics and Olivier for finishing his leg with a hamstring injury.
Leg 5 : Olivier Privat
Glendalough to Glenmalure lodge.
Overall Distance: 13.6km Total Climb: 571m
I have once again, and for the third time in a row, the privilege to be part of the Sportsworld team to compete in the Wicklow Way relay. It is always an epic, exiting and amazing race.
This year I am back to my first love, leg 5 from Glendalough to Glemalure lodge, two iconic places in the Wicklow Mountains.
The leg is quite simple to describe. It starts by 1k of flat along the lakes, on the Green tourist road, for a nice warm-up. It is then 6km of relentless climb, very steep to begin with, along the Poulanass waterfall – to be in the red immediately – and to continue with a long steady ascent up to Mullacor gap. At that point it is downhill all the way for the remaining 6-7k, on boardwalk first, then on a technical muddy trail and for most of it, on “easy” fire road.
The Wicklow Way
Ed, Kevin, Stephanie and Michael were on before me, and placing the team in contention for a podium (which we have to defend from last year). Michael was once again amazing and arrived well before I would imagine, handing over to me in 4th just seconds behind the 3rd team.
The flat road bit was meant to be a warm-up to ease in the race, instead, I have to try and keep in sight the UCDO runner just ahead of me. Well, not to happen for too long, he is too fast for me and I lose ground as soon as we hit the climb. What’s worse I soon get passed by one then by a second runner early in the ascent. I am in 6th but manage to follow the pace with the guy ahead of me and to keep him in sight. I try to convince myself that I will catch-up and maybe pass him in the downhill.
As we reach the col and attack the descent, I manage to push the pace but we all do, and I can’t close the gap. Pushing hard downhill can be quite demanding on the legs, and I suddenly hear a popping sound and feel a sharp pain in my left hamstring. A muscle is probably pulled or strained. I still have about 5k to go, a long way, but I can’t resign and need to finish for the team. I am able to keep going at a jogging pace, slow but moving. I am now paranoid to get passed by a succession of runners.
Olivier on photography duty here at the Terenure 5 and at the Wicklow Way Relay
It felt like an horrendous long drag before I emerge from the wood at the bottom of the valley. Out on the road I catch sight of Kevin in the distance. I can’t really sprint the last straight home, but nobody seems to be coming from behind and no one else has passed me either.
James is there waiting on his starting line, impatient to get going and ready to take on leg 6.
James, Damian and Noreen all performed brilliantly after that, and Noreen passed the finish line in 5th.
Leg 6 James Brady
Starting outside Dowling’s pub in Glenmalure. This was where I ran my first leg in the WWR back in 2014. This year however, due to felling of trees the leg was changed. I actually only got to recce the route on the previous Wednesday with a fellow Aughrim man and competitor on the route. It really is a unique event and brings runners together and I suppose a competitor showing you the route so you don’t get lost when you’re racing against each other in a few days is fairly unusual!
I arrived in Glenmalure with my parents in tow, thanks Mam and Dad 😉 They dropped my car to the end of my route. Another unusual thing about this race is that you’ll meet various members of your team along the route. Either waiting to run or having ran already. I don’t think there’s any other race in the race calendar for Sportworld were you can say that.
It was already a hot day and Michael Race Director Cunningham had text to say keep fully hydrated. Sure I never sweat so I don’t think that was relevant to me.
I met Kev waiting at the start of my route. Kev was still unsure if he had enjoyed his leg or the race or not at this stage, and to be honest, he still wasn’t sure at the end of the race either. Id say he’ll be back next year though! I did my warm up as best I could. Its always a little difficult as you don’t know when your teammate will arrive down the road.
Olivier came flying down the hill but looked in a fair bit of pain. I took over in 6th place. The first quarter of a mile is reasonably flat and on the road before climbing uphill for a mile. I did not enjoy that! You veer off the road, into the woods, and back onto the Wicklow Way were you climb up through the woods, through mud & over slippery stones. I did not enjoy that either. Well, maybe a little.
At mile three your back on the road following another diversion. I ran past a Christmas tree growing on the side of the road, covered in Christmas decorations. I was not hallucinating! I promise you.
The road continues to wind uphill for ¾ of a mile before a nice downhill stretch and then back to the woods for the final uphill climb. You’re then in a series of sharp downhills with some flats for the last two miles or so. Racing in the woods in the WWR makes you paranoid. You spend half your time looking over your shoulder for a competitor. I made it down to the Ironbridge to hand over to Damian. Still in 6th. And still loving this race, probably more every year. Thanks again Damian for organising this year’s team. To Noreen and Kevin for stepping in. To Ed for such a short notice replacement and to those who ran last year and who came back for more.
We’ll be better next year!
Leg 7 Damian Kelly
21.1km 610m of climbing from Ironbridge to Cross Bridge
There wasn’t many takers for Leg 7 this year so I elected myself, and Kevin changed to Leg 2.
Leg 7 can be a lonely as at this stage of the race the field is spread out and with all the Twists and Turns you can run the whole 21km without seeing a single runner, which was the case for me.
The starting point is at Ironbridge which is in the middle of nowhere in Wicklow. I have been there 3 times in the past and each time I get lost as all the roads look the same. Anyway waiting for James Brady to arrive at the Bridge which is a brilliant Handover Spot, as you can look up the mountain and see the Red and White of Sportsworld hurtling down the hill. James tips my hand and off I go and we are now in 6th place. By the way another great WWR run by James. The lad from the team called the Hurt Squad had a seven minute Head Start on me so the plan was to close the gap as much as possible and put Noreen in position to give us a top 5 finish.
I ran as hard as I could on the day but the 5th place runner never came into view. I approached the last 1km which is a horrible climb up a Country Road and then saw my Team Mates, I finished and handed over to Noreen. Oliver then informed me that I had closed the Gap down to around 20 seconds on the 5th place runner which I was happy with, however when I looked at my watch I ran 1.35 which was 4 minutes slower than I ran 2 years ago. I am your typical runner never happy with my performance.
I would like to thank my fellow Sportworld Team Mates on the day, Ed a late stand in for Phil and as usual a gutsy performance by Ed, also Kevin his first time doing WWR and 4th fastest on his Leg. Stephanie had a brilliant run and ran a faster Leg than the previous year. Michael 4th fastest on his Leg, brilliant Run. Olivier pulled his Hamstring at the top of his climb, but never giving in ran 5/6 km in pain downhill now that’s doing it for the team. James, the further or harder it is James comes into his own, great run by James. And last but not least Noreen 4th fastest on Leg 8 a brilliant run and She is flying at the moment.
5th overall is great considering you are running against Olympians, Dublin City Marathon winners, Sub 68 ½ Marathon Runners and I could go on.
In conclusion a great day had by all and a brilliantly organised race by IMRA and the main thing for me was that all of the Sportsworld Team arrived back in one piece. If they didn’t I wasn’t looking forward to Emily finding out that one of her Athletes got injured Mountain Running.
Leg 8 Noreen Brouder
Leg 8 – Cross Bridge – Shillelagh
I should preface this report by stating that I have the worst sense of direction!! Therefore the fear was very real that
1. I would get lost trying to find Cross Bridge (yes, I am that bad) and
2. I would get lost running the course.
I had completed a recce two weeks earlier, got lost and ended up running 10 miles. Flawless prep! I arrived in Cross Bridge at 11:30 (2 hours early, such was the fear of getting lost trying to find the starting point) on Saturday morning and parked at St Brigid’s Church. I jogged up Cuckoo Lane to the starting point and I was grateful that my leg did not start at the bottom of this lane. Poor Damian had to finish his 21K leg (!!!) with a huge climb up this lane (with James shouting at him)!
As the leg 8 runners waited to begin their race word was reaching us on the team placings and the rain also started to pour down. I was delighted to see some familiar faces as I saw Kevin, James and Olivier arriving. There was great excitement as we started to see some of the runners coming through on the road below to begin their final assent. The TT Racers were the first to hand over, followed by Rathfarnham. Incredible runs from both teams and they were in a class of their own all day.
As we looked down onto the road we could see Damian coming through and suddenly it was all becoming real! I am going to mess it all up by getting lost on the last leg!! I was the 6th runner to set off on the last leg. Thankfully Leg 8 is one of the easier sections of the WWR; being 10km in length with less than 2 miles on trails and only a few climbs to negotiate. The rain that had fallen in the few hours before the race made the trail section pretty mucky and there were also a few gates to climb as you were basically running through farmers’ fields. Once off the trail you continued to follow the WW signs until you reached the Dying Cow pub (this is where I went wrong during the recce). At this point you moved off the WW and continued straight toward Shillelagh. The rest of the course was pretty straight forward and as I turned the last corner into Shillelagh the lads were waiting to shout me on over the last few hundred meters.
It really was a great day out and the excitement while waiting for the runners to come through was fantastic. Hats off to the 7 Sportsworld runners that preceded me as they definably got the longest, hilliest and most technically challenging aspects of the 127K trail. Thanks to Damian for organising the whole thing, Olivier for the regular race updates, James for the lift back to Cross Bridge after the race and the whole team for the support and reassurance that I was not going to get lost!!