‘Who likes Short Shorts!?!’. So 2019 WWR was all about the rivalry between the 8 members of the Sportsworld team and the 8 members of Emmet Wardell’s WLSS. It was actually about enjoying new runs in the Wicklow mountains, skipping work to do recci runs and breaking What App post records. Below are some of the accounts of the race. If you like the sound of them and want to try them check out the Summer IMRA races on Wednesdays or join, at your peril, the Sportsworld IMRA whats app group.

Leg 1 Sinead Tangney Sportsworld, Ciara Brady WLSS. Start 7am. Distance 8.5miles, Ascent 1656feet, Descent 1528feet. Kilmashougue to Curtlestown,

Leg 1 of the Wicklow Way Relay involves a bright and early start with the alarm set for 5am. It was a dry, clear, mild morning which made the thought of running across the Wicklow Mountains at 7am in the morning that much easier.

After much organising / confusion during the previous week, Leg 1 (Ciara Brady & Sinead Tangney) and Leg 2 (Will Martin Smith & Mark Hogan) runners decided to travel in one car. We met at the clubhouse and made our way to the start line at Kilmashogue forest carpark.

We arrived at the start around 6:20. Plenty of time to do our warm up, collect our trackers and debate about how many layers of clothes to wear. The route for leg one was around 14km long with approximately 500m elevation gain. The route was split into two hills. Steep up, steep down followed by steep up and steep down. (What was I thinking!?)

Before we knew it they were calling 5 mins to start time. With 2 mins to go we said goodbye to Mark and Will and made our way to the start line. It was fairly nerve rattling standing on the start line, looking around and seeing lean, hardened hill runners around us. It looked like there would be no waiting around crossing Fairy Castle and Prince Williams Sea.

The race started off quick up the first hill to Fairy Castle. Ciara and I were well matched pushing and keeping each other going to the top, which arrived just on time. Next was the tricky downhill terrain which requires a lot of concentration to ensure two feet stay on the ground at all times (or at least one foot). We successfully made it to the bottom in one piece.

There was about a mile flat in the middle of the two hills and Ciara broke away from me. Her speedy legs were too good for mine. I could see Ciara in the distance but she had opened up a good lead.

I put my head down and started picking away at hill number two. When I looked up and saw Ciara was getting closer. I kept struggling away and somehow managed to pip ahead of Ciara at the top of the hill.

At the top, it was all downhill from here. Starting on a very tricky rocky section with large rocks and boulders. I threw my body down, trying not to think about injuring myself and manage to gain some ground in this section. The route finishes on about 2km of speedy downhill. Mark and Will were waiting for us at the bottom of the hill.

I handed over to Mark in 19th place in a time of 1:11:35 and Ciara was literally on my tail with only a few seconds between us. She handed over in 20th place in a time of 1:11:41. The guys grabbed their team trackers and the battle between Team Sportsworld and Team Short Shorts continued along the Wicklow Way.

The excitement was great throughout the day following the race through the tracker device and the WhatsApp group. It was easy to see who had and had not done their recces through the tracker device with some teams looking a little / very lost at times.

The Wicklow Way Relay is a great event, very enjoyable and I can’t wait for WWR 2020 when the battle between Team Sportsworld and Team Short Shorts starts again.

Written Sinead Tangney

Leg 2 Mark Hogan Sportsworld, Will Martin Smith WLSS. Distance 9miles, Ascent 2135feet, Descent 1377feet. Curtlestown to Lough Tay

After an early morning start and a quick dropoff at Leg 1, myself and Will arrived at the car park of Leg 2 to be greeted by Michael who was kindly offering to park racers cars for them. This was my first time doing the relay race but thankfully any nervousness was gone when I saw Sean Hehir warming up, safe in the knowledge that he would likely lead our merry group up and over Djouce and also likely that this was the last time I would see him before the race had even begun. We did a quick warmup and before we knew it Sinead and Ciara had arrived at the handover point. And I was off. After doing the reccie three weeks beforehand my plan had been to run hard the first 4km which is half on road and pretty much all downhill. I knew there were a few runners only a few minutes ahead of me and was hoping that I could pick some of them off before the real climbing began. From 4km-8km this is pretty much all uphill until you get to the top of Powerscourt Waterfall and can enjoy the break of running downhill for a few hundred meters. But with any downhill in this race, it is soon followed by uphill which was until around the 12km mark when you get near to the top of Djouce and hit some much-appreciated flat boardwalk. Again I had hoped to make up a bit of time here for the last few km’s but at this point my legs were heavy and although it felt like I was sprinting the watch said otherwise. This part of the race though has the most spectacular views as you descend towards Lough Tay and the end of Leg 2, to hand over to Sibeal. Thankfully who by now had overcome her earlier incident….Overall it was one of the toughest but enjoyable races I’ve ever participated in and the sense of being part of the team and competing together was great. Thanks again to Michael & Sinead for organizing and doing the extra support duties on the day.

Written by Mark Hogan

The Wicklow Way Relay! A highlight of the year for me so I was really looking forward to it. Honoured to be selected by Who Likes Short Shorts team captain Emmet, I was assigned Leg 2 and the long steep drag up the side of Djouce. The stage is about 15km split into an initial 4km of broadly flat or downhill terrain followed by about 7km uphill and a 3km downward burst to Deirdre at the handover.
Recce done, transport arranged & snacks and cans of Coke (Zero!) packed the only slight hitch was a minor ankle sprain which wouldn’t go away. By the time I had realised it might be a problem (Friday night) and with a whole team of skimpy short wearing teammates depending on me, it was too late to pull out. Plan B it was, so I got onto YouTube and started watching videos on taping up ankles.
At 5am (I wasn’t late this year) I jumped out of bed with a wince – uh-oh, this could be a long day! I collected Sinead & Mark at the clubhouse and dropped Sinead off at the start. Ciara arrived soon after and the girls got themselves ready for the start at 7am. 
Mark and I then made our way to Curtlestown for our start point where we had a short warm up. About 500m down the road I had to pull up. Even with the strapping, my ankle was in trouble. Mark gave me a look which seemed to say, ‘you are fecked’ and then we discussed my options which seemed to be 1) just power on through and 2) tell Ciara she’d have to keep going and do my leg! Option 1 it was!
Sinead and Ciara arrived almost together, in touch with a group of strong male runners. I grabbed the GPS and gingerly took off after Mark. Adrenaline is an amazing thing! The ankle was fine! Well not fine but functioning. Deciding to make hay while the sun shone, I gave it welly for the first 4km to the Bridge over the Glencree river passing 3 runners on the way.
Over the long grind up through Crone Woods I lost sight of Mark but managed to pick off another 2 runners and got another 2 running (walking) up the steep climb from the Dargle Valley. I could see a runner with a red top far ahead on Djouce which I thought was Mark so I tried to catch him.
Fool! Half way up to the high point of the leg I ran out of gas and slowed right back down. At this point I got passed out by a sprightly new runner and I tried (and failed) to keep close to him. 
My ankle now giving me trouble, I started running awkwardly to protect it. As I reached the boardwalk marking the top of the descent, I could sense another runner behind me and decided he wasn’t going to pass easily.
He was a good distraction and I pinned my ears back and zoomed down the hill. I caught the guy who had passed me going uphill and then he took a wrong turn and I flew past. I could see him making the mistake in advance but…sorry I was in race mode! In fairness I called over my shoulder that he had taken a wrong turn!
Spurred on by that little victory, I passed the red shirt guy (not Mark as it turned out) and one other lad on the sprint for home before handing over to Deirdre and crumpling to the ground.
Written by Will Martin Smith

Leg 3 Sibeal Waldron Sportsworld, Deirdre O Connell WLSS. Distance 5.2miles, Ascent 426feet, Descent 1302feet. Lough Tay to Oldbridge

This was my first time doing the WWR and as by far the slowest member of either the teams I was generously given the easiest and shortest leg. I liked the idea of being part of a team, for something other than cross country, and as it turned out they needed another over 40 to make a team, so I was at least useful in that respect.

The day started out grand….some nerves in the morning about being on time for the handover from Mark from leg 2, but we (myself and Deirdre O’Connell) arrived at the beginning of our leg at Lough Tay with plenty of time to go. Just before we headed to the handover point, we decided it was a good idea to use the loo (i.e. find a good spot in the woods)…..this is where things went wrong for me….before I had even gotten a step inside the woods I lost my footing and somehow ended up on the flat of my back….Deirdre laughing and a good crowd of other runners looking on. When I finally stood up I quickly realised that something was wrong….something just didn’t feel right…..my running pants had ripped….not just a little tear……and there I was on the side of the mountain flashing my a*se to the world (including Deirdre who couldn’t contain her laughter at this point).

What was I to do??? Could I run in my torn pants showing my bum off to everyone? I couldn’t let down my team…could I?? Deirdre suggested a safety pin….which I didn’t have but to be honest I probably would have needed 10 to fix this rip. Luckily for me Anne-Marie from team 13 had a spare pair of shorts and kindly donated them to me for the race. So now I was ready to go.

At this point I thought….nothing else can go wrong….right???!! Mark handed over the tracker and off I went enthusiastically….a bit too enthusiastically, as almost immediately there was a sharp right turn which I almost missed and in my haste to get to it I fell again….in front of the same people who had just witnessed my previous spectacular fall. This was not a good start.

After this the rest of my race report is uneventful….the start is straight uphill followed by steep downhill. Then through the woods on sleepers which can get slippy in places. I have to admit my first mile was very slow and tentative after the 2 falls but after that I got into a bit of a rhythm. It was up and down on fire roads for a couple of miles before a right turn up and over on nice soft ground. Back down through some woods and fields, with a last bit of uphill to the main road. The last mile was a very fast downhill on the road to Oldbridge where I handed over the tracker to Neil. Deirdre followed soon after to hand over to Jose.

It was a very enjoyable run and I would definitely sign up again for next year. The pints in the pub were great that night hearing how everyone had gotten on in their legs.

But for me, I will take a very important lesson from this race…….ALWAYS BRING A SPARE PAIR OF SHORTS!

Written by Sibeal Waldron

Leg 4 Neill Purdy Sportsworld, Jose Chapa WLSS. Distance 6.1miles, Ascent 1207feet, Descent 1433feet. Old Bridge to Glendalough

Was delighted to be able to take part in the WWR again this year and even happier i didnt have to wear short shorts! Jose was my leg 4 competitor and we reccied the route a few weeks back just to be sure it hadn’t changed and also to hopefully put a few wrong turns in his head.
On the day we set out from the club to drive firstly to Glendelough to drop off a car then to Oldbridge for our start. We were very early so it gave us a chance to check the status of the teams. Leg 1 and 2 runners were off to a great start, Sinead, Ciara, Mark and Will all ran superbly. Other teams didnt seem to be having a good morning with some huge detours through the forest!
Leg 3 runners were out and there was a close battle between Sibeal and Deirdre. Myself and Jose could only wait now staring up the road to see who was next. 

Sibeal was first, quick tracker hand off and i was away. The first 3k are on road and mainly uphill, there was three of us grouped together and noone wanted to make a move so we stayed close enough until the turn off the road. We continued up hill and over our first fence and onto trail. We were all broken up now and my thoughts turned to how far behind was Jose. At 5.5k just before a welcomed down hill i afforded myself a look over the shoulder and there he was!  I was now in damage limitation, try not let him get too far away. 
After the down hill there was some nice winding trails through forest before the last climb uphill and the quick descent into Glendelough. Approaching the handover Karol, Liam & Naoise were there for support. Last 200m was up a thin path zig zagging around tourists and the hand over to David. 
Great fun over all only slightly over shadowed by the fact Jose had left the car key back in Oldbridge and we had to hitch hike our way back. ????
Written by Neil Purdy

Leg 5 Davy Kennedy Sportsworld, Maura Ginty WLSS. Distance 8.3miles, Ascent 1584feet, Descent 1584feet. Glendalough to Drumgoff

I had the privilege to be part of  the Sportsworld team  for  leg 5 of the Wicklow way relay. Leg 5 is ran between two iconic locations on the Wicklow way – Glendalough and Glenmalure.

The leg is quite easy to describe, a little more difficult to run I must say!!!. It starts with approx 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  and to continue with a long steady (torturous if I tell the truth)  climb up to Mullacor gap. At that point it is downhill all the way for the remaining 6-7k, on boardwalk first, then on trail and for most of it, on “easy” fire road into Glenmalure.

Boardwalk over Mullacor gap

On a perfect morning for running, word was coming through (maybe by the 157th whatsapp message on the IMRA group, sorry to those in the group that weren’t taking part in the WWR) that Sinead, Mark and Sibeal had run amazingly and that Neil was powering through Leg 4 like a mountain goat. Our GPS tracker system told us that Sportsworld held a slender lead over those grumpy so and so’s – I love short shorts. So after a quick warmup along the green road with Maura, I stood in anticipation of seeing Neil power over the footbridge at the Glendalough visitor centre and getting my leg underway. However, it was Jose who appeared first. Reports of a trip on Neil or a stolen GPS tracker have yet to be confirmed!!! Maura bounded up the green road like her life depended on it while Jose made love to a bottle of water and a mars bar.

Shortly after, Neil came sprinting around the corner and after a brief hello, grab of the GPS tracker and goodbye I was on my way. The green road was supposed to be a bit of a warm up but it was more side-step city as a bus load of American tourists had just arrived before our handover and they had to be dodged Jordan Lamour style!!! Before I knew it, I was at the base of Poulanass Waterfall amid strange stares from the on-looking tourists.

The sharp ascent up by the waterfall had me soon down to something resembling a walk with swinging arms-immediately in the red zone. Having left the wooded confines of Glendalough behind, and worked my legs back to something like a jog, I soon see Maura powering up the incline towards Mullacor gap. My aim was to keep Maura in sight until we get over the gap and maybe push on on the descent.

After I reach the col (which was the biggest relief ever!!!) and pushed the pace, I soon realised that I had shortened the gap between myself and Maura. Having a target in front of you to try to catch is definitely a help – it would be very lonely otherwise. Soon, Maura and I are alongside each other and bombing it down fire roads towards Glenmalure. We even got to enjoy the beautiful sight of Carrawaystick waterfall in the Glenmalure valley below.

Carrawaystick waterfall, Glenmalure

The continuous descent out of the woods and into the Glenmalure handover allows favourably for the obligatory sprint finish. I’d advise anyone willing to listen that it could be a good idea to look out for cyclists coming down Military rd – let’s just say I was lucky!!!

Naoise is there waiting on the starting line, impatient to get going and ready to take on leg 6 to Ironbridge.

A huge thank you to Michael for organising the day, to Naoise, Maura, Liam and Karol for the craic during the journey. A thoroughly enjoyable day, one I will definitely be putting my hand up for again next year.

Written by Davy Kennedy

Phil Kilgannon wrote the definitive Leg 5 report last year –a man who got a Mean Girls reference, chopped in with lyrics of a Rolling Stones song and a cawing crow…. he had 56 minutes to go mad on that mountain.  He finished the report with his own quote that wild horses couldn’t drag him away this year. 

Whatsapp from Michael: “phil is on holiday this year”

Phil – come back next year! You were nearly 15 minutes quicker than both me (team short shorts!) and Davy’s Ipod (team sportsworld) and we could have really done with the extra culture too.

My first time doing this relay and it damn lived up to expectations. Loved the reccies, the characters, the planning and the recriminations.  Leg 5 is good for a nice day trip as well – flanked by Glendalough visitors centre and the famed watering hole Glenmalure Lodge (they can ring taxi to take you back if only one car, you can also overnight though it is generally booked at weekends – they have music and it can get crazy there, but in the best way).

My race was fine – most traumatic part was the initial changeover and here I fully blame both Will and Jose for the sopping wet armband tracker I was presented with.

Though it is kinda weird running a race nearly completely on your own.  After first bit up to waterfall the climb is one of those long relentless ones, annoyingly not steep enough that you can justify walking (though that did not stop both Anthony and Peter from doing same on a reccie).  I figured Davy from our arch rival sportworld would probably hunt me down and he duly did around the summit.  We both let fly on the downhill and that was just fun, fun. Knowing the hard work was done and you can just blast in to the glory of glenmalure and handover to the Bear in the Bandana (copyright 2018 Phil) and a day of hanging about, following a tracker, an imra whatsapp group and pints and more pints.

Next year the shorts will get shorter, the team faster and another all female team in the reckoning!  A true Phil homage signoff there. 

Written by Maura Ginty

Leg 6 Naoise Waldron Sportsworld, Liam Lenehan WLSS. Distance 7.9miles, Ascent 1748feet, Descent 1627feet. Drumgoff to Iron bridge

“Dancing at The Crossroads, Tumbling at Ironbridge” 
Drumgoff Crossroads beside Glenmalure Lodge. Picture the scene. Naoise and I dancing on our toes, at the ready. Nervous anticipation of a hard run and climb to come as we look up the road hoping for a sighting of our respective teammates. Karol, our bagman, cool as a cucumber as usual, keeping us hydrated and ready to catch our tops. Organised chaos – runners and marshals jostle as cars and racing cyclists vie to cross the junction. Louise Jackman freewheels by in a blur! A shout goes up “Incoming runner”, not ours. 5 minutes. Another shout “Sportsworld” Round the bend and flying down the road comes Dave. Another shout “Short shorts”. 30 yards behind him is Maura. Brilliant. You can see the strain on their faces as they career down the hill towards us. Brilliant running guys. No time to think, top and water bottle tossed at Karol, GPS tracker caught like a Kilkenny man catches a sliotar, on my way.

500m down the road and Naoise kindly slows and holds open a stile gate at the base of the first climb. Recce buddies now race buddies. Stride for stride we tackle the twisting uphill fire track. Chat fades as concentration sharpens. I push on at Naoise’s insistence. 4k in the bag. Tell myself not to miss the right turn into the woods. Don’t. Fire track becomes steep boardwalk. Still climbing. Short hike breather. Out in the open again. Tree felled, naked mountainside. Still climbing. Another short hike breather. I sense the summit. Slieve Mann done. 6.5k behind me. 
Over the top. Let go, don’t brake. Down, down, fast, left and right, the kilometres are racking up. Watch for the yellow walking man on the black stick hiding in the long grass on your left. Got it. Sharp descent. Quicker stepped boardwalk or safer marshy grass? I mix it. Out the gap on to a narrow boggy track over a fence and onto tarmac. Glance down and across Military Road. The killer second climb is all there in front of me. Straight up a shaley track. Already my head is in it. I tell myself I can do it without stopping. Keep your cadence, one, two, three, four, one, two … I do it. Crest Carrickshane Mountain. Jesus, this is steep and rocky. Careful but not too careful. Every second counts. Haven’t seen a sole since Naoise. All the time expecting that fast guy, Brian can’t think of his second name ‘cos my brain is frazzled, to come from way back and catch me. Convinced I hear footsteps behind me but it’s my own echo.  Can’t let my team down though, can’t lose position. 
Reach the fire track at the bottom in one piece. Homeward bound.  Not far now. Vault a barrier. Did I just do that? Charge down a stretch of country road as fast as my tiring legs will take me. C’mon. Last few hundred. Move the tracker from my pocket to my hand, ready for handover. Off road again. Steep, narrow, single track, stoney descent to Ironbridge. But I know it from last year. I throw caution to the wind. Breakneck pace. Flying. Almost there. Round a turn. Suddenly I glimpse the bridge and the waiting runners from above. Next second I’m airborne. Oh christ! Right knee and shoulder meet the dirt first. Pain. Where’s the tracker? Grab it, stumble to my feet and scramble down to the finish line where I proudly press the tracker into Karol’s hand. Before I can get out “Go on ye boy ye”, he is out of sight.

The mountain gorse shielded my tumble from the crowd on the bridge below but the bloody evidence and torn shirt betray me. First aid and moral support are on hand from the marshal and Dave and Maura. Here’s Naoise galloping in, hardly a stone’s throw behind me. Michaels on his way. It’s a good day all round. The war wounds and stories will be presented and cross examined in the pub later.

Written by Liam Lenehan

Leg 7 Michael Cunningham Sportsworld, Karol Cronin WLSS. Distance 13.1miles, Ascent 1899feet, Descent 1945feet. Iron bridge to Tinahely

I had raced leg 4 and leg 2 before and recce’d the first 6 legs so as no one was coming forward to do the half marathon leg 7 I thought how hilly could it be and put my name down.

OK that hilly. After doing my best to give parking time penalties to the other teams that morning I made my way to Iron bridge to wait for Naoise and the GPS arm band worn by 6 runners, gross. Liam was first in and despite a tumble at the last corner managed a sprint finish to the bridge and Karol was off with the needed head start. Naoise soon followed with a surprisingly dry arm band, thank God.

The first few kilometers is a long continuous climb that just doesn’t seem to end and there were no runners anywhere. Powerscourt and Glendalough on the Wicklow way can get pretty busy but you walk or run on this section of the WWR and not see anyone for hours.

Finally the climb ends and there is a nice downhill section but there is a long way to go and it was quite warm that day so you cant get carried away. At the second big climb I could see two runners in the distance and eventually caught them at the top of the hill but at this stage any energy was gone and was just hoping to keep the places.

The final section is pretty nice downhill through farms and a forest but you do have to climb over 6 or 7 fences. One of which, while half over, I discovered was left open and thought I was going to go flying. I cant prove it but I’m sure it was the WLSS team who unbolted the gate.

A new addition to leg 7 is around 100 wooden steps 800m from the finish. Think about how much fun it is running a half marathon and then being told you have to go up 4 flights of stairs to get your water.

Patricia was there at the finish of leg 7 looking full of energy and thankfully Sinead was there to drive me and Karol back to my car for the end of another great WWR.

Leg 8 Patrica Fitzmaurice Sportsworld, Emmet Wardell WLSS. Distance 6.3miles, Ascent 561feet, Descent 856feet. Tinahely to Shillelagh

Michael handed me the sweat band and I took off on leg 8. Starting with a steep uphill, it was straight in. The first km or two were over rough paths of rocks and streams and gates to jump. A bit of an obstacle course really. The scenery was fabulous, and the air smelled of lavender and flowers. The next part was an undulating road with a few tricky turns. After passing “The Dying Cow” I was reassured that I was on the right road. A steep uphill after the pub reminded me that it was an imra race and not a regular road race. I kept a steady pace and was delighted to see the village in the distance, with a lovely downhill to finish.

Written by Patricia Fitzmaurice